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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.

Topics

FisheriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

Today the minister tabled legislation to deal with the east coast fisheries disaster. We want to avoid a similar catastrophe in the west coast fishery. Local media reports in my west coast riding indicate that DFO is reducing-

FisheriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Order. Will the hon. member please put his question.

FisheriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Reform

John Duncan Reform North Island—Powell River, BC

Will the minister tell the House that already scarce west coast DFO enforcement and management programs will continue and that diversion of funds to the aboriginal fishing strategy will cease?

FisheriesOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Brian Tobin LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, indeed the member is right. As was promised by the Prime Minister, we tabled legislation today to deal with foreign overfishing. Another red book commitment has been kept.

Let me say as well, because it is important to note it, that the legislation is not partisan in nature. It has received the support of the Leader of the Official Opposition and his party. I want to acknowledge the support of the leader of the Reform Party and his party, the support of the New Democratic Party, and I understand the support of the Conservative Party.

We will give the same kind of attention to the problem of fishing and overfishing on Canada's west coast that the House of Commons, united, has given to the problem of overfishing on the east coast. This is one case where the country speaks as one in the interest of Canadian citizens.

Presence In The GalleryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Costas Patrides, Minister of Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment for Cyprus.

Presence In The GalleryOral Question Period

2:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

The House resumed from May 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-22, an act respecting certain agreements concerning the redevelopment and operation of terminals 1 and 2 at Lester B. Pearson International Airport, be read the second time and referred to a committee; and of the amendment.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

May 10th, 1994 / 2:55 p.m.

The Speaker

It being 3 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 45(5)(a), the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred division on the amendment.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the amendment lost.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Comuzzi Liberal Thunder Bay—Nipigon, ON

I rise on a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologize for being delayed. I was wondering if you would allow me to cast my vote on the government side.

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

Pearson International Airport Agreements ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to say what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to take part in the debate today. I feel very honoured to be able to work with the Department of Agriculture and Agri-food, a department that has such a real impact on the lives of Canadians.

The agriculture and agri-food portfolio is one that affects us all to probably a greater extent than many others, although different departments in the federal government affect our lives each and every day. However, agriculture and agri-food is one that contributes to economic growth and job creation, international competitiveness, market development and domestic prosperity. Fundamentally and most importantly it is one of the major players and is responsible for providing and ensuring a healthy and safe food supply for Canadians.

I also feel very fortunate to work with the present Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food as parliamentary secretary. I enjoy very much working in co-operation with him, in facing and meeting the challenges head on that are coming to the industry today, seemingly at a faster rate than they ever have before.

The agriculture industry is one that changes very rapidly. It always has and quite frankly probably always will. It is an industry that is made up of individuals, whether primary producers or processors or anyone else in the very large agri-food chain. It is made up of people who are very resilient and very determined to be successful. They are efficient producers,

efficient players and holders of the links in that chain. It is also a pleasure to work with them.

We know that Canadians feel very strongly about the agri-food industry and even passionately about food. When we are on a holiday or on weekends or a dinner at home with our family some of the strongest memories we have are about food. It is said that the way to a person's heart is through their stomach. We in Canada have to stop more often than we do and remind ourselves how fortunate we are as Canadians to have the food system we have.

I want to remind members and anyone who might be watching about the importance and the value the agri-food industry plays in providing Canadians with the safest and most reasonably priced food of any country in the world. Once in a while we see an analysis that states the country south of us spends a slightly smaller percentage of their disposable income on food consumed at home. Basically we are neck in neck with them.

On average Canadians spend about 10 or 11 per cent of their disposable income on food. When that is compared with some other countries in the world where it is two, three and four times higher and when you consider that the food provided to all Canadians is without question the best and the safest in the world, we are doing a pretty good job. Canadians are getting an incredibly good return on their investment and their food dollar. Not only does the agri-food industry provide the food on our plates but it also plays a major role in the balance of trade.

About 8 per cent of the products that we export in total are agri-food products, whether in bulk or further processed products, to the tune of about $13.5 billion. The agri-food industry from the primary producer right through to the restaurant and food service industry employs about 15 per cent of the population, about 1.6 million or 1.7 million Canadians. It is no small player.

The agri-food industry plays a major role in the sustainability of our environment and is being asked to play a more major role. It is certainly willing to play a more major role and to take responsibility for soil and water conservation. Last but not least the industry plays a major role in the social fibre and fabric of the nation. I could go back through all of these and outline areas where the government is very active.

