House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.


AgricultureGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

That concludes the time for questions and comments.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, as you can tell I am anxious to speak in this debate, however I am glad I did not prevent the interesting exchange we just heard between my colleague and the leader of the Reform Party.

First let me congratulate the minister in opening this important topic to a full debate of all parties in the House. My riding of London-Middlesex is 20 per cent agricultural and that 20 per cent encompasses four townships of some of the best farming land in southern Ontario.

It is important to me that my constituents have their views represented. They well know that the spinoff value of agriculture in economic activity is something in the order of four to one. This is a fact that is not appreciated enough by urban Canadians, just how important agriculture and the agri-food industry is to the country.

Our party in the red book spoke about making food and the production of food a matter of national security. That is a commitment that our government and our minister fully intend to live up to. I intend to help make sure that it does take place.

As Canadians, we know that we have the safest food in the world at a very affordable cost. Many of us who are more urban Canadians do not fully appreciate that fact. It is time that we did so whatever part of the country we happen to live in.

Earlier I heard the speech of the leader of the Reform Party. I enjoyed it but I would take issue with one important point because it is something that has been brought home to me by my constituents. That is the question of article XI of the GATT.

Our party during the election made the commitment very clearly, and I know this because I spoke to it a number of times in the campaign, that we would do everything within our power as a government if we were elected to ensure that article XI was maintained.

It just was not there for that to happen. In case there are any members opposite who forgot the vote let me remind them that when the actual push came to shove and it came time to vote on article XI, the vote was 115 against and 1 country for, that country being Canada.

An elected government can do no more. A member of Parliament can do no more. We have heard this repeatedly from the members in the Reform Party. You can do no more than stand and cast your vote and be counted on what you feel is important. I intend to do that on some issues like euthanasia when the free vote comes on that. I intend to do it based on my conscience and discussions with my constituents, but in my case based on my conscience because I believe that is how one ought to cast his vote.

I am drifting into another important but somewhat off the topic at this point.

The point I am making is that when you cast your vote as an individual member of Parliament or as a government in an international forum, that is the ultimate that you can do to back up your position. This country stood absolutely alone in trying to maintain article XI at GATT so I take some exception with the leader of the Reform Party in saying that we were not consistent on that. That is not exactly what he said but that is the implication I drew from his comments.

Agriculture is of national importance to Canada from coast to coast to coast. We know that it is. If Canadians are not involved in the production of food they are certainly involved in the consumption of it. There is no Canadian in this country who can look at the agriculture and agri-food sector with indifference. If they do then they are displaying an ignorance that I think we ought to address.

What I would like to do, given the national importance of agriculture, is to overview briefly on a regional basis the importance of this particular activity. In B.C. the agri-food sector is a small but stable component of the provincial economy contributing just over 2 per cent of the province's GDP in 1992 and almost 6 per cent of Canada's agri-food GDP. With its proximity to the Pacific Ocean obviously the sector is firmly focused on the Asian marketplace where it is beginning to have considerable export success.

In order of importance, the major sectors of the British Columbia agricultural industry are dairy, poultry, eggs, cattle and calves, horticulture, grains and oilseeds.

The prairies, which many of us have had the opportunity to visit and marvel at the wave after wave undulating prairie with the fine grain that we see produced there, is now beginning to diversify into new primary and processed products and is finding new customers for its exports.

In 1992 the prairie provinces contributed more than 30 per cent of Canada's agri-food GDP.

I might digress at this point and make the point that I intend to share my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Huron-Bruce. I hope, Mr. Speaker, you will remind me when my time has run out.

In Alberta the agri-food sector is the major renewable resource industry in the province contributing nearly 6 per cent of the province's GDP in 1992. The southern area of Alberta produces the most hot season crops and has the majority of beef lots. The central area has cow-calf operations, hogs, dairy, grains and oilseeds and the northern Peace River district, which I would like to visit, has livestock and grain and is noted for forage seed and honey production.

In Manitoba the agri-food sector contributed some 6.4 per cent of the provincial GDP in 1992. Wheat and barley traditionally constitute two-thirds of farm cash receipts in the province while other major crops include canola, flax and sunflower. As well the soil and climate accommodate the production of a variety of special crops such as buckwheat, sugar beets and potatoes.

Manitoba also as we know has a substantial red meat industry which constitutes about 25 per cent of the value of agriculture production in the province. It has a dynamic food processing sector which in 1991 accounted for almost 27 per cent of the value of all manufacturing shipments from Manitoba.

Some 39,000 people were employed in primary agriculture production in 1991, about 8 per cent of the province's total workforce, while an additional 21,000 people were employed in related industries, hence reinforcing as I said at the beginning of my remarks the spinoff value of agriculture and the agri-food sector.

Turning to my own area of central Canada, Ontario and Quebec's agri-food sectors contributed about 55 per cent of Canada's agri-food GDP in 1992. The region ships primary and processed products to the rest of Canada and the United States and has some highly successful processing firms that have become multinationals with plants around the world. In 1992 agri-food production constituted 4 per cent of Ontario's GDP and about 4.3 per cent of Quebec's.

My home province of Ontario is the top agri-food producing province in Canada with more than 588,000 people employed in the industry in 1992. Livestock and livestock products accounted for 59 per cent of farm cash receipts in the province in 1991 and crops such as grains, oilseeds, soybeans, dried beans, corn and tobacco accounted for some 36 per cent.

As well, much of Canada's food processing occurs in the province of Ontario. Ontario accounted for 35 per cent of all shipments from Canadian food and beverage manufacturing industries in 1991.

In Quebec the dairy industry is the largest component of agricultural production, producing over 38 per cent of Canada's milk output in 1991. As well, Quebec accounted for 32 per cent of all Canadian pork production that year.

Poultry, horticulture and beef are also very important components of this sector. The province has more than 1,000 processing plants which shipped more than $11 billion worth of products in 1991.

Agriculture and Agri-food Canada employs about 2,600 full-time employees in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. No part of Canada has a greater variety of agri-food product than the province of Ontario. That is very easily reflected in my area of southwestern Ontario and in my riding of London-Middlesex.

My colleague from Huron-Bruce who will speak following me can certainly attest to the diversity of agriculture in southwestern Ontario.

In Atlantic Canada, and there are members in this House much more knowledgeable about Atlantic Canada than I, 6 per cent of Canadian agri-food GDP in 1992 was produced. The region's biggest agri-food market is the United States but there are also successes in the Caribbean and in Europe.

In New Brunswick the agri-food sector contributed about 4.7 per cent of the provincial GDP in 1992 with dairy representing the most valuable agricultural commodity, followed closely by potatoes at $54 million.

In Nova Scotia agri-food production contributed about 4 per cent to the province's GDP.

In Prince Edward Island, where the agricultural sector has long been the mainstay of the provincial economy, about 7.8 per cent of the provincial GDP was contributed by the agri-food sector in 1992, not including food and beverage processing. Can there be any eastern Canadian or western Canadian who is not familiar with the famous songs of Stompin' Tom Connors immortalizing the potatoes from Prince Edward Island.

In Newfoundland agri-food production contributed about 2.8 per cent of the provincial GDP in 1992. Some 83 per cent of farm cash receipts came from livestock operations and 17 per cent from the production of vegetables and other crops. The majority of the province's agri-food production is in the processing industry however. Of the 293 agri-food processing businesses in the province in 1992 half were engaged in the meat and meat products sector. The bread and baking products sector was the next largest at 36 per cent followed by poultry and then fruit and vegetable processing.

