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

Topics

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4:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her once again fine defence of rural Canada. She has stood up many times in defence of farmers. I commend her for her commitment to rural Canada.

I want to make sure I heard correctly that she and her party would be supporting the motion. Is that what I heard?

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Middlesex—Kent—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member that supply management came into being when the Liberal government was here 35 years ago. The Liberal government would not walk away from supply management.

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4:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the advocacy that my hon. colleague from across the way has constantly brought forward in the House in serious debates on agriculture, and also at the agriculture committee. She has been extremely knowledgeable. Often on issues of agriculture, her views were opposite to the beliefs of people in her party. She always advocated what she felt was best for the producers in Canada and in her riding.

The member went on in detail about how important these trade talks were. In her riding she has many producers who are involved in the grains, oilseeds and livestock sectors. Does the member believe the possibility exists that the WTO will bring forward a resolution that will benefit 100% of agriculture in the ongoing talks that have been taking place over the last few months and with the stonewalling of the European Union the last few weeks?

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Middlesex—Kent—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the utmost respect for the two gentleman who have asked me questions.

As to my concern, I can share this with the hon. member. I had a great opportunity this summer to be in Australia with the minister at the Quint meeting, which included Australia, Canada, EU, Japan and the United States. While we were there discussing WTO concerns, and that was my first stand at that, I was totally impressed with the respect held for our chief negotiator, Steve Verheul, by those countries present. Every country that spoke at the session spoke very highly of Canada. I was strongly encouraged from what I saw that our Canadian farmers will be respected at the WTO hearings.

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4:35 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, it is a good day and it is a sad day. It is a good day when we hear a speech like that and we receive the experience of a member who has been in the House for quite some time. She has done an admirable job of representing the interests of agriculture and of rural Canada. Being from a rural riding, I look up to her and use her work as a guide.

It is regrettable that it is the last little while for the member. I understand she will not be returning. However, I thank her for all her work. We all hold her in high regard and admiration.

Supply management is important to me in two senses. One is that my riding has a lot of supply managed interests in dairy, poultry and egg production. Second, it is important to me as a consumer. It amazes me we can have a system that works, a system in which I pay less for milk than I pay for water. I think I need something like six litres of water to make a litre of milk. I pay less for the milk and the farmer can still earn a good living, sustain the farm and that rural family business. I would like the member to discuss perhaps the challenges facing our negotiators.

Other producers in my riding, pork producers, grain producers, want a level playing field. In the meantime, we want to protect our supply management. Could the member perhaps talk about the challenges facing the negotiating team?

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Middlesex—Kent—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for those kind comments. It will be a pleasure to go back to my rural roots whenever the opposition decides. All kidding aside, the team will have its work cut out for it. As I indicated earlier, I have full respect for the negotiating team.

About a year ago, some Australian members of parliament came here and met with all parties. We had a good meeting at that time. However, when the hon. colleagues from Australia started to speak on supply management, they started by saying that the government had a lot of money in supply management. That was why we had to be very careful at WTO because the money, it was trade distorting and all the rest.

We perhaps need to educate 147 other countries about supply management. There are no government dollars in supply management. It provides high quality, abundant, and I hate to use the word, cheap food for consumers. I hope consumers will recognize that before it is too late.

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4:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, Public Service Commission; the hon. member for Langley, Human Resources and Skills Development; the hon. member for Windsor West, Canada-U.S. border.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord.

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4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

I am pleased to speak today on agricultural supply management. I will also give a brief overview of the situation for farmers in my riding of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, and in my region.

My congratulations to the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska for his excellent work for our party on this issue for which he is the critic: agriculture.

The context at this time is a difficult one. A number of Quebec farmers and producers are concerned with the federal government's attitude at the WTO. We sense a certain lack of resolve to defend supply management. The federal government needs to instruct its negotiators to adopt a firm position and to indicate that supply management is untouchable.

Given this lack of will on the part of the federal government, one can sense that the farmers and producers of Quebec are extremely worried about the future of our supply managed sectors.

In Quebec there are 14,600 men and women engaged in milk, egg and poultry operations generating an economic activity of $8.75 billion. This is not a trifling amount and the government needs to do everything it can to protect the agricultural sector.

For the Bloc Québécois, supply management is a fair model for agriculture, and one that it is important to maintain. The government must defend the people of this country.

Providing consumers with local products is vital. It allows us to preserve our heritage and our unique nature while employing locals. Agriculture is an inherent part of our values and our customs, to the same extent that language and culture are. That is why the Government of Canada must firmly reiterate its support for supply management, which we believe is an essential and equitable agricultural model.