This morning the member for Québec-Est brought up a number of issues that he thought needed to be discussed, but I want to remind him that he did not bring up one issue that the present government is not already addressing.

One of the other speakers from the opposition made the comment that they had an opposition day on agriculture last week. They tried to claim that they beat us to the punch. I would remind the opposition that the government about five or six weeks ago announced that there was going to be a full day of debate in the House on agriculture.

One of the things the government is doing which has not been done in this way before is listening to the concerns of opposition members about the agriculture and agri-food industry. It is the substance of the debate today that is so important. I would like to take a few minutes on some of that in a minute or two.

I would also like to express to everyone how pleased we are to see the eagerness that all of the players in the agri-food industry are exhibiting in attacking and approaching the challenges and opportunities that are before us in the agri-food industry today. There is a real determination among Canadians to put their shoulder to the wheel, to work with government, to work with all of the players to help support and facilitate what needs to be done in adjusting to the new trade regimes that we have to deal with.

We know as a government that the direction and input must come from the bottom up, but it is the duty, as other members have said today, of government to deal with and to facilitate and to consolidate the concerns of everybody in the industry, whether that be by methods of financing, whether it be in legislation, whether it be in enforcement, or inspection or whatever.

I would like to take a few minutes to talk about how fortunate we are with the food inspection and safety programs we have in Canada today and the initiatives that the present government is moving with in that field. Canadians have the best and safest food supply, as I have already said, of any country in the world. We intend to keep it that way.

It means that we have to get a lot of agencies and a lot of different groups working together. The country's food safety mandate is shared among different federal departments, as well as with provincial health and agriculture departments and with municipalities.

On the federal level Health Canada is responsible for health related food safety matters; the Department of Fisheries and Oceans looks after fish and fish product safety and quality; while Agriculture and Agri-food Canada is responsible for the quality and safety of agri-food products. It discharges this responsibility through activities including inspection, labelling and pesticide regulation.

Partnership and consultation are keys to the success and to the successful management of a healthy and safe food supply in this country. With so many players involved in the issue of food safety, it is important to ensure that there is consistency, to clarify the roles and eliminate duplication in order to maintain the most efficient food safety system that we possibly can and, quite frankly, that we do have.

Before I get into what the department of agriculture is doing in order to ensure that safety and that the efforts are co-ordinated among all that are involved, I would like to mention the mandate of the department. As I say, different departments are involved in food safety but it has the mandate of agriculture in there.

The main one is the role carried out by the food production and inspection branch, which is the regulatory arm of the department. The food production and inspection branch develops and establishes health and safety standards which the agri-food industry is required to meet. It also sets out to protect the Canadian agriculture industry in controlling the introduction and spread of foreign animal and plant diseases and pests that may enter the country from outside our borders. That indeed is a very important role that it plays as well.

In 1976 that branch was formed and three years later the food inspection directorate was created within the branch. The mandate of that directorate is based on four pieces of legislation: the Canada Agricultural Products Act, the Meat Inspection Act, the Food and Drugs Act and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. From the titles of those people can draw the conclusion of what they basically deal with.

Over the years the food inspection directorate has developed various programs and policies and has provided services to clients that have allowed the Canadian agri-food sector to prosper and be competitive on a world market. The directorate has been instrumental in contributing to the department's high level of credibility in the area of food safety through its ability to handle complex situations and balance, what many times are political, social, scientific and economic interests.

The world is changing but the agriculture and agri-food sectors' commitment to food safety is not changing. What we do have through the food inspection directorate is the relentless determination to carry out the job that needs to be done and we will not let up on that pressure.

Change is happening very rapidly. Today's global economy, as we know, is reshaping the structure of the agri-food industry. There is a stronger emphasis on trade and a significant increase in imports and exports determines and dictates that the consumers' tastes are diversifying. The department has to be able to deal with those increases in imports and the variety of imports that they must inspect and determine their safety and health for Canadians.

The growth in volume in the kind of food imports will place increased pressure on the department. We know that we can meet that with determination. We must meet that and continue the good job that we have done at the same time as improving its efficiency. We have to do what we have done better. We are able to do that and we will have to do it with probably less funding and fewer people. Therefore it is important that we have the co-operation between the provincial and municipal governments and the private sector to carry that out.

For their part as well, the consumers are becoming more aware of food issues. Today's consumers need more information and increased assurances that the food they eat is safe. Now more than ever consumers are very concerned about the effectiveness of food inspection and food inspection programs and how food safety is regulated.

