Mr. Speaker, yesterday when debate resumed I was the first speaker following a rather bad movie unfolding in the House called "milk wars" between the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois over what would happen to the dairy industry should Quebec separate. It was rather amusing at times.
The Reform Party supports the tariff levels agreed to under GATT. However, we should become proactive in this area and address future concerns.
I am concerned about the health of the dairy industry down the road. The trend toward more open and competitive global markets is happening whether we like it or not. Failure to adapt will undoubtedly result in the destruction of an industry that has provided Canadians with a quality product for many years. Dairy farmers must move to a more efficient means of producing milk.
I would like to address a few aspects of Bill C-86. I have already mentioned that the Canadian government had no choice but to make alterations to the supply management commodities. As with many of these programs that were initially developed by the Liberals, they, the creators of the system, are reluctant to change them or drop them entirely. Sentimental feelings are driving the government's agenda.
All we have to do is look at the GATT negotiations and the Liberals' position, who at that time were not the government, with regard to the GATT negotiations and article XI. They said that article XI was non-negotiable. They told people in the dairy industry to support them and they would defend article XI and it would be in the new GATT agreement.
A few days after the Liberals took office, history shows us that in fact article XI had to be negotiated away. We had no support in the international community for article XI. Tariffication was put in place to replace that article.
I might add the Reform Party anticipated this event. We said in our election platform that we believe the structure of national supply management agencies need not change at all as long as
these agencies continue to have the support of their producers. They should continue in any manner in which they feel best serves their interests. Tariffs will be reduced as other countries reduce their support. This will allow Canadian producers to remain competitive and will ensure that these sectors are able to adapt to the new market driven environment.
The point that we raised was that tariffs should initially be set at levels sufficiently high to protect the domestic market and industry. We said that supply managed producers should have access to our comprehensive income stabilization program. We went on to say that import control regulations as a defence against foreign dumping should be rationalized and strengthened.
We said that licensing and arbitration regulations as an improved safeguard against business which might engage in unfair practices should be strengthened. We also said that competition and anti-combines legislation intended to place limits on the power of buying groups should be strengthened and vigorously enforced. We concluded by saying that the impact to the sectors during the tariff reduction period should be carefully monitored.
The Reform Party believes that this approach will not only ensure the continued viability of supply managed sectors, but will build a bridge to a new era of opportunity and expansion.
Bill C-86 fails to address the problems it has set out to correct. While the intent of the bill is to help the Canadian dairy industry to comply with the GATT regulations, it is almost certain that industry will be open to other trade sanctions, especially from the United States.
The pooling market system which replaces the existing system of levies has long been a bone of contention with the United States. We have seen the response of the U.S. over the last five years to the effect of the Canadian Wheat Board. While the Canadian Wheat Board has been functioning in the manner it should and we have been winning the trade disputes, nevertheless the pooling is an irritant. If we are looking at pooling in the dairy industry we need to be very careful that we do not structure it in such a way as to become a trade irritant with the Americans, or at least not a trade irritant that we would lose a scrap over.
The Reform Party is concerned that this government has not been honest and open with those farmers that are within the supply managed areas. I believe this government has not reacted to the global trend toward a more open and a more competitive market. As we know, Canadian dairy farmers are capable of competing in these competitive markets.
More and more, Canadian farmers are going to have to compete in a global marketplace. As we see trading blocs forming, currently NAFTA is expanding with the inclusion of Mexico and negotiations with Chile and other Latin American countries, we realize that there will be more and more observation of our own trading practices here in Canada. We will have to be very careful as to how we design our marketing and our trade deals so that we do not jeopardize industries which at the current time are very sustainable and are functioning very well.
The Liberal messages to the industry have been misleading in the past and we are concerned that they may be misleading in the future. We will be scrutinizing the bill very carefully to ensure that we are not sending the wrong signals to the dairy industry with respect to what it can expect in the future from agreements such as the NAFTA and the GATT.
There have been some good questions brought forward in the House as to whether the NAFTA supersedes the GATT or the GATT supersedes the NAFTA. Those are important questions and we need more clarification from the government that in fact the legislation which it is proposing will not be challenged under the NAFTA and we will not lose the challenge.
The question I ask of the government is whether Canadian dairy farmers will be given the tools and the time to adapt to a new market driven economy. We need not look any further than the current fiasco with the WGTA and the Crow buyout. Imagine a government which would discontinue the Crow benefit and replace it with a one time payout and then talks about a transition period and a transition program which would take place one year following the conclusion of the Crow benefit. That is not very good planning in my mind and I am getting the same message and the same signal from my constituents and other Canadians who are affected by the elimination of the WGTA, the Crow buyout and this transition program.
It would seem to me that it would be much more logical to have a transition program spelled out before implementing legislation to end the Crow benefit and introduce a buyout to producers. We wonder about the logic of a government which would eliminate something and then a year later introduce an unspecified program to help the industry make the transition from transportation subsidies to an unsubsidized system.
We have the same concerns about the dairy industry. We are concerned that the government is not looking at the long term. It is not considering carefully the outcome of its policies with respect to the dairy industry. It is not looking at the need to access new markets. It is not thinking long term; it is continuing to look only at the short term situation.
Another important issue which needs to be addressed is whether supply managed industries should have access to income stabilization, in particular, a whole farm income stabilization plan. Many spokespersons in the dairy industry and other supply managed industries are suggesting they would not like to be a part of any income stabilization plan or a whole farm program.
I think part of the reason they are suggesting that is because the Liberals have made guarantees to them about the current supply managed system which perhaps are not supportable in logic. In fact, perhaps if the industry was given the true picture of what awaits it in the future it might be more interested in looking at belonging to some kind of income stabilization plan, something along the lines of NISA.
Again I would communicate to the House that the Reform Party envisioned the need for that to happen. We suggested that an income stabilization plan should be a shared federal-producer program having universal application, which means all sectors. It would include the supply managed sectors. This would be made available at the whole farm level. If a farm produced many commodities all those commodities would be recognized by the plan. Supply managed sectors would have access to the program upon the introduction of tariffication.
Of course, that was written before the tariffication was introduced. We were correct in anticipating that. I believe we were correct in anticipating that there will be a need for the supply managed industries to have access to a NISA type income stabilization program, given the market trends and the formation of a global economy in which eventually supply managed industries will have to participate and be in a competitive position.
I would like to conclude my speech by asking the government to be more honest and more open with the Canadian dairy farmers. The government promised that it would be very open and honest with the public. It is in its red book. We sense that those pages are being torn out of the red book and it concerns us very much. It should concern dairy producers across Canada as well.
Before the Liberals were elected it was very easy for them to say they would be open and honest, but they seem to be having some difficulty now fulfilling some of those red book promises. We are concerned that one of the casualties may be supply managed industries, in particular the dairy industry if the true situation of international negotiations and of course the jurisdiction of the NAFTA versus the GATT are not correctly and very clearly communicated to the industry. The Reform Party would like to see that honesty and openness with regard to this situation.
Hopefully, the House will get away from the milk wars I spoke about in my remarks yesterday. I think we should quit talking about marriage and divorce and start talking about birth and death. Let us let the old system die and let us see a new Canada formulated in which we all get along well and where we do not have milk wars and turf wars over just about every other issue in Canada. To be competitive in the global economy we certainly cannot be scrapping within the borders of this great country.