Evidence of meeting #9 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 beef.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Claire Citeau  Executive Director, Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance
Dan Darling  President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association
Jim Everson  Executive Director, Soy Canada
Don McCabe  President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
John Masswohl  Director, Government and International Relations, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

4:10 p.m.

President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Dan Darling

For sure, beef research in Ontario needs some upgrading and whatnot, but as far as reacting is concerned, any Trans-Pacific deal would be brought in in stages. Overnight we would not have to raise our production very significantly. The deal as it states right now would bring it in over 15 years. We're well prepared to up production to match that, and because of the high-end products in many cases, and some of the not-desirable products they would be taking, we are well positioned for them to meet those demands right now, so it's not an issue.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Now we have Madame Brosseau.

April 18th, 2016 / 4:10 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

I would like to thank the witnesses for their presentations today, but also welcome all the women who are here. It's so nice to have such a strong presence of young women. I hope you're finding the committee very interesting.

Claire, I know you represent some member growers of canola, grain, cereals. I'm sure you remember very well that few years ago, we had a problem with grain transportation in Canada. It doesn't matter how many trade agreements we have, if we can't move the grain and fulfill our commitments, it's very harmful and can be damaging because our reputation is very good. We have amazing products and that year we had a bumper crop. I know there were so many circumstances that made it impossible to get things working appropriately. I'm sure you're well aware that Bill C-30 came before the ag committee and some measures within that bill will be sunsetting in the next few months. I think it's August 1. I think everybody who comes to the committee will be very favourable to the TPP, except if you're in the supply managed sector.

I was just wondering if you could talk about the importance of transportation and of some of those provisions not sunsetting. I'm not quite sure how much you know about Bill C-30.

4:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance

Claire Citeau

Those topics and issues are addressed by members who are affected by this directly, so this is not something that CAFTA looks at. But certainly, transportation is needed to get products to market. My mandate is trade liberalization in the TPP—to represent the interests of our members and seek a level playing field in the TPP context.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

I think a lot of the members at this table have had the chance to meet with a lot of your members. They need to talk to us about the importance of getting this right and ensuring that transportation works well, so that we have access to these markets and are able to fulfill commitments.

I am wondering if I could ask some questions of the Cattlemen's Association. I have met with the Canadian Meat Council and a few other groups. They spoke of the importance of workers having access. Once we have access to these markets, to these countries, making sure we have workers in these plants is very important. Can you talk a bit about the importance of having workers at these plants?

4:10 p.m.

President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Dan Darling

In the beef sector, the workforce in the packing plants isn't adequate to fill all the jobs out there right now. In some of the plants that are short of employees, where they're transforming the carcass into a specific cut to be shipped, they're having to pull employees off the line to do that specific job. Because of that, their ability to do some of this stuff is less than it should be. It's a combination of things. We have to fix the worker problem as well as develop these markets.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Has there been communication between the new minister and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association or the Canadian Meat Council to talk about these issues?

4:15 p.m.

President, Canadian Cattlemen's Association

Dan Darling

We've had conversations and have expressed our desire to get this fixed. Minister MacAulay informed us, something we didn't know, that there's also a shortage of workers on the fishing end of things, in the fish plants. He's well aware of the situation.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

In Quebec a few years ago, we had about $53 million in losses because of problems with the temporary foreign worker program. It was created for agriculture, and I think that we have to make sure we get it right for agriculture and that the program is not misused.

Mr. McCabe, I was wondering if you could comment on the dairy industry. Under the previous government, there was an announcement about compensation. I think it was $4.3 billion for the dairy industry and the other supply-managed industries. I was wondering if you could comment on how things are going in Ontario, the importance of honouring this compensation. I've asked them questions about it, because I was a little perplexed not to see anything in the last budget.

I think the government will be consulting and then maybe moving forward with another proposition. In Quebec a lot of our farmers are concerned about the TPP, milk proteins, and some issues in supply management. I was wondering if I could get you to comment a little more on these issues.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

I'm sorry, but the time is up, so we'll have to move on. You could maybe pick it up later.