Rapid advances in the agricultural technology area are also having an impact on the product services and markets for food companies. The regulatory framework surrounding these changes needs to be equally responsive and regulations must be in place quickly to allow companies to take advantage of new opportunities while making sure that the food safety and quality concerns are still being met.

Today's agri-food industry is a very different one than it once was. The industry has become more self-regulating and is largely self-reliant, often taking the lead in exploring the new technologies and new methods of productions and processing that are leading to improvements in the agri-food sector. This presents a challenge but not one that we cannot meet and are not meeting. We are doing an excellent job but it is a challenge for government in that it must now try to regulate food safety in areas where we may not have had a lot of activity or participation in the past.

We have put in place initiatives to tackle these new realities successfully and we believe that the answer lies in the development of a revised food inspection system strategy. The department of agriculture, through the food inspection directorate, has been working toward this and has set out a number of initiatives which will lead us to that goal.

One of those initiatives is the national food inspection policy, one of the department's ultimate goals with an objective which was approved by the federal and provincial ministers in Charlottetown at a federal-provincial agriculture ministers meeting last year. It calls for the establishment of common standards between provinces and federal agencies in order to provide for food safety and food disclosures.

The benefits of such a system are many and the efficiencies are many. It will streamline the inspection delivery system. It will enhance market performance and competitiveness. It will reduce trade barriers and regulatory pressures on industry. It will facilitate and harmonize processes and offer a flexible and responsive inspection system.

A national food inspection system is, as I said, a top priority for everyone in the Canadian agri-food inspection area. It will ensure that consumers continue to have access to a high quality

food supply and a safe food supply, and it will ensure the harmonization of national standards.

As well, there is the food safety enhancement program and the general trend across the agencies involved in food inspection to work on a common health and safety standard which will increase mutual recognition of inspection and reduce duplication.

These agencies apply the hazard analysis and critical control points principles to their inspection practices and this is an internationally recognized approach to controlling and monitoring the food processing operations. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is working with industry to implement the principles of the hazard analysis and critical control points program and the department will be consulting with industry on an ongoing basis to develop that program.

As well, there is the common inspection approach at the interdepartmental level which will adopt the principles I just talked about based on an inspection approach being developed through common Government of Canada inspection standards which will be implemented using a mutually accepted audit protocol.

A tremendous amount is going on and has been going on regarding food safety in Canada. The federal departments are now concentrating their efforts on defining the specific requirements for other highly identified risk areas in the food processing industry.

There is also a single access food labelling service. We have had a situation for a number of years in which labelling has been quite cumbersome. One of the results of the recent government reorganization was the consolidation of food labelling activities involving the former Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada which will streamline that operation.

The evidence through these initiatives is very clear. The Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food takes its role very seriously in the food safety area. Food safety is something which every Canadian should not take for granted. We work very hard at maintaining and upgrading our food safety standards in this country and I am certain that everyone can appreciate what an enormous responsibility it is.

In closing, I would like to state that the increased mutual recognition by government departments of inspection should reduce the complexity of dealing with the federal government. This is good news for industry because federal departments will be using common language and common interpretation of regulations as well as uniformity in rating and enforcement at processing establishments.

I said at the beginning that the whole agri-food industry was facing a lot of challenges and opportunities. It reminds me of the story of the commander in a war zone who radioed his platoon officer out in the field. He said to the platoon officer: "Officer, how is it this morning?". The officer said: "Today we have enemy to the left, enemy to the right, enemy in front of us and enemy behind us. We won't miss them this time". I challenge the industry, and I know it is accepting that challenge, to turn that the other way.

Our industry has opportunities in front of us, behind us, to the left and to the right, whether they be in Asia, whether they be in Latin America, whether they be in our neighbour to the south, whether they be in Mexico or whether they be in Europe. The opportunities are there.

I challenge everyone. I look forward to more comments from the opposition members today and input from them. As the minister said clearly this morning, we welcome those. We will consider those. We will put them in the hopper, as the term is used, because we do not want to miss any opportunities there.

I congratulate the industry for the eagerness with which it is meeting the challenges before us and the opportunities before us.

In closing, I want to refer to a festivity that was held in Toronto last night which the minister, I and some others had the privilege to attend. It was the final presentation of the Agri-Food Competitiveness Council. I want to remind everyone of the vision that it wants to keep before the industry and the challenge that is there, one that I know we can meet. I will state that in closing. There is nothing to stop us from being the premier agri-food sector in the world.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. secretary to the minister.