Agriculture and agri-food Canada has about 820 employees working in Atlantic Canada.

It is quite clear to me as an urban Canadian from southwestern Ontario and increasingly more so as a member of Parliament just how vital the agri-food industry is to this country.

When seeking nomination and because I come from an urban background, I formed an agricultural advisory committee in my riding, making sure that the different parts of the riding and different sectors of the agri-food industry were represented. This obviously led to an increased knowledge of agriculture in Canada on my part. But as the old saying goes, the more you learn the more you understand you have to learn about anything in life. That certainly applies to agriculture.

I commend the people who served and continue to serve on that committee and who keep me informed as a member of Parliament from an urban background about the issues, the needs and the concerns of Canadian farmers.

It would be a sad day when we could not go into our farmlands and see the family farm still in existence. That is a very real concern I have come to share with the constituents I represent. There is tremendous stress and strain on the family farm. I believe this government will do everything possible to make sure that a young farmer who wishes to follow in his or her parents footsteps and continue to farm will be able to do so.

It is a key drive of this government to make sure that those Canadians who wish to work are able to work. That must include agriculture. It will be a sad day when my cousins, some of whom do farm, cannot continue to do that because the family farm has become obsolete or simply impossible to manage.

I appreciate the opportunity to join in this debate today. It is a great privilege to represent farmers in this House of Commons. As I said, I will continue to speak on agricultural issues, ask questions to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food and make sure that the voices of my constituents are heard.

In closing on a related note, I hope that my colleagues in the Reform Party will perhaps reflect on this. One of the objections in southwestern Ontario to the proposed redistribution, not of members of Parliament but of individual ordinary Canadians, farmers living in southwestern Ontario, was that the proposed redistribution was going to represent a reduction in representation in the House of Commons for rural southern Ontario. They want to see the maximum possible voice for their concerns in the House of Commons. Those farmers in my riding who represent 20 per cent of my constituency do not want to see my riding become totally urban and their voice therefore reduced.

I am not sure that is appreciated by all members in various parts of the House who are not familiar with rural Ontario. I thought it was important to share that.

I appreciate the opportunity and I will listen very carefully to the rest of the debate.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member on his address and the sincerity of his remarks.

I come back to his references to Article XI and the Liberal Party's defence of it. My question is really this. Would the member not acknowledge that this is a classic case of politicians, and in this case even the government because the government took a similar position, sending producers precisely the wrong signal at the wrong time?

What the market was saying to supply management people during the GATT negotiation was that this particular approach to protecting supply management was not going to last. The consumers would not pay the shot. Consumers were saying that in other ways in Canada by going across the border and buying supply managed products.

Would not the more responsible thing have been to say to supply management people: "Look, this system cannot be maintained the way it is now. It is going to have to be changed and we are going to have to find some other way to provide you with financial security", which is what we tried to do by making supply management people eligible for an expanded NISA.

In other words, does the party's and the government's experience with the article XI business not illustrate precisely that too much politics, too much government sends the wrong signals to producers and we would be better to withdraw politicians and government from any area where they can send those signals to producers and end up misleading them rather than leading them in the right direction?

AgricultureGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Pat O'Brien Liberal London—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the leader of the Reform Party for his compliments and for his question. Perhaps I misunderstood his earlier speech, but I was taking issue with the suggestion that there was some sort of an inconsistency with the pre-election or the election position of our party on article XI and what we actually did once elected. I do not think there was any inconsistency whatsoever when we voted and stood alone in the world on article XI.

However one sees article XI and the efficacy of it, I was wanting to reinforce the fact that we were very consistent on how we dealt with that important clause of GATT after elected and what we had said prior to the election.

I will comment briefly on the Reform leader's points which almost amounted to depoliticizing the agri-food industry. While I applaud that sentiment I am not sure, knowing the farmers I do in my riding, I have never met more political people, people more attuned to what is going on in the country politically and determined to influence the system obviously to their advantage as Canadians, as we all seek to use the system to the advantage of our families and our country in general. I do not think we are going to see a day when governments are not involved in the agri-food decision making process. The process is political by nature, as I see it.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

It being 5.30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Pulp And PaperPrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider the advisability of developing regulations and a program to replace dioxin producing bleaching processes in pulp and paper mills in Canada and at the same time launching immediately a campaign to educate the public about the advantages offered by non-bleached paper products.

Mr. Speaker, the motion has two purposes. One is to gently but firmly remind the government with respect to pulp and paper companies and the activities of the pulp and paper industry that there is a pollution problem which needs to be addressed. Second, it is desirable to launch a program of advocacy with Canadians to see whether there is acceptance among the users of paper of all kinds, from writing paper, to pads, to toilet paper, that it is not bleached and therefore not subjected to rough chemical treatments.

Obviously this question could be considerably resolved if the purchasing trends of consumers were to change and shift from bleached to non-bleached products. It is a question that every consumer asks when walking by shelves in our supermarkets.

The background to the motion is simple. We have a very important pulp and paper industry. It is a major contributor to Canada's economy. It helps considerably to maintain a positive trade balance. At the same time, however, the industry is the largest industrial user of water in Canada and it is a major source of pollution.

It is estimated that pulp and paper mills in Canada are responsible for roughly 50 per cent of all waste dumped into the nation's waters and account for approximately 5 per cent to 6 per cent of the common air contaminants from known industrial sources.

Because of the livelihood of many families, because of the economic importance of the industry, because of the interests of shareholders in this industry, and because of the growing desire to behave as good environmental citizens on the part of Canadians, I am sure it is in our long term interest to develop measures that will improve the image of the industry at home and abroad and therefore secure the livelihood of the families dependent on the industry.

We are informed by the Chlorine Institute of North America that pulp and paper bleaching accounts for 14 per cent of chlorine use in North America. The use of chlorine and its compounds as bleaching agents results in the discharge of some very damaging and poisonous substances. By that I mean dioxins, furans, chloroform and other toxic materials.

The problem with chlorine is that it has an impact on the environment and human health. We know that chlorine is useful as a disinfectant. It is useful in many industrial activities. There is no doubt about that. There are also many negative effects. When chlorine is used in pulp and paper manufacturing processes the byproducts include such toxic substances such as dioxins, furans and PCBs. These elements are known to be persistent in the environment. They have found their way into the food chain and human tissue. They have been the subject of a number of recommendations in recent years by the International Joint Commission.

A number of health problems are associated with organochlorines and mounting evidence indicates that some organochlorines can cause not only cancer but reproductive dysfunctions, endocrine disruptions, developmental impairments and immunological effects.

At the present time we must say in assessing the situation that in recent times there has been a reduction in the use of chlorine in pulp and paper by the industry due mostly to modernization of the industry. We welcome that. Many plants are shifting away from the use of elemental chlorine or chlorine gas to the use of chlorine dioxide which results in a sharp decrease in the production of organochlorines and a reduction in the amount of dioxins associated with bleaching. However chlorine dioxide discharges contain large amounts of chlorate which is a very powerful herbicide.

