Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Members of the committee, it's very good to be before you again. My name is Cam Dahl and I'm the president of Cereals Canada.
Just to briefly touch on who Cereals Canada is, we are a value chain organization. We bring together farmers, crop development and seed companies, exporters, and processors. The goal of this broad, diverse collaboration of partners is to enhance the domestic and international competitiveness of Canadian cereals industries. Cereals Canada is guided by a board of 18 directors that draws representation from each of these key stakeholder groups.
Just as a bit of an introduction, Cereals Canada supports the efforts of the Government of Canada to develop a comprehensive food policy. We agree that the four broad themes cover the key areas in which interdepartmental and cross-commodity policy would be helpful, specifically, increasing access to affordable food, improving health and food safety, conserving our soil and water, and growing more high-quality food.
Each of these four policy areas is individually large and complex. Developing overarching goals that reach consensus across different departments of the Government of Canada, provincial and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations, farm leaders, and companies is not a simple task, neither will be developing policies aimed at accomplishing these goals.
It is because of this complexity of issues that Cereals Canada makes our most important recommendation: do not rush this process and do not be driven by deadlines. We understand that there is a strong push from many quarters to have a national food policy in place quickly. We think that would be a mistake. A hastily constructed policy will undoubtedly miss key elements that are important both to Canadian society as a whole and to Canadian agricultural producers.
Taking the necessary time to get this policy right is more important than meeting specific deadlines. The first step in getting this process right is the development of strong and effective governance that will drive the process forward towards consensus. The development of effective governance is the focus of this submission from Cereals Canada. We believe an appropriate framework for the engagement on policy development is critical to achieving consensus on broad policy goals.
Targeted input on the four key policy themes is something we'll touch on later, but I would like to focus on governance.
Cereals Canada proposes the development of a national food policy council, the broad mandate of which would be to provide advice and guidance to the federal, provincial, and territorial governments as we move forward with the development of a national policy.
The council will also serve to bring together diverse stakeholders while creating linkages to the existing framework surrounding Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Cereals Canada believes that the key elements for good governance for the national food policy include agriculture, civil society, and interdepartmental representation from the Government of Canada, provincial, and territorial governments, and that they will provide a pathway for issue- and commodity-specific research and policy development.
The need for broad representation from across Canada, from various sectors of the economy, and from federal, provincial, and territorial governments will result in a national food policy that is large. That is simply unavoidable. However, good governance indicates that the council should be limited if it is to be effective. Cereals Canada suggests that the overall size of the council be capped at 60 individuals in total. We propose 16 representatives to be drawn from agriculture and agri-food, 16 representatives to be drawn from civil society, and 24 representatives to be drawn from federal, provincial, and territorial departments, including the chair, which we suggest should be drawn from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
I would like to touch on agriculture and agri-food representation. Cereals Canada believes that the basic structure for consultations with and input from the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sectors is already in place through the value chain round tables. We therefore propose that the industry chairs of the following round tables comprise the industry representation for the national food policy council.
I want to read them out, because doing so will show the complete nature of this representation. We have a committee on food safety, the beef round table, the national environmental farm plan, the food processing round table, the grains round table, the horticulture round table, an organics round table, a pork round table, a poultry round table, a pulse round table, seafood, seed, sheep, special crops, the round table for sustainable beef, and the round table for sustainable crops.
There are key advantages to this structure. First, the round tables as a whole are representative of Canadian agriculture and agri-food. In addition, each of the round tables draws from a broad representation from the individual sectors that they represent. This includes, where appropriate, representation from non-governmental organizations and civil society, and in particular at the round table for sustainable beef and the round table for sustainable crops. Second, and this is important, linking to the round tables provides the national food policy council with the ability to delegate specific aspects of research and policy development to the appropriate industry and government representatives. This will allow the council to deal with the complexity of the issues that were outlined in my introduction.
To touch on civil society, I will not presume to name the individual groups or representatives from civil society that would be appropriate representatives for the national food policy council; however, we do strongly hold that the principles applied to the recommendations for agriculture be applied to the selection for civil society, namely, a broad representation of viewpoints. Representatives should have a national perspective, and representation should be selected to allow the national food policy council to delegate areas of specific research and policy development.
Finally, Cereals Canada supports Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's leadership of the development of the national food policy and leadership of the food policy council. This includes a recommendation that the food policy council be chaired by a senior representative of the department. As the lead department for the Government of Canada, AAFC would provide secretariat services to the council.
It is important to have a broad representation of the various government departments involved. I have listed them in the brief. I am not going to read them out, but they include Health research, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, of course, Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Social Development, and Trade. There is a significant list—