The member mentioned that there are several departments involved in food safety, several agencies outside of the department of agriculture, all these people involved in dealing with food safety. Is that perhaps part of the problem not just in the food safety area but in agriculture in general? Are there too many different groups involved in making the decisions in food safety and in other areas?

AgricultureGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Liberal Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think anyone right off the top of their head can give a yes or no answer to that. What we are doing within the department and within the government is taking a complete overview of everything that is going on.

When we were in opposition we said that in every department whether in agriculture or in any other ministry we needed to have a look to see whether everything was operating as efficiently as it can. As far as food safety is concerned, yes, there is work going on between the provinces and the federal government to see whether we need to continue any duplication if there is

duplication in food processing plants. I will use those as an example.

Quite frankly I see no reason why if we have a set of rules good enough for interprovincial trade it should not be able to be meshed with whatever the rules are for inspection for international trade. There is no sense in inspectors chasing themselves around different plants inspecting for interprovincial movement of products and then somebody else coming in and saying they have to inspect for international movement of product as well. That is being looked at.

Canadians have the right and need to be concerned. When I say need to be concerned about the safety of Canadian food, they need to be and they are but I want to reassure them that they have no justification to be worried about what is there. Out of the 11.5 thousand employees with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada over 4,000 are involved in the inspection of processing facilities in the Canadian food supply in total. We do an excellent job in providing Canadians with safe food.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest earlier to the minister of agriculture when he drew our attention to the importance of the federal-provincial governments working together with the private sector. Again, that has been reiterated by the parliamentary secretary to the minister of agriculture.

At the moment in British Columbia the federal government, the B.C. government and aboriginal groups are negotiating land claims. Part of that process is to set up a whole set of advisory boards with the various stakeholders involved in the final outcome. Of course the critical players are the cattlemen of British Columbia.

Vast tracts of their land, leased land and deeded land, are potentially involved. Their representative on that advisory committee has had to swear an oath of secrecy and therefore is unable to communicate to cattlemen and other livestock operators throughout British Columbia.

I am really simply asking the parliamentary secretary if he would take time to look into this increasing concern that people in the livestock industry in British Columbia have.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Liberal Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes I will. I will give a commitment to the hon. member that I will look into it and get back to him on the situation as far as discussions are concerned.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed listening to the parliamentary secretary to the minister of agriculture as he showed how this government intends to strengthen and maintain the food inspection and safety of agricultural products.

There is another area where Canada has shown leadership certainly and in which we are recognized for producing a high quality product at reasonable prices and that is in the supply management sector. The parliamentary secretary has been charged with a great responsibility in terms of maintaining the benefits of that sector.

I am wondering if he could give us a few comments in terms of how those discussions are coming along and where that is at.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Liberal Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to.

As the hon. member for Malpeque has said, the task force on the future of orderly marketing, the supply management sector and the dairy, egg and poultry sector has been ongoing since about mid-January of this year. It was a small task force that started out by putting together the work that had already been done. We did not reinvent the wheel or redo anything.

We assembled the work that had been done by a number of task forces and groups of individuals in the industry over the last number of years. We assessed the processes, the issues and put them all together in a report. We reported to the federal and provincial ministers meeting at the end of March on all of the issues, all of the processes in place and where to deal with the issues that were there. We went on past that and suggested processes and participants we felt should be in those processes going on for the next number of months.

As a result we now have five commodity committees, one for each of the supply managed sectors. They are meeting. I am pleased to say that representatives of every group of stakeholders within the agri-food chain from the farmer or primary producer to the consumer are represented around that table. They are sitting down and will be reporting back to the task force on their recommendations on how to deal with the issues. We will reporting the recommendations to the ministers in July again.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for his comments earlier on agriculture.

The parliamentary secretary is familiar with my riding and with some of the federal institutions in my riding. In particular, in reference to his remarks about safety and continuing to investigate new ways of producing safe agricultural products he will be aware, I am sure, that in the Agassiz agriculture research station there is a new program being initiated on manure handling and composting and all that sort of thing.

I wonder if the parliamentary secretary could comment on the future of that kind of study in the Agassiz research station. I know the people back home are dying to know.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Liberal Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that one of the critical regions in Canada as far as what we call waste disposal is the Fraser Valley. I have had the pleasure of travelling through there a few times, not enough times, because it is a beautiful area. There is a high concentration of livestock there. There is a

challenge in the disposal of foreign material that comes along with raising livestock.

