Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to talk about what I think is an important concept and idea. At the end of the day, Canadians would respond very positively to the concept of a pro-Canadian food strategy. I think it has a lot of appeal and is something we should be moving more towards.
There is a role for the Government of Canada to play, even at some of the very basic levels. I always find it interesting how much money the Government of Canada will spend on advertising. We spend literally tens of millions of tax dollars on useless advertising. A good example, which I have used before, is the economic action plan that the government tends to promote at a phenomenal cost in tax dollars. I would suggest it is an absolute waste. We could use some of those tax dollars in a more productive fashion, and this is a good example of where I believe the government could be spending smarter in terms of those advertising dollars.
Specifically, when we talk about developing a pro-Canadian food strategy, part of that no doubt has to incorporate advertising with respect to some basic information that would be wonderful to know. For example, how many Canadians know what types of vegetables are actually grown here in Canada? When is the season for strawberries? To what degree do we participate in promotion and educating our population about our agricultural communities, our farmers, and the incredible work they do in terms of providing food for our tables?
Once all is said and done, I believe the government will be found lacking and wanting in terms of being able to educate people and provide a higher sense of public awareness. The Conservatives have really done very little on that front, and we have relied on initiatives from the private sector or other levels of government.
For example, one of the huge success stories in my own province is the Peak of the Market, which is an organization that has done exceptionally well in the province of Manitoba. It has provided educational advertising and a much higher sense of public awareness because of its actions.
Peak of the Market contributes immensely to non-profit organizations and educates the population as a whole in terms of the types of vegetables that they receive. Most importantly, not only does it promote good, quality product for the table, but it always provides a wonderful opportunity for farmers in Manitoba to participate in a program, and working as a collective we are able to see that much more in terms of market share. This is critically important, because it helps preserve the family farm and at the same time provides a world-class product. I am a little biased, but I would suggest we produce some of the best agricultural products in the world.
I think of a product like Manitoba-grown potatoes. We have had recognition throughout North America as one of the better producers of potato. French fries are a big thing in our province, not to mention Old Dutch potato chips, which are manufactured in Winnipeg North. I think there would be a very healthy competition between the P.E.I. spud and the Manitoba spud.
At the end of the day, whether it is Peak of the Market or our farmers' direct sales, they have done a phenomenal job in ensuring that we are able to produce a quality product.
The Government of Canada could be playing a role in this area. I used the potato as just one example of where the Government of Canada could do more with respect to advertising. As opposed to advertising the economic action plan, why does the government not invest some of those dollars in promoting locally grown products, no matter what region the products come from?
I remember driving down a highway a number of years back and seeing signs inviting people to pick their own strawberries. Ice cream buckets could be filled with strawberries. At certain times of the year, some grocery stores advertise discounted prices for blueberries and so forth. We need to understand and appreciate the importance of healthy food. People's diets can be influenced by the products they purchase in different seasons of the year and how they can store certain products during the winter months. So much more could be done to educate people.
Canadians want to contribute in a more wholesome way toward what they are eating. They are trying to get a better understanding of the food industry. I myself have tried to get a better understanding of local industries beyond vegetables and fruits.
The chicken and pork industries are two important industries. A good percentage of the chickens processed in Manitoba stay in my province. The agriculture critic for the Liberal Party came to my province and we had a wonderful opportunity to tour hatcheries and egg producers and visited a processor. Thousands of chickens are processed on a daily basis. Even though the bulk of them are used for local consumption, some of them are exported.
The pork industry in Manitoba processes millions of pigs on an annual basis. The agriculture critic and I toured places like the Maple Leaf plant. We also had the opportunity to visit some pork farms. This is an incredible industry that provides a high-quality product. This industry could continue to grow if we did more in terms of diversification, education, and consumer awareness. Our high-quality product could continue to grow, and that growth would ultimately add more jobs and value to our economy. I would argue that the final product would be that much better as well.
I also want to comment on our dairy industry. This industry has done exceptionally well through supply management, something we are committed to maintaining. This industry provides quality milk, cheese, eggs, and so forth, the essential foods that Canadians need.
If we want to be fair, we need to recognize the importance of the role farmers play in our food industry. We should have a strategy in place that would not only recognize their important role but would also encourage and enhance the great potential for growth in that industry.