We must raise the question as to whether this change or this shift is good enough. That question is followed by another one: Are there alternatives? Alternatives do exist. Also there is resistance to these alternatives. There is ozone bleaching, hydrogen peroxide and oxygen pre-bleaching.

These various approaches are now the objects of examination at the research level, but they would be extremely desirable as alternative approaches. They are a bit more expensive than chlorine and chlorine dioxide. They provide not only cleaner alternatives but involve less cost in the long run. The basic concept that has to be advanced in this debate is that it is going to be less costly in the long run if this is seen as an issue that will affect more than just one generation.

The present regulatory situation raises a question as to whether it is good enough. Regulations for pulp and paper were passed in May 1992 and were intended primarily to control conventional pollutants from mills. No assessment of the potential harm to human health by effluents from pulp and paper has been conducted because it is not required under the Fisheries Act.

The regulations control only two members of the family of chlorinated dioxins and furans. There are many family members. These are highly toxic because when they enter the environment in quantities they have immediate and long term harmful effects and constitute a danger to human health.

In his report in 1993 the auditor general informed Canadians that the Department of the Environment had not explained why it had not regulated dioxins and furans according to total toxicity. One province has done so. That is the province of Quebec. Maybe others have followed suit.

These regulations do not address directly the pulp and paper sludge or air emissions because they are not under the scope of the fisheries act. Nor do the conventional pollution regulations deal with effects on the environment in general or on human health. Further the environmental effects monitoring program, which is to be the main method of assessing the effectiveness of regulations, does not assess the effects on the environment and human health for the same reasons.

Next, the auditor general pointed out that the implementation of some of the new regulations had actually afforded mills that met regulatory requirements with some protection by allowing discharge of prescribed amounts under specific conditions. This is a very tricky situation.

The auditor general reported that incomplete information was provided on the effectiveness and cost of pulp and paper regulations. Apparently, while the federal regulations authorize the government to require mills to provide data on dioxins and furans in intermediate flows and in pulp and paper sludge at the mill, not much has happened.

The auditor general also pointed out that of 97 mills not in compliance at the end of December 1992, 91 mills were granted permission to continue polluting at preregulation levels until the end of 1993. All companies that tabled plans by the end of 1993 have been given an extension to the end of 1995.

The auditor general stated in his report that if these extensions were granted the mid-term effectiveness of the regulations would be quite questionable. In other words, why have regulations if extension after extension is granted? It is my understanding that 26 mills were granted extension until January 1994 to the dioxin and furans regulations.

We are dealing with a serious situation. I am sure that the parliamentary secretary or other members will address it in their interventions later.

In conclusion, one has to raise a basic, elementary question: Does paper need to be white? Is it really that important? In some countries paper of different colours is used. I do not want to go into shades of brown or grey, but the preoccupation or almost obsession with chlorine white does not exist in many other cultures. We seem to adhere to that very firmly, I suppose because the appearance is so attractive. Does it really have to be that way once we connect in our way of thinking to the fact that the use of chlorine which is necessary to have white paper is harmful to the environment in the long term and affects the ecosystem? That also leaves much to be desired because it can also have negative impacts on human health.

Do we need bleaching? Is it necessary to have white paper from toilet paper to writing paper? What is needed to do that? I suggest that if the appearance of our paper is not that important perhaps we could achieve a change in attitude and in consumer demand at the purchasing level of the individual consumer by a program of advocacy.

I would suggest that ways must be found to convey to the public the benefits of non-bleached paper. We need comprehensive education, if you like. We need to inform the public of the merits of unbleached paper.

Industry perhaps argues that there is no demand for chlorine free paper and it may be right. Yet through education and advocacy about the desirability of using non-bleached paper we might witness a change in demand in a very short time.

I am reminded in that respect and you are also, Mr. Speaker, I am sure, to what happened in the 1970s when we did switch from phosphate detergents to non-phosphate detergents when the public became seriously preoccupied with eutrophication both in Lake Ontario and Lake Erie in particular.

Therefore, an education campaign would perhaps rely on groups with experience in public education and grassroots awareness building so as to provide a vehicle to convey this message. There are many people I am sure who could be instrumental in an effective campaign Environment Canada could enlist their help. It seems to me that it is the responsibility of Environment Canada to initiate this process as it has done so successfully with other public advocacy programs.

To conclude, there is the government procurement process. Here the government could set the tone and the pace by determining what it buys when it comes to paper. If the Government of Canada were to switch from bleached to non-bleached procurements and buy the non-bleached paper it would make an enormous difference. We know the quantities that are being ordered. All the paper products used by government depart-

ments if non-bleached could become a very important trigger and start a new trend in favour of products that are environmentally friendly, namely non-bleached recycled paper products.

It seems to me therefore that it is reasonable to raise this matter in the House of Commons at this point to assess the situation we are in at the present time. We are perhaps at the mid point between the very unsatisfactory situation in the 1980s. We are certainly moving the right direction but we have to accelerate that process. We have to ensure that the industry does not become the object of trade retaliation abroad initiated by environmental movements as we have seen in other industrial sectors.

Maybe rather than being motivated by negative reasons we should be motivated by positive ones, namely by the desire of not only protecting the environment through our industrial activities but also to practice the concept of sustainable development which is a key chapter in the red book entitled "Creating Opportunities". Sustainable development means that we are heading for times in which we will need to integrate environmental with economic decisions.

Evidently the pulp and paper industry cannot exempt itself from this emerging trend. It is a desirable one because it has, as I mentioned, positive repercussions not only in terms of environmental protection but also on human health and it is therefore important that we bring all these concepts together on the floor of the House of Commons for further deliberation and hopefully for the advancement of the cause of a well managed and well protected environment with the long term interests of the economy in mind.

Pulp And PaperPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on the motion tabled by the hon. member for Davenport, who is also the chairman of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

I am always impressed by the hon. member's appropriate and honest comments, which reflect a genuine concern for the protection of our environment.

Quebec and Canada must make a sustained effort to control the overconsumption of goods and services. The motion tabled this afternoon must be supported by every member in this House, since it aims to significantly improve the quality of water.

The motion is twofold. First, it proposes to develop regulations and a program to replace dioxin producing bleaching processes in pulp and paper mills in Canada. Then, it proposes to launch a campaign to educate the public about the advantages offered by non-bleached paper products.

The Bloc Quebecois fully agrees with the need to review regulations on the pulp and paper industry, even though the Pulp and Paper Mill Effluent Chlorinated Dioxins and Furans Regulations were passed as recently as May 7, 1992, under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

These regulations, which came into effect on July 1, 1992, regulate two types of chlorinated dioxins and furans. In fact, these two substances were the first ones on the list of primary interest substances to be evaluated in terms of their toxicity.

These regulations were the result of initial action taken by the government under the Green Plan to limit industrial pollution.

These regulations are particularly important, especially since the Pulp and Paper Effluent Regulations which were passed at the same time are related to the Fisheries Act which does not require an evaluation of the possible dangers of effluents to human health. Consequently, I think it is essential that the regulations on chlorinated dioxins and furans provide us with means to protect the health of every human being.

However, the issue of regulations in the pulp and paper industry is very complex. This industry has played an important role in our economy for a long time now. Although it has provided essential financial support, the pulp industry has also long been an important source of pollution.

Even though we still have a long way to go, the results obtained encourage us to continue on this road. Industry complains when the government forces it to use new equipment to meet stricter standards.

