Evidence of meeting #71 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was health.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Irena Knezevic  Vice-President, Canadian Association for Food Studies
Sylvie Cloutier  Chief Executive Officer, Conseil de la transformation alimentaire du Québec
Carla Ventin  Vice-President, Federal Government Affairs, Food and Consumer Products of Canada
Cam Dahl  President, Cereals Canada
Pat Vanderkooy  Manager, Public Affairs, Food and Nutrition, Dietitians of Canada
Gordon Bacon  Chief Executive Officer, Pulse Canada

5 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Would you like to add something, Mr. Dahl?

5 p.m.

President, Cereals Canada

Cam Dahl

Yes, I would like to add something.

The reason that we have focused almost exclusively in our initial comments on governance is because of how important it is. If the governance is not right, it doesn't matter what other policies we talk about, it will fail. If Canadians and agriculture producers and the rest of the industry do not see themselves represented in a food policy council, it will not be viewed as being representative of Canadians. If it's not being viewed as being representative of Canadians, it will not be a success.

The rest of what we talk about is not immaterial—it's very material—but if the governance of this process is not right, the rest of what we do will be unsuccessful.

That is why we have focused in our brief—I think you have a copy of the brief that we have submitted—on getting the governance right and ensuring that there's representation from all parts. Of course, I am focused on agriculture, ensuring that there's adequate representation, but beyond that, ensuring there are avenues for consultation and ensuring there's accountability to the specific sectors.

If we don't do that, it doesn't matter what the rest is that we talk about, it won't be successful.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Mr. Bacon, would you like to add something?

5 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Pulse Canada

Gordon Bacon

My view might be slightly different.

We have so many government departments, I think a food policy can start out as an aspirational statement, and then we leave it to the players to focus on how they're going to achieve it. Our group has focused less on governance. We don't see it so much as an ongoing operational matter, as it is to establish a vision for where we want to go and then let all of the different departments—all of the food industry and all of primary agriculture—focus on how we're going to achieve that. Then, come back and review it to see what kind of progress we're making.

I'm not putting the same emphasis on a governance structure for something as vast as food policy.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

My colleague Mr. Barlow spoke about choices in the food guide. Red meat is virtually banned and not recommended.

You represent the Dietitians of Canada. How do you think a food policy could bridge the gap between the potential benefits of healthy eating and the economic success of farmers?

5 p.m.

Manager, Public Affairs, Food and Nutrition, Dietitians of Canada

Pat Vanderkooy

We have not said that we are looking to cut out red meat production, by any means.

5 p.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

We often hear that red meat isn't recommended.

5 p.m.

Manager, Public Affairs, Food and Nutrition, Dietitians of Canada

Pat Vanderkooy

It's not recommended to be consumed in large quantities every day. There's a difference between consuming smaller quantities of some of these higher carbon footprint sources of protein on a daily basis compared with not eating it at all.

That goes back to looking at a variety of sources of protein. We are one of the biggest pulse producers I believe in the world. They are a fabulous source of protein. I'm not saying that pulse farmers need to be out of business or that meat growers need to be out of business. There's a balance. We can get our protein from all of these sources, and none of that is bad. I don't think that that's what Canada's food guide is saying either. In the principles, if you look at their examples of protein, it includes all of them.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you. I'm going to have to cut it off there.

I must apologize, Ms. Vanderkooy, that I had cut your time by about 10 seconds. I was looking at the clock in a different way, so I gave you an extra 30 seconds on this one.

Thank you so much, Madame Nassif.

Now Mr. Peschisolido, you have six minutes.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Peschisolido Liberal Steveston—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Chair, thank you.

I was very impressed with all your presentations. There was so much—

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Chair—

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

I'm so sorry, Madame Brosseau. I keep doing that.

Go ahead.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you, Chair.

I'd like to thank the witnesses for their presentations today.

We have the four pillars, as the priorities for the government in this food strategy. I think our priority needs to be dealing with poverty. We have so many working poor. When I visit food banks in my riding, community groups tell me that every year it goes up and it changes. There are more families, more kids, and more seniors. I don't think we talk enough about how the government is going to take care of reducing poverty in Canada.

I'm a single mom. There were moments when I worked two and three jobs and I couldn't make ends meet. I think we need to deal with precarious work or maybe we should look at the $15 hourly wage. We need to deal with the right to food and safe drinking water across Canada.