Canada's agricultural supply management policy is essentially based on two main types of intervention by the state in the market. First, it involves the implementation of planning and administrative control over pricing, marketing, and the quantity of agricultural products available, particularly through quotas. Second, it is based on the existence of customs tariffs high enough to prevent imports of foreign products. With such measures, the state ultimately ensures a loyal clientele for Canadian and Quebec farmers.

I want to take this opportunity to talk about the problem facing the agricultural industry in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean and give a brief overview of job cuts in other sectors of the economy.

Coming from a region where numerous producers and farmers are concerned about this, I can understand the importance of protecting supply management.

If the Government of Canada is willing to compromise on supply management during the upcoming negotiations, there will be significant job losses in my region and my riding. Already, there have been too many jobs lost in my region. Businesses have closed over the past year. There was the Port-Alfred plant, and Produits forestiers Saguenay closed in La Baie recently. In my region, too, Alcan closed a smelter and is threatening to cut more jobs in the short term. Jobs cuts throughout the forestry and softwood lumber industry are also hurting the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region.

In my region alone, one in eight people works in agriculture. To be more specific, 15,800 people work in the bio-food industry. This is 12% of all jobs in the region.

Furthermore, the main livestock operations in the region are, in order, milk, beef, eggs and poultry. With the exception of beef, three of them are supply-managed sectors.

It goes without saying that the region would be greatly affected by a change in supply management. We cannot take any more. We have had enough of job losses in my region.

I would like to point out that the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region has a very large agricultural area. In August 2003, there were 1,222 farms with 135,673 hectares under cultivation that brought in $182 million in gross agricultural sales.

Take milk production, which is the mainstay. There are 420 farms with 23,000 milk cows producing 15,917 kilograms of milk a day, which generates $95 million in sales.

The government must therefore protect agriculture in the regions because it is a key social good and a major economic engine in many regions of Quebec and even of Canada.

Agriculture is a critical sector that cannot be subjected to the uncertainties of the pure free market. Supply management is a system that has proved itself, and the Government of Canada must not make any concessions on supply managed sectors.

The government must understand that fairer agriculture will have obvious effects on the development and vitality of agricultural regions.

Farmers are waiting. Some fear that the WTO's next international meeting in Hong Kong in December could result in compromises that undercut the supply management system in Quebec and Canada.

The federal government must stand up for our agriculture. The government is aware of the dangers that lower tariff barriers could pose to our farmers. It would be very difficult then for our farmers to compete with the heavily subsidized products from other countries, especially the United States.

For example, Quebec and Canadian producers of milk, poultry and eggs do not receive any income-support subsidies. If we had the American policies for our farmers, the average milk producer in Quebec would receive $76,000 in subsidies, while in France he or she would receive $54,000 in financial assistance under the new common agricultural policy. Our farmers in Quebec and Canada are not asking for subsidies. All they want is that we keep the supply management system.

The government must know that milk, poultry and egg producers create more than 60,000 jobs and account for nearly 40% of agricultural income in Quebec. They can be found everywhere in Quebec and contribute to the economic vitality of the region.

All groups in Quebec are united in saying that it is important to have a strong agricultural sector and a prosperous food industry. For this to happen, it is essential to keep the supply management system.

I am therefore asking the federal government to confirm as soon as possible a resolution unconditionally supporting supply management in order to reassure farmers in Quebec and Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean.

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November 22nd, 2005 / 4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the debate on and off throughout the day. I did not have the opportunity to make a long speech, because the time available today is limited. Many members of my party also want to express their support for supply management. I know that one of my colleagues will do so in a few minutes.

I just want to raise a particular issue, namely the production of eggs in Canada. There is a problem in this supply managed sector that I did not mention earlier today, but I want to do so now. I am referring to the huge importance of over-quota tariffs.

Currently, foreign products account for 5% or 6% of the total production of eggs. However, the problem is the increased value of our currency. Because of this, over-quota tariff protection has diminished. Moreover, if pressure is exerted to reduce the tariffs that are left, that is the over-quota tariffs, we could lose one of the pillars of supply management.

This is why it is important to support maintaining over-quota tariffs at their current level for egg production, in addition to all the other sectors that were also mentioned.

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4:50 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I see that the member agrees with me, since he supports supply management. He made an interesting and valuable point on egg production, which is supply managed.

I also think that we must have customs duties that are high enough to protect our egg producers.

The supply management system is based on three things: price determination, quantity and quantity control, and, of course, exports and the imposition of customs duties to allow our producers to maintain their prices and to know at the beginning of a year what their income will be during that year.