Let me remind you here that when a regulation is passed forcing a company to incur expenses to meet a new standard, it can reduce its taxable income by deducting a capital cost allowance and operating expenses from its profits.

However, I would like to voice a criticism of my colleague from Davenport. He has fine qualities, I admit, but he has a drawback: he is a Liberal. The Conservative government did some things that were beyond reproach, of course; it did some things for which it can be criticized, but one thing it did was to try to put pulp and paper mills on the road to environmental protection and sustainable development.

The Liberals were elected on October 25 and the House had not yet started to sit under the new Liberal team when I read in Le Soleil : ``Domtar has a year to comply with Ottawa's new green standards''. Now there are about 15 pulp and paper mills along the St. Lawrence River. Less than three months after they were elected, the Liberal Party granted the paper mills an exemption from a regulation that the Conservative government had passed here in this House.

Let me read you a paragraph or two:

Ottawa has just allowed Domtar to dump into the water until 1996 twice the amount of pollution that it usually produces at its Beauharnois plant-

-Beauharnois is in Quebec, my friends-

-says the Société pour vaincre la pollution, SVP.

In an interview in Le Soleil , its spokesperson, Daniel Green, denounced the one-year delay granted yesterday by the federal government for these facilities to meet the new ``green'' standards.

Similar permission was granted to most of the 60-odd paper mills in the province.

And water flows downhill. In my riding, close by, in East Angus, there is a paper mill, and there is one in Windsor. The waste, following the Saint-François River, flows by Drummondville and inevitably ends up in the St. Lawrence River. Nearly all of the 60 paper mills in Quebec have obtained a waiver from your government, my friends. I have not heard one of them get up and yell, not one.

I also wish to draw attention to a report that was just made public by the Quebec Department of the Environment and Wildlife. It is the annual report on environmental compliance for the pulp and paper sector, 1992.

The report shows that, while the Quebec pulp and paper industry probably experienced its worst financial year in 1992, the percentage of compliance with standards substantially improved and the quantities of waste discharged also declined significantly.

To say that financial constraints oblige us to go slow in our efforts to reduce the use of chlorine is therefore not as true as it once was.

As we recently discovered in reading the seventh biennial report of the International Joint Commission on Water Quality in the Great Lakes, the pollution of these bodies of water has a drastic impact on human health.

These effects, to name only two, include congenital malformations and learning disabilities. We are no longer talking about fish. This winter, opposite Trois-Rivières, at Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, a third of fish in the channels, the tommy-cod, were blind. A third. But we are no longer talking about fish, but human beings. Children are born and it is known, at birth, that they will have a learning difficulty that can be determined. This is no laughing matter.

When birds were affected, the females laid eggs with shells that were too thin to ensure reproduction and people said, "It is sad about the birds". But in this case, human beings are involved. It is estimated that one person in three will develop some form of cancer at one time or another in his lifetime. One person in three. And you know where that comes from, cancer, from carcinogenic agents, including these we are talking about.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I see that my 10 minutes are already nearly up. I will conclude by saying to the member for Davenport that the Bloc Quebecois is, of course, in agreement with his private member's motion. It remains to be seen whether his party will have the courage of its convictions and go all the way with a bill that has teeth.

Pulp And PaperPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to speak to this motion M-100. The Reform Party and I recognize the importance of the preservation of our environment for future generations.

A very important part of our mandate as legislators is to ensure the environmental sustainability of our industries as well as the fiscal sustainability of our standard of living. These two goals are very interdependent. The sustainability of our standard of living very much depends on a healthy strong resource industry sector.

If we as lawmakers enact such strict environmental regulations as to make our resource industries uncompetitive in the world marketplace, then the income from those industries will not be there to support our high standard of living.

Therefore we must strike a balance between degradation of our environment and exploitation of our resources for profit. The phrase now popular for this balance is sustainable development. We only have to look at third world countries to see how the environment suffers when human beings must struggle just to survive.

It is vital that we do not lose our perspective to the agenda of the environmental movement. It is with this thought in mind that I am somewhat confused about the introduction of this motion. Perhaps it has become somewhat clearer after listening to the previous two speakers but the wording in the motion itself was somewhat confusing.

Knowing the background and long experience in environmental matters of the member for Davenport, I assumed but now know after listening to him that he is aware that under regulations passed in May 1992 under the Environmental Protection Act as of January 1994 the presence of dioxins and furans has been virtually eliminated from the effluent of Canadian pulp mills. That makes this motion somewhat redundant.

Thinking that I might be misinformed on the issue, I consulted the Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries mill in my riding, the Pulp

and Paper Research Institute of Canada and the B.C. Council of Forest Production. All confirmed that my information is correct.

I also visited the Alpac mill, the largest single line bleach kraft pulp mill in North America. I found it to be a shining example of the type of sustainable development we are striving to achieve.

This mill is producing 1,600 tonnes per day of the highest quality bleached white pulp, the best in the world, without producing any measurable dioxins or furan emissions. This mill also has one of the lowest AOX or organochlorine compound levels in effluent discharge of any mill in the world.

The effluent treatment plant makes use of a natural organic activated sludge biological effluent treatment system, if you can believe that. In this process micro-organisms which occur naturally in the river are introduced and thrive on the contaminants in the effluent, much the same process as the common household septic tank. The effluent is then aerated and oxygenated. Solids are then settled into large settling ponds. The clean water then returns to the river and the sludge is removed and burned in the power boiler.

Air and water emissions from the mill are continually monitored to meet the most stringent regulations in the world, as laid out in its operating licence.

The best example I saw of the technology being used is the large aquarium in the administration area of the mill in which a number of goldfish are living in pulp mill effluent. The fish looked healthy and vigorous with no mutations or growth sores that were visible. They certainly were not the type of horrors we heard the previous speaker talk about in our rivers and atmosphere.

I am not for a minute suggesting that the pulp and paper industry does not deserve its reputation as a major polluter of our air and water, but let us give credit where credit is due. Through a combination of much improved technology, public pressure and government regulation the industry has developed an environmental conscience as a means of survival in today's world.

The environmental movement no doubt was a real factor in this new environmental awareness. We must continue to be vigilant in monitoring the industry, but let us not let the pendulum swing too far as this motion might suggest.

We now have the technology to produce high quality bleached white paper, a product which certainly seems to be in great demand in this institution, and I notice it on the member's desk as well. We have the technology to do this without destroying our environment.

While the industry has eliminated the highly toxic organochlorine compounds, other non-organic, non-toxic organochlorine compounds continue to be present in the effluent streams. We must recognize that many products we consume on a daily basis, such as many pharmaceutical products and artificial sweeteners contain organochlorine compounds. As well we use chlorine in our drinking water and swimming pool treatment.

Therefore let us not react hysterically and destroy a very profitable industry which uses a renewable resource formerly viewed as a trash forest byproduct not suitable for the production of lumber. Research must continue on options such as closed recycling systems. That option is nearing reality. It is certainly one that is being developed in the Alpac system. The effluent is not pumped back into the river but instead is recirculated and reused in the mill. These are some options that we must continue to explore.

We must continue also to examine the other organochlorine compounds. If they are discovered to be toxic, let us move swiftly to ban these elements. But let us not destroy a viable industry that creates much needed jobs and contributes in a big way through tax dollars to our high standard of living based on a poorly informed environmental lobby.