Madam Vanderkooy, at the end of your presentation, you spoke about nutrition north. In Canada, the price of food varies across the country and in first nation communities, it costs a lot more. Could you talk about how nutrition north works or doesn't work, what you think needs to be done, and what needs to be included in the elaboration of a food strategy?

5:05 p.m.

Manager, Public Affairs, Food and Nutrition, Dietitians of Canada

Pat Vanderkooy

Nutrition north Canada currently subsidizes for the benefit of everyone at the retail stores. It doesn't focus on providing food access for people who have difficulty with food access. Their focus has been fresh food, which we all know is difficult to transport and has had its own challenges.

We would suggest that the priorities be looking at staples in the food supply when it comes to market food, remembering that country and traditional foods are different than the market foods that we typically talk about as our only food sources. As well as the staples for market foods, we would suggest enhancing their ability to have access to country foods, which is land and water access, and having enough financial resources to hunt and fish.

Also, we suggest providing some supports for local agriculture to increase their ability to have fresh foods locally and some storage infrastructure, so that we aren't having to transport in, at times when it's really difficult to do the transportation, but can have infrastructure for storage that is good for dry storage as well as frozen storage.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Dahl, you spoke about the food council. I think it is really important to have an ongoing discussion and make sure that we have all actors around the table. We know that there are different commodity round-table groups and they've done amazing work.

Could you elaborate a little more on the importance of having this table?

5:05 p.m.

President, Cereals Canada

Cam Dahl

Yes. It gets back to that point of governance and for all parts of agriculture and civil society. I think we need to have that dialogue and something like an adequately representative food council would allow for that dialogue. Something that would be of benefit as well would be to get parts of civil society and agriculture talking to each other about food policy to increase understanding of how agriculture works and the sustainability of our industry.

I think one of the key factors is to ensure that there is accountability back. If Gordon was my representative on the food council and he wasn't doing a good job, then I should be able to fire him to ensure there is accountability and representation.

Also, we need to ensure there's that ability to ask direct research questions, whether they are to dieticians or specific sectors of agriculture. I don't think a food policy council is going to have that capability within itself. If we link back to the value chains and back to agriculture directly, we would have that capability to ask those direct research questions.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Were our first nations included on this council?

5:10 p.m.

President, Cereals Canada

Cam Dahl

Again, from my perspective, I was looking at where the agriculture would be represented. I think there should be equal representation from civil society, and I'm not going to pretend to figure out how that selection should be done.

5:10 p.m.

Manager, Public Affairs, Food and Nutrition, Dietitians of Canada

Pat Vanderkooy

Typically civil society ends up doing health, environment, and indigenous concerns. All of those concerns are wrapped up in civil society if you take agriculture as the one piece and governments at FPT levels as the other.

October 3rd, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.

President, Cereals Canada

Cam Dahl

I would very much disagree that environment and sustainability are not part of agriculture, because they very much are.

5:10 p.m.

Manager, Public Affairs, Food and Nutrition, Dietitians of Canada

Pat Vanderkooy

They are, but they would be separately represented. There's a difference between how agriculture would represent its own sustainability issues and how another environmental group would represent them, or how health considerations would be rolled in versus the case with a group that's very focused on health, so that's where civil society would be represented.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you, Ms. Vanderkooy.

We have a couple of minutes.

Joe, it's your turn.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Peschisolido Liberal Steveston—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Dahl, you mentioned earlier that we shouldn't go ahead quickly. We shouldn't rush the process. Elaborate. What do you mean? What are your timelines. Why do you think we're going a bit too fast?

5:10 p.m.

President, Cereals Canada

Cam Dahl

I think my key point is to not set deadlines and say we are going to have a national food policy by January 15 or whatever the day is, because these are incredibly complex questions and they're incredibly complex national policies. To me, it is more important to get the structure right to ensure that we can have those conversations, because I think, getting back to the food policy council, that's where we can facilitate some of those discussions for which there might not be an understanding across various sectors. We need to get that right, and that is going to take some ongoing dialogue, because that is very complex.

If we haven't completed the task by a particular day, let's not just close our tents and say this is it and make a decision and move on, because inevitably a rushed solution will not be the right solution.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Peschisolido Liberal Steveston—Richmond East, BC

Madam Vanderkooy, I was intrigued by your numbers. Your argument seemed to be that it's not sustainable, not just in terms of health and environment but also economically our food system doesn't make sense. On your ledger you have “good” at $21 billion and “bad” at $68 billion and $26 billion. Basically, we're out $73 billion as a society. Is that an accurate description of what you said?

If that is the case, how would you change that?