Monsieur Drouin.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I want to echo the comments made to the students in this room. I hope you pursue a career in agriculture, not politics.

Madame Citeau, I know that trade agreements are important to your members, and I know you've raised some of the issues surrounding those trade agreements. It's important to get the vehicles in place, but sometimes there are technicalities that arise. Do you anticipate any technicalities from TPP that may arise if Canada and the U.S. decide to ratify it? Do you anticipate any trade technicalities that might become a trade barrier for some of your members?

4:15 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance

Claire Citeau

In principle, what we have observed—and this view is also shared by the government— is that when free trade agreements are implemented, tariffs go down. They are eliminated or phased out. Non-tariff barriers tend to come up, so it's the other way around. There are a number of mechanisms in the TPP to be put in place to find timely resolutions to these non-tariff barriers. You have heard the witnesses here mention some of them. Basically, the provisions in the TPP build on WTO provisions, when it comes to SPS and TBT measures, but go a little further. You have heard the example of the biotech annex, the chapter on biotechnology, which is to be a mechanism for countries to exchange information and seek the timely approval of biotechnology trades, for example.

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Essentially, it is an after-the-fact: once the trade deal is signed and ratified, then we start looking at some of the trade technicalities that may arise. Your industry doesn't do any analysis prior to that being signed. The reason I ask is that I know CETA is an issue right now, and I don't want the industry to be stuck with some barriers at the last minute: “Here, we have a great vehicle, but we can't use it.” I am just wondering if you are in discussion at all with the involved departments with regard to potential trade barriers that may arise from this.

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance

Claire Citeau

We are always in conversation with the government about the implementation, in particular when we sense that the implementation is getting closer. That is the case with CETA, where there are some outstanding agriculture issues that tend to originate in the meat sector but also have impacts on the broader Canadian agriculture and food sector. What we are saying is that we are hoping these issues will be resolved for all of our Canadian agriculture and agrifood exporters to get real, commercially viable access by the time the agreement is implemented. A number of these discussions need to take place before the agreement is implemented, and that is certainly the case with CETA. For the TPP, it may be a bit premature.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Thank you.

How much time do I have?

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

You have two minutes and....

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Everson, I think Madame Brosseau touched on it a little bit on the question of transportation. As we sign these free trade agreements, I always think about that issue. CETA is signed. With TPP, obviously, we are discussing it. If we should decide to move ahead, do you feel that your product could get to market in time, with the growth projections you have?

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Soy Canada

Jim Everson

I think you've hit on the issue right there, and it is a good question from Madam Brosseau, as well. In western Canada, for example, where a lot of the discussion around the implementation of the Emerson report, and so on.... All the commodities forecast growth. We are going to have more soybeans grown in western Canada, for sure. Canola has a big number out there that they have as a target. You can have more corn in western Canada. Pulses are growing. Flax has a strategic plan to increase their presence in western Canada.

The thing the railways have to know is that there is going to be more product to move from western Canada. If we have a situation, as we had a couple of years ago, where we have extremely cold weather and a record crop, then we are going to have another problem on our hands. I think the key element of the CTA review is to look forward and see that we are going to have substantially more production of all commodities in western Canada in the future, and we need to have infrastructure in there to move it to tidewater.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

If TPP were ratified, this would—

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Soy Canada

Jim Everson

That would exacerbate the issue. It's riches. We want to ship more off Vancouver to the Pacific Rim. TPP enables us to do that, but we are going to need the infrastructure to support it.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Wouldn't it also increase your negotiating power with the said companies?

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, Soy Canada

Jim Everson

One would hope that it would.

In that sector, from the industry's point of view, I think the key is that we need government leadership on that, because this is not a competitive issue. This is an issue of two very strong partners in the industry, and it is not a competitive environment. It doesn't draw on the laws of market forces. It requires government to take a role in regulating the industry.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

That terminates the first round.

If it is the wish of the committee, we could take a five-minute break.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Grande Prairie—Mackenzie, AB

Let's keep going.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

We're on a roll. Let's start the second round with Mr. Gerretsen.