Pulp And PaperPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Lachine—Lac-Saint-Louis Québec


Clifford Lincoln LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank my colleague the hon. member for Davenport for his respect for the environment and his tenacity in promoting the cause of the environment over the years. I do not think his case was hysterical at all. His case was in very measured tones in fact in contrast to the two speakers who spoke after him.

Of course I agree we should not be alarmists. At the same time I think we should be realists. To suggest that all over Canada pulp mills are not a problem today is to simplify the notion to a degree where it is not real any more.

I know there are state of the art mills such as Millar Western in Alberta and Saskatchewan with closed looped technologies producing zero effluents and zero toxins. They are models for mills all around the world, but they certainly are not typical of all the mills in Canada. In my own province of Quebec right up until a few years ago, the effluents from paper mills were tragic to the St. Lawrence. That has been the case all over Canada.

We recognize very much the economic importance of the pulp and paper industry. Of course it is our foremost industry. The accent was put on it by the hon. member for Davenport in saying that on the contrary we must be proactive in making sure that the output of the industry is enhanced, that the quality of its products sell all over the world. It is in that sense the motion was produced. We have to see it in a proactive light.

In 1992 after tremendous consultations involving stakeholders from the industry, from environmental groups and from governments, the Canadian government decided to produce a comprehensive set of regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and also under the Fisheries Act. The regulations mandated that mills would not produce any more

effluent that resulted in dioxins and furans by 1994. That has been the case.

However I will correct my colleague, the critic for the Bloc Quebecois, when he said it was due to the Liberals that extensions were granted, as they were. I will remind him that the amendments to the 1992 regulations providing for extensions were produced by the Conservative government. If members do not agree with me they can check it and challenge me tomorrow in Question Period.

What happened was that these amendments to the regulations were produced so that when mills applied for extensions of time before December 31, 1995, there was no choice but to grant these extensions.

I know we have to do better. We have to examine the chlorine issue very carefully. There has been a change in gaseous chlorine used in mills in Canada by a 70 per cent decline. Instead they are choosing chlorine dioxide bleaching which is far less harmful to the environment. As a result there has been a dramatic decrease in the effluents producing dioxins and furans.

I will give some figures which are pretty startling. The total discharges of chlorinated dioxins and furans as measured in toxic equivalent units discharged from all pulp mills using chlorine bleaching in Canada has decreased from over 350 grams per year in 1988 to less than 6 grams in mid-1993.

We have to carry on our pursuit for completely dioxin and furan free effluents, zero discharge effluents, not just at the end of the pipe effluents but preventive technologies that will produce closed loop technologies which will stop discharges of these altogether. Such is the case for Millar Western.

Some very important initiatives are now in progress. First of all, side effect research is being carried out today by Environment Canada and other parties. The report of the study will be completed in a matter of a few months. The study is examining the effect of chlorine and chlorinated products used in pulp mills and other manufacturing uses. Also a memorandum of understanding has just been signed by the Government of Canada with the Pulp and Paper Research Institute to try and establish new technologies in closed loop circuits so that effluents will be completely toxin free.

There is also the St. Lawrence program just signed with Quebec, which will force all manufacturing companies-there were 56 of them, including the pulp and paper mills, and now there are 106-to reduce effluents, which have been reduced by 70 per cent so far, by 90 per cent by 1998. Consequently, measures are currently being developed. I know we have to improve what we are doing. This is why I personally and all the people in the department are closely monitoring what is happening especially in the United States, where an extensive study is under way on chlorine and on the steps to be taken to eliminate dioxin and furan effluents resulting from chlorine.

My colleague from Davenport also spoke about health, and I agree completely with him. This is why the Vision 2000 component of the St. Lawrence action plan-as will also be the case in Ontario-will include a component on health to measure the effects on the health of living species and especially humans. It is essential that we begin to look into the health effects of toxic effluents, not only from pulp and paper mills, but also from all plants.

I agree completely with my colleague that what is needed is a heightened public awareness campaign so that the public can find out about the environmental impact of a particular product.

That is the reason for the ecochoice program and I would be quite happy if most of our paper, certainly the procurement of the House of Commons to start as an example, were unbleached paper. Why not start here as an example?

It seems to me that we can also produce good white paper, bleached so long as it is under closed loop technology or non-toxic technology, and at the same time use other measures which eventually people accept.

I use stationery that is brown in colour, so does my colleague, and I find it receives acceptance today all over the place. Ten years ago recycled paper was not acceptable. Today it is.

We have to change our ways, our attitudes, find a means for all of us, including my colleagues over there, including colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois, to find a certain consensus that yes, industry has to carry on. It is our bread basket. It is the way we live and manage to earn our living.

At the same time it has to be done with full respect for the environment, for the ecosystems, for our biodiversity, for human health, not only in one place, perhaps in the member's riding, but all over Canada without regard to where it is or how it is done.

We may reach it, not tomorrow or the day after, but we have to set an objective of a toxic free, dioxin and furan free ecosystem all over Canada.

Pulp And PaperPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

There being no further members rising for debate and the motion not being designated as a votable item the time provided for the consideration of Private Member's Business has now expired and the order is dropped from the Order Paper pursuant to Standing Order 96(1).

Pursuant to order adopted on Friday, May 6, 1994, the House resumes consideration of the government motion on agriculture.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

May 10th, 1994 / 6:15 p.m.


Paul Steckle Liberal Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to be able to stand here this evening and address the issue of agriculture, something which I am very familiar with.

I am also pleased to have shared this time slot with my colleague, also my constituency colleague in the fact that he neighbours to my south and we share in many ways similar constituencies with the exception that my constituency is totally agriculture and I do not share the urban aspect that my colleague from London-Middlesex does.

This evening I want to draw some points that I think have already been made today. I want to reiterate a number of points.

I think as we go back and look at the February budget we see included some very tough measures such as cuts for all government departments including the agricultural department. Agriculture grants and contributions were cut by 5 per cent. Because the government was aware and sensitive to the challenges facing agriculture producers, major safety net programs, that is GRIP, NISA and the dairy subsidy and crop insurance programs, were exempt from these cuts.

There are no huge amounts of money for new programs as we all know and we do not want to create new cumbersome bureaucracies. Therefore we must work with the farmers to prioritize our resources and farmers are going to have to decide what they want the limited moneys to be spent on.

Just this morning a committee of rural people met with the farmers representing the corn and oilseed industries with regard to the way they want to see us spend our money in terms of the advance payment programs. Later on this morning they also met with the hon. minister. I understand they had a very congenial meeting.

The agri-food industry is complex and goes far beyond the farm gate. The system provides Canadians with the safest and the most nutritious food in the world and let me suggest also at the most reasonable prices.

We as a government are committed to develop all opportunities for growth and have placed priority on the security of the family farm. This priority can only be achieved by building solid domestic and international markets, staying on the forefront of innovation and in the concentration on stewardship of our natural resources-farmers know this best-soil, the way we revere this ever so important ingredient in the food chain.

I want to move to the issue of trade. Trade is this country's life blood. Offshore markets are expanding especially for value added products. Canada is losing ground to our competitors for a number of reasons. However, we through the minister, the parliamentary secretary and the agriculture committee, are working to reverse this trend. The minister has stated that our government's policy will be to work with the different industries to reach a goal of $20 billion of exports by the year 2000. This is a major increase from the current level of $13 billion.