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4:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his sensitive remarks about the well-being of our Canadian producers. Again I want to compliment the Bloc for bringing the motion forward today. It is so fitting that in the twilight days of this 38th Parliament we are talking about the well-being of our farmers, our dairy producers and our egg producers, et cetera.

The issue of subsidies and tariffs comes up frequently yet is rarely debated in the House of Commons by legislators who actually have some direction and control over it. What has always irritated me is that the international community has agreed that we must do something to eliminate subsidies and tariffs, yet Canada seems to be the only one that has unilaterally and voluntarily begun to roll these back.

Does my colleague believe that Canadian negotiators in this coming WTO round should be given the mandate to hold fast to the system of supply management that we have today and not yield to the pressure that is already being applied to our negotiators to buckle and crumble and systematically dismantle the supply management regime we enjoy?

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4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

The government ought indeed to issue firm instructions to its negotiators to the WTO meeting in Hong Kong this December, mandating them to keep the supply management system intact. Those are the instructions the government ought to give to our negotiating team for the next round of negotiations in Hong Kong.

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4:55 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in this House on a subject that is particularly dear to me, and one I have doggedly defended since I was first elected in June 1997: supply management.

When I first arrived in the House of Commons in the fall of 1997, the creation of the WTO was under discussion. This new trade organization was going to settle every issue. Supply management was a matter of months only. Here we are now in 2005, and still waiting for the federal government 's response on that.

The motion I am defending here today, which comes from my party, is particularly apt at this time. Agriculture is the focus of the current round of WTO negotiations. What is more, a number of the proposals being discussed at this time place supply management in a dangerous position, since some of the WTO members want to see Canada put an end to it and open up its borders.

Over the years, our party has always staunchly defended the supply management system, which has a double advantage. It makes it possible for our milk, egg and poultry producers to have a decent income, while also providing border measures against subsidized farm products from other countries.

If we constantly bring this issue up in this House, it is because the Liberal government will not make a firm commitment to our farm producers to support supply management. The current Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is serving up loads of rhetoric about Canada playing a leadership role in this round of negotiations and wanting to eliminate export subsidies, among other things. But at the same time, in spite of a motion unanimously passed in this House last April, he continues to refuse to state that, as far as Canada is concerned, supply management is not negotiable and will not be compromised on in this round of negotiations. That is the reality.

If the minister does not grasp the importance of maintaining the supply management system for our farm producers in Quebec, I will give him the example of my riding to show him that this system is vitally important to the economy and development of our region.

In the Lotbinière component of my riding, where dairy production is very important, the total farm income is $233 million, or nearly 20% of the total farm income for the entire Chaudière-Appalaches region. Some 818 farms make up 45% of the total area and 46% of the agricultural zone, which accounts for 98% of the territory. In addition, according to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, more than one-third, or 36%, of goods-producing jobs in my riding are actually agrifood jobs, and the GDP generated by the agrifood industry in my riding totals $173 million. These figures speak loudly and show how important it is to maintain the supply management system.

Statistics like these ought to open the eyes of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. As has been said, he needs to not only defend the supply management system at the WTO, but also to consider it a non-negotiable item. I would, moreover, like to refresh his memory on the Bloc Québécois motion passed unanimously last April in this House. It read as follows:

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 marketing 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.

Obviously, given this government's lack of a firm position on supply management, our agricultural producers are getting more and more worried. Moreover, in October I was with a dozen or so producers from my region. These included Bernard Fortier, mayor of my home town of Joly. He inherited the family farm and now is getting ready to pass it on to his two sons. This demands a great deal of sacrifice from a farmer as all the measures we have been calling for for intergenerational transfers have been turned down.

Now to give you some information on GO5, this is a coalition of close to 30,000 members, not only farmers but also business, financial institutions, consumer associations, unions and municipal, provincial and federal politicians, as well as private individuals. In short, this is a coalition of all people and organizations with a belief in a strong agricultural sector and a prosperous food sector in Quebec.

The Liberals need to understand that all parties in this House must support our motion today. It is vital for all regions of Quebec, including the riding I represent, Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

In order to demonstrate its importance, I would like to propose an amendment, reading as follows:

That the motion be amended by replacing all the words after “quotas” with “and also ensure an agreement that strengthens the imarket access of Canada's agricultural exporters so that all sectors can continue to provide producers with a fair and equitable income”.

This amendment is seconded by the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord with the consent of my colleague, the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska.

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5 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

Did I understand that the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska agrees?

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5 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Yes.