There is work going on there at Agassiz. The federal government and the department are very keen to work with those at Agassiz, work with the industry people and the commodity or livestock groups in that area to solve that problem. I say solve the problem but it is not a problem. It is just that there are technologies that are coming forward for better disposal of agricultural wastes, livestock wastes. We look forward through Agassiz and through other areas in the department to working with the industry.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Before resuming debate I want to thank the last intervener from Fraser Valley East and the parliamentary secretary for use their of parliamentary language in dealing with the nature of the last question.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Landry Bloc Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in this place today to set the record straight about the agricultural industry.

The government introduced a motion in which it boasts about its proactive work in the agriculture sector. To listen to it all is well with the world. But then that is often the case when the opposition ventures constructive criticism.

I can tell you that my riding is mainly rural. So, I have excellent feelers in that sector. I may surprise you by saying that the federal government is indeed pro-active in the agri-food sector, in Western provinces. You can certainly count on the government to be active in Western Canada!

I will give you supporting figures in a moment. Before I do however, I want the government to understand that it is not enough to be pro-active or claim to be; you must also know where you are going and, more importantly, if you are on the right track.

Quebec has a real plan for the future of the agri-food sector. The agricultural community knows what it wants and has taken the necessary steps to achieve its goals.

When the government decided to impose its policy, it did not stop to think for one second that this may not be consistent with the priorities and development targets set by the community concerned. Unlike the government, this community takes a concerted approach.

Here are a few examples. In February 1991, Quebecers involved in regional development and in the agri-food sector met in Montreal, where it was decided that the community had to take its future in its own hands.

Other objectives developed during this summit conference of the rural community included: respect and promotion of regional and local values; joint action by regional and local partners; diversification of the regional economic base; protection and regeneration of resources; restructuring of the political power from the base up, an objective we did not hear the people across the floor mention.

This led to the creation of advisory committees, which are incidentally very active in my riding.

These committees raised consensus on the general approaches to be favoured in promoting the development of the Quebec agri-food industry at the Trois-Rivières summit in June 1992. Some recommendations to come out of it are: recognize, value and support the training of human resources; ensure the permanence, development and growth of agri-food companies; readjust current income security programs based on production costs; develop income security programs compatible with international trade rules; provide financing for agricultural enterprises and their transfer without massive debt; consider support for non-viable companies that could be reoriented within the sector and help people leaving farming.

We see that the farm community has taken action to control decision making in fields of concern to it, but the government must avoid making life difficult for them. Our party has also dealt with the situation.

Agricultural companies and processing plants must be encouraged to be self-sufficient by helping them adjust to new market requirements, to win new markets and to increase their competitiveness by lowering their production costs. The government should note this. We could finally break the vicious circle of dependence on subsidies.

But be careful! This does not mean blindly cutting budgets. The transition will take some time. We want this transition to go smoothly, but this is unlikely since the government signed the GATT agreement.

The agri-food sector competes directly with foreign competitors now that the Canadian government has thrown farm programs and practices into upheaval.

Let us talk about GATT. Does the government think it acted proactively when it signed the GATT agreement on November 15? This government did not even ensure a settlement of the trade disputes that could arise with the Americans. The Americans, who still seem to have the upper hand at their own game-and you know that baseball is their national sport-managed to lead Canada to the negotiating table on all agricultural issues.

Are all negotiations in good faith not conducted on a case-by-case basis? Unfortunately, our government tried to play cautiously and defensively. Yet our national sport is hockey. A long

time ago, experts realized that offence is the best defence. The Montreal Canadiens could only count on Patrick Roy this year and you saw where it got them.

Why not denounce the barriers the Americans put up against our products? Why not denounce the numerous measures taken to subsidize U.S. agricultural products? Why not condemn the hypocrisy of the Americans who accuse Canada of practices they themselves have used for a long time? The government may call this being proactive, but where I come from we refer to it as inertia.

Meanwhile, the Americans are having fun at our expense. The GATT and NAFTA agreements did not resolve all Canada-U.S. trade disputes. Far from it. The Americans even decided that quotas will be imposed on durum wheat exports effective July 1. This date would be quite a coincidence, if negotiations fail! In return, Canada threatens to retaliate against certain American products if the U.S. carries out its threat of imposing quotas.