We are committed to increasing exports and the minister has told the department to shift its priorities and to increase support for export initiatives. The potential for export growth in the agri-food industry falls within value added products. Also key is the development of new markets in Asia and in Latin America.

There has been created a new market, an industries branch that will work with the Department of Industry and the Department of Human Resources Development to produce a single window approach to provide support for market development of agriculture. Agri-food specialists have been placed in selected embassies abroad and to date the response has been positive.

The minister along with the Governor General and private organizations came back from a trade mission to China, South Korea and Hong Kong to promote the agri-food industry. The government wants to find new customers while firming up existing partnerships.

This government has been working hard to cultivate and take advantage of new trade opportunities post NAFTA and GATT. With NAFTA we have the opportunity to jump on new opportunities south of our border in the United States and in Mexico. We as a government did what we promised and made improvements to NAFTA before we signed. These improvements were in areas of labour and environment, subsidies and dumping, water and energy.

NAFTA was agreed upon to ensure that we have secure access to our largest trading partner and greater access to a growing market in Mexico.

To date Canada has accepted 85 per cent of Mexican food products duty free. Mexico maintained high import duties and import restrictions on many food products. NAFTA will correct this imbalance and increase our exports past the pre-NAFTA levels of approximately $215 million. This will help the whole agricultural industry including our food processing sector which

currently employs close to 200,000 people and with a production valued at $40 billion.

Market opportunities in Mexico exist in many food sectors including fish, shellfish, wheat, barley, oilseeds, pork and pork products, potato and potato products, canary seed, dried beans, peas and apples, to name some of the things we export from this country.

There was little time to rest when we were elected. We had to jump into the trade issue right away with the GATT negotiations.

Recently in Morocco, on April 15, 1994 the trade minister along with about 120 other governments signed on to the final act that embodies the results of the Uruguay round of multilateral trade negotiations. Their agreement will put greater fairness and predictability to international trade. New trade rules will apply to all countries equally and differences between trading partners will be settled more effectively through the rules of the World Trade Organization. This is essential to farmers and the agri-food industry.

For the first time in history we have an agreed to definition of the term subsidy. The agreement also sets out a category of government programs agreed upon to be non-trade distorting.

This will not happen overnight, but will be phased in over six years. In most cases this will give domestic industries time to adjust to the new trading rules.

The agreement will help put an end to a disastrous grain trade subsidy war that proved extremely costly to Canadian farmers. In the future Canadian farmers will enjoy greater market access. The red meat industry will also benefit from this agreement. Pork and beef producers will enjoy greater opportunities in the Asian market.

Now allow me to move to supply management. More than 20 years ago this country decided that a made in Canada approach, the supply management system, was the appropriate structure for the dairy, poultry and egg industries. Now supply management is one of the foundations of the Canadian agricultural economy.

Supply management is and was based on three pillars: production quotas, a regulated pricing mechanism and import quotas. After the 1994 GATT agreement one of the three pillars, import quotas, was replaced by tariffs.

Our party's position is clear. We remain committed and support the supply management system and will continue to assure its prosperity. Opposition members are quick to pounce on us and predict the end of supply management. In December the Ontario Milk Marketing Board issued a press release: "Marketing boards have not been dismantled by the recently announced trade deal under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades (GATT). The change coming in July 1995 is that border import quotas are being replaced by border tariffs so only the mechanism to keep out subsidized product has changed".

The industry has accepted this. Currently the government is working with stockholders to develop new arrangements that will support the sustainable orderly marketing systems required in the future.

In December the agriculture minister along with provincial agriculture ministers established a small task force to provide advice on changes needed to the supply management system to address the challenges and opportunities resulting from GATT.

The task force was chaired by the hon. member for Prince Edward-Hastings and is looking toward an aggressive marketing approach as key to the future of this sector.

Recently the United States has decided to serve notice of its intention of proceeding with increased tariffs on barley and wheat. We regret the action and despite what the opposition claims we will stand firm in our support of the industry. We will not trade off one industry's interest for the interest of another.

We will try to use the 90-day consultation period to try and negotiate a deal to prevent a trade war. We stand ready and we will not back down. If the U.S. proceeds with unilateral trade action we will have no choice but to respond in kind.

In fact, Canada would have been much worse off had it not been included in the GATT agreement. If this had happened the U.S. would have been free to impose tariffs right away without the 90-day consultation period.

In looking at the future, we have under GATT clear rules and a new system of discipline in trade that can be understood by all parties when developing the new generation of safety net programs. These programs need to be to the best of our ability countervail proof.

My view is that we need to develop long term agricultural policies that will take us well into the 21st century. Farmers need and want that stability.

Farmers have always said they do not want subsidies, they just want a fair price for their goods from the market. However, even with the best trading conditions support programs are still needed because of the inherent instability of the agri-food industry, instability caused by such things as weather conditions and trade wars.

We as a government are committed to replacing the patchwork of current expensive commodity subsidies with a user friendly, whole farm income approach. Farming organizations have given us their strong support in this matter.

To avoid major dislocation we will make future changes over a period of several years. Safety net programs need to be financially efficient, GATT constant and market neutral.

In my closing comments, I want to say that this government has been very positive in the direction that it has taken the agriculture department. In terms of our agricultural committee we have now opened the process where the public has been able to view us in our deliberations, particularly as we deliberated on the BST question.

We have offered and tabled in this House seven recommendations. It is the committee's hope and trust that this House will embrace those recommendations. We encourage all in this House to support us on those issues.

We also think it was positive that in the past week we were able to sit down and discuss the difficulties in marketing and getting our grain to ports on the west coast. A subcommittee of the transportation committee and the agriculture committee was established. It is meeting with witnesses on this issue because it is affecting and impacting on all Canadians. We want to let members know that we had a very successful conclusion to that time. Members will be hearing our responses from those witnesses within the next few days.

I want to say again how important it is that we recognize the values of agriculture. It is a privilege to have been part of this discussion and having allowed Canadians to see that agriculture is truly a part of Canada.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague from Huron-Bruce, and I am delighted to see that in this House there are several members who seem to want to defend the interests of our farmers.

However, I would like to have him clarify a point which he stressed several times when he talked about ensuring the financial security of our farmers.

I too am familiar with the farmers of Quebec. However, you know that 49 per cent of the milk consumed in Canada is produced in Quebec. I therefore wonder how we can tell our farmers in Quebec that we are going to ensure their financial security when milk quotas are reduced regularly by a few percentage points each year, except last year, when they went up 2 per cent or rather, 2 per cent was loaned. Production costs are rising constantly, and our dairy farmers have been selling milk at practically the same price for the past five years.

The same holds true for veal calf breeders. The price of veal has virtually not risen at all since 1978, whereas production costs continue to rise.

I would like the person who spoke last to tell us, in all seriousness, how he can say to Quebec farmers that the Liberal government, which was just elected with a solid majority, is going to ensure their financial security in the foreseeable future, not in 50 years, but in a year or two. I would like to hear you talk about that.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

6:30 p.m.


Paul Steckle Liberal Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for raising that question. I am sure that his concern and interest in farmers is quite similar to mine. Whether those farmers be in Quebec, Saskatchewan or Ontario really is not my point of argument this evening.