A trade war is looming. The Bloc Quebecois is asking the government not to yield to American pressure, and not to sign a bad agreement for Quebec and Canadian farmers for the sole purpose of ending the conflict.

Another indication of the Canadian government's apathy in these negotiations with Americans is its willingness to negotiate a ceiling on Canadian exports of durum wheat to the United States. Canada is not guilty of any illegal trade practice in this case; yet, it is prepared to penalize itself. Americans are the sole responsible of their problems, since they subsidize their durum wheat exports. You can understand American producers who prefer to export their production. Canada is only satisfying a need. It is a simple market law which Americans do not respect because it is detrimental to them. Oh, inertia.

In the context of our party's position regarding the future of this most important industry, we feel that farmers must be considered as entrepreneurs and that regional entrepreneurship must be supported; also, agricultural development policies must be distinguished from regional development policies; finally, the government must promote an awareness by farmers themselves of the importance of the environment to promote agriculture.

The government does nothing in its negotiations with Americans, and it does nothing inside our borders either. I did say at the beginning of my remarks that the government can have a proactive approach. But I also added that it was mostly proactive in Western Canada. The federal government subsidizes Western crop diversification, and so much the better for that region. However, this is done to the detriment of Quebec. We say: Whoa, there! Here are some facts: Between 1981 and 1991, cultivated acreage for potatoes increased by 30 per cent in Western Canada, by 9 per cent in the maritimes, and by a mere two per cent in Quebec.

During the same period, beef production in the West increased by 4 per cent while it fell by 13 per cent in Quebec. In pork production, an area which Quebec has been developing for some years, the situation is critical. I know whereof I speak, because there are processing plants in my riding.

Again during the period from 1981 to 1991, the swine population in Quebec fell by 16 per cent and increased by 39 per cent in Western Canada. In the production of lamb, Quebec is also at a disadvantage compared to the West. While Quebec's lamb population increased by only 8% between 1981 and 1991, that of the West grew by 33 per cent. Even in hothouse crops, despite its energy advantages and its proximity to markets, Quebec lagged behind the West.

During this same period of 1981 to 1991, the area devoted to hothouse crops increased by 67 per cent in the West, compared to an increase of only 46 per cent in Quebec.

The proactiveness of the federal government here takes the form of unfair competition at the expense of Quebec producers because of subsidies to Western farmers. It is as simple as that. If only these subsidies made sense, but they do not. As in many areas, the government intervenes without consultation or consults the wrong people.

Departments should assess the results of their actions. In agriculture, the Department is involved in the analysis, organization and dissemination of information on agri-food markets. Very well, but, here as in other areas, the Auditor General notes serious shortcomings. He found that the information gathered did not necessarily meet the users' needs. Another example of public money being wasted, with decisions being made in ivory towers, when it might be easier to check firsthand what the clients' true needs are.

The government always takes heavyhanded action, when it should concentrate on avoiding duplication with provincial initiatives. Quebec has understood this, as industry and government have been working together for a long time to implement strategies to conquer new markets. It is not only Quebeckers who have understood this.

At the Sixth Outlook Conference on the future of the agri-food sector, which took place in Quebec City on March 9, Ms. Cooper, project co-ordinator at the Guelph Food Technology Center, made this point: "In the fight between the federal government and the provincial governments to decide who is going to lead the industry, the governments developed programs that overlap or conflict with others. This is a waste of public money and increases the debt".

Ms. Cooper, whose remarks were published in the journal La terre de chez nous , maintains that an effective government

encourages companies to become more competitive. Governments should be more responsible and more effective in their actions.

She also stated that governments should ensure more and more transparency and relevance with respect to money invested.

Many agricultural producers in Quebec are sovereigntists. I understand them. In a few minutes, I have shown how the federal government is ineffective for them, and they could go on at length about this subject. What is known is that the number one solution for our agricultural producers is to decentralize decision-making mechanisms and to provide effective budgets. Is the government willing to take this approach?

AgricultureGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Steckle Liberal Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for his dissertation this afternoon on the subject with which I find myself quite familiar.

I found his observations on the agricultural scene in terms of how the federal government treats Quebec rather interesting.

He alluded to the fact that there are certain commodity groups where there are problems. He mentioned potatoes, hogs and cattle. There are some aspects of agriculture that were not discussed or mentioned in his speech, one of which was supply management.

Can he tell Canadians and those of us in the House today how the percentages of the total amount of production of poultry and eggs and supply management in the milk industry have been affected and how his province has been affected.