My point is that the farmers' interests in Quebec are best served by remaining part of Canada. My concern would be that if they did not remain in Canada the likelihood of farmers' success in agriculture and their future would certainly not be as bright as remaining here in Canada.

We have policies in place in this country. We have a directive. We know where we are going in this country. The supply management system is not gone. The member mentioned quota values. Quota values today are stronger than they were just before article XI was lost. I might say to the member that the people in Quebec have done very well.

We in Ontario who happen to take shipment of some of its stocker calves into our province know very well that there is good cattle there. Ontarians look forward to getting those cattle. We also know that the cattle industry as one of the many industries in the agriculture sector has done reasonably well. We would all like to do better but many sectors have been restrained from growth and doing the kinds of things they would like to do.

I once again assure Canadians that this government has the interests of farmers at heart. We sincerely indulge upon the member sitting next to the hon. member in the committee. He has participated and he has shared. I know the concerns.

I can assure the hon. member that we are there for the farmers of the future.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member stated during his presentation that he hears from farmers the comment: "All I really want is a fair price for my product. I don't want subsidies".

How does the member answer this question?

AgricultureGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.


Paul Steckle Liberal Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises a question that I rather expected would come from the Reform Party. As you know, as we have discussed in the agriculture committee-

AgricultureGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order. I hesitate to interrupt members. I know this debate is of great interest to the House and the debate has been most interesting. But I would

remind you in your responses to address yourself through the chair and not directly to one another.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.


Paul Steckle Liberal Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, the point is well taken.

Regarding the issue of how to address farmers who say to us: "What are we going to do in the meantime?", your leader very ably this evening in an earlier dialogue said that we cannot get rid of these subsidies and aids immediately, that it is going to take some time. We need an interim period where we adjust.

That is what we are asking our farmers to do. They are prepared to do that. Farmers realize that subsidies are of the essence at this point in time because we are competing with countries that are much more highly subsidized than this country.

The fact that we now have a definition of subsidy is important. That was defined when we reached our agreement under NAFTA. I hope and trust as we go into the GATT period over the next number of years that we will find less and less need for subsidies.

I trust that farmers in the western part of this country recognize that we are heading in a direction where we will no longer need subsidies.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

6:35 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are several reasons why I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate, but before explaining what they are, I would like to draw a parallel with a unique astronomical phenomenon we saw today and I am of course referring to the solar eclipse which a few hours ago was visible over a substantial part of the earth and indeed above our heads, what the scientists call an annular eclipse. In other words, the sun was visible around the moon, and people who wanted to watch were urged to wear glasses to prevent any injury to their eyes.

As we experienced this phenomenon, here in this House we experienced a total eclipse of vision in the agricultural sector. However, this particular eclipse has been going on for more than six months, while the one we saw today will probably not recur for another 50 years. The Liberal eclipse, unfortunately, does not require special glasses. We can see its daily impact on agriculture in Quebec and Canada and on the lives of our farmers.

I became interested in agriculture at an early age, since I come from a farm background. I had several uncles who were farmers and raised their children on the family farm, and those children are now also engaged in farming.

In fact, I was personally very involved in farming for seven or eight years when I was a beef producer in the riding of Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead, together with my father-in-law, who died tragically in a car accident last Friday.

I would like to take a few moments to pay tribute to him. His name was Maurice Brault, and he was one of my constituents, who like most farmers not only worked on the land, but was a part of it and made it a part of his life. He passed on to me this love of farming, of the animals, the forest and everything that grows on the land, and above all, he passed on his respect for our land.

I also want to say that I am proud of living in a riding where farming is the main economic activity. I quoted some figures in a speech about two weeks ago in this House, and I want to repeat these figures, because they are very revealing.

In the riding of Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead, agriculture is an economic activity that generates roughly $160 million annually. It is responsible for 2,500 direct jobs and for 10,000 to 12,000 indirect jobs. All of which means that 15,000 people depend on agriculture in the riding of Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead. Therefore, it can be classified as a major industry.

I am also proud to belong to this riding since barely two weeks ago, Parti Quebecois faithful gathered to elect the candidate who would run in the upcoming provincial elections in the provincial riding of Mégantic-Compton. They chose Mr. Jacques Blais of La Patrie, who is himself a very prosperous farmer and the owner of a 1,300-acre farm in the municipality of La Patrie. Mr. Blais is a farmer by profession. He knows the agricultural sector and will be able to defend the interests of all Quebec farmers in the National Assembly once the election is held in a few weeks or, at most, in a few months.

Mr. Blais also belongs to a family that includes at least five or six prosperous farmers in the immediate region of La Patrie and Coaticook. These individuals have dedicated their lives to the farm and to farming. I will come back to this later and give you a few examples.

Therefore, I am proud to represent this riding. My colleague from the neighbouring riding of Frontenac was also a farmer up until his election on October 25 last. He raised cattle in addition to working as a teacher.

Agriculture is therefore more than just words for the people of Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead. It represents their livelihood, their survival and even the future, not just their own, but the future of their municipality, of the entire riding and even of Quebec.

I would like to give you two examples of initiatives taken by farmers in my riding which speak volumes about how Quebec farmers are capable of taking care of themselves and of benefiting from the spirit of co-operation that has prevailed in our region for the past twenty years. They are not waiting, and

rightly so, for the government, whether provincial or federal, to come up with solutions; they roll up their sleeves and work at resolving their problems themselves.

I would like to start by talking about the RCM of Haut-Saint-François which includes the municipality of La Paltrie that I mentioned a minute ago as well as those around Cookshire, East Angus and Weedon, the locality next to my colleague's. Within this RCM, a consultation committee on agri-food, which incidentally was called agri-food table of Haut-Saint-François, was set up about a year ago.

This Table brings together farmers, of course, but also processors, distributors and representatives from the UPA. These people want to look after the interests of the 600 farming enterprises in that RCM, the total sales of which exceed $40 million annually.

On the subject of agriculture, it is important to stress the figures and the impact of the agricultural industry on the economy, because many urbanites believe that farming is something you do on the side, like gentlemen farmers. In the riding of Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead, farming is a business enterprise, an industry which requires daily input.

These people got together when they noticed a kind of rural exodus in the last 10 years or so, especially among young people, a kind of devitalization of the agricultural community. They noted that the population of the regional county municipality was decreasing and getting older since the young people were moving to the city, more often than not to join the ranks of the unemployed.

They noted that the education and skill level of the labour force was low. They also noted that the producers were quite spread out geographically since the regional county municipality of Haut-Saint-François is a vast territory and, with the number of farms dwindling, the distance between producers is increasing. All the agri-food forum findings I just mentioned led them to the problem of marketing their products.

That is why they decided to join forces and promote partnership and co-operation among the various players since a farmer alone on his farm will not accomplish anything if he is not familiar with market conditions not only to sell his products but also, when the time comes to invest in his farm, to know whether he should stay with the same products or diversify into other sectors and, if so, into which sectors.

That is why the forum produced a strategic development action plan. They identified new agricultural projects, new niches through market studies and realized that there was a demand for certain fruits and vegetables. They also published a number of promotional flyers, which is a precedent at least in our region if not in Quebec as a whole, to let people know about their products.

They also developed the tourism sector. In the last 15 years or so, our region has noticed an increasing level of interest from city people who want to spend a weekend or a week on a farm to see how things are done, how people live, how we produce the various products sold on the market such as milk and poultry. In our region we developed through the agri-food forum a farm tour which is already giving results and increasing, as I said, the local economic activity level.

We are also interested in labour force training since, as I pointed out a few moments ago, after noting that many farmers were poorly educated, we approached school boards to help solve this problem. Finally, we developed an area-buy policy when we found out that many people living close by did not even know the products available from the local farmers.

Also in the region, in the Regional County Municipality of Coaticook, there is the Coaticook regional agricultural initiatives centre, an agricultural co-operation and planning body whose purpose is to develop a dynamic and attractive economic environment to help consolidate and diversify rural activities. Local farmers got together at something like the agri-food forum and shared their experience and knowledge to develop the agricultural sector further.

What is special about the Coaticook RCM is the diversity of the stakeholders involved in this project. I will name a few: the city of Coaticook is not only taking part in the discussions but is also helping to finance the agricultural initiatives centre, which gave $450,000 last year, the municipality of Coaticook, the regional development board, the Coaticook school commission, 49 commercial interests of all kinds in the Coaticook RCM that invested money in this project, 10 surrounding rural municipalities in the Coaticook RCM, 56 farmers who invested time and money in this initiatives centre, and 71 supporters, ordinary people who are interested in such an initiative and decided to put their time and money into it; the Government of Quebec contributed $1.5 million, local groups and individuals also, and the federal government gave $1,184,000.

Mr. Speaker, you are telling me that I have one minute left. I will conclude by saying that farmers want to take charge; they want to succeed, but they also expect governments, and particularly the federal government, to invest more. If you compare Quebec and western Canada in terms of federal investments, the figures are very eloquent. I do not have time to review them now, but I may have that opportunity during questions and comments period.

I want to point out that farmers in my riding are concerned about their future, following the GATT agreement. They are concerned, but not because they do not want to compete on the world market, quite the contrary. They are concerned about the negotiations which will follow and they want the government of Canada to guarantee that they will get support and that agriculture's future will not be jeopardized in any way.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

6:55 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite talked in the beginning about the eclipse and eclipse is right. He leaves the impression that Quebec would do better out of Canada. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The member continues to portray total darkness to Quebec producers on the amount of gains they make out of the national agricultural policy. The facts are that Quebec net farm income has grown steadily over the past 20 years, a result of stability and markets for hogs, supply management products and a growing grain industry.

I might add that these kinds of policies were started by the previous Liberal administration. Quebec has gained a great advantage because of them. Another example given by the member that is a little misleading is that members have to recognize that over 45 per cent of the industrial milk in Canada is produced and processed in Quebec but only 25 per cent of those industrial milk products are consumed in Quebec.

It is because of the national policies we have in place, the sharing of the national market, the expanding international markets that Quebec has gained substantially to the point it has.

I want to conclude by saying that with this new Liberal administration in charge again and being proactive as we are we can move forward as a united nation in exercising our potential as a country as a whole, including Quebec, in fostering exports and profits for Canadian farmers.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

7 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his comments and, with all due respect to him, I would recommend that he review the figures he has just submitted to us, implying that agriculture in Quebec had continued to make progress in the past 20 years, thanks, in particular, to the initiatives of the federal government. The reality is quite different.

You will allow me to cite some figures that indicate the contrary. There was indeed a period, in particular the period from 1976 to 1985, when agriculture in Quebec experienced constant development and a very remarkable improvement. This was due in great measure to the policies of the then government of Quebec, that of Mr. René Lévesque.

I will simply recall, for the benefit of the member and the Minister of Agriculture, that, in 1976, when the Parti Quebecois took office, Quebec's level of self-sufficiency in food was 47 per cent. In 1985, when the Parti Quebecois was replaced by the Liberal Party, the twin brother of the Government that now sits opposite us, the rate of self-sufficiency in food was 78 per cent.

In just nine years, Quebec's self-sufficiency in food improved from 47 to 78 per cent. After 1985, figures are not available, since the Liberal Government of Quebec abolished the evaluation branch of the Department of Agriculture, but the rate of self-sufficiency is now estimated to be below 70 per cent. Thus, there has been a falling off.

From 1977 to 1985, agriculture accounted for 1.7 per cent of Quebec's gross domestic product; from 1986 to 1993, it accounted for 1.37 per cent of the gross domestic product, a significant decrease. Farm investment in Quebec from 1980 to 1985-the Member should take note of these figures and use them in future speeches-averaged $737 million per year. From 1986 to 1993, investment averaged $409 million, a decrease of 45 per cent.

A look at other telling figures in terms of potato production from 1981 to 1991, when there were either Liberal or Conservative governments, reveals that the cultivated acreage for potatoes rose by 2 per cent. In the West, it increased by 30 per cent. Beef production in Quebec from 1981 to 1991 fell by 13 per cent, whereas it rose by 4 per cent in the West. Pork production fell 16 per cent in Quebec, whereas it rose 39 per cent in the West. Lamb production rose 8 per cent during the same period in Quebec, compared to 33 per cent in the west.

Therefore, instead of being told stories, I would like the real figures to be used, and I say once again that I fervently hope, and the farmers in my county hope even more so, that the government will table policies that will ensure the development of agriculture in Quebec.

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7 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite made my point to a certain extent because what we are talking about here is a proactive government. He indicated that between 1976 and 1985 there was continuous development.

That was as a result really of a strong Liberal administration operating in terms of federal-provincial cost sharing agreements, and Quebec benefited greatly as a result of that leadership.

One other point that I will make is that when one compares 1981 and 1994 net income in Quebec, Quebec has grown by over 60 per cent compared with only about 20 per cent of the rest of the provinces. Those facts and figures should be known.

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7:05 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think we must keep along the same line, since the hon. member mentions figures the origin of which I do not know-although I am sure he will be pleased to send me those figures. I want to remind him that comparisons were made and, for 1991-92, federal public spending to support Quebec's agri-food industry reached $399 million, that is almost $400 million,

compared to about $5.5 billion for the rest of Canada. In other words, about 7 per cent of federal support is allocated to Quebec's agri-food industry.

Let us take a look at the respective percentages represented by support or assistance by federal and provincial governments in the agricultural sector. Again in 1991-92, federal assistance in Quebec represented 37.2 per cent of all subsidies granted, whereas the support provided by the provincial government represented 62.8 per cent. In the rest of Canada, it is the opposite. The figures are reversed: federal assistance, 65.8 per cent; provincial support, 34.2 per cent. I will end on that. These figures speak for themselves and show that federal assistance must be redistributed and, I will say it again, we are waiting for the Minister of Agriculture to take action.

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7:05 p.m.


Guy Arseneault Liberal Restigouche—Chaleur, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member opposite. If this government implements programs which will surely help Quebec farmers, will he vote against separation, yes or no?

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7:05 p.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, I really do not understand the hon. member's intervention. If any measure tabled in this House by a government, whether Liberal or not, is susceptible to improve the plight of agriculture and farmers in Quebec and the rest of Canada, we will be pleased to support it.

As for Quebec's future, the federal government's interventions in the past are not likely to incite Quebecers to give unconditional support to Canada.