Mr. Speaker, I will start by congratulating my colleague for his remarks. I think it was very appropriate for him to talk about the contribution of the people who built his region, Quebec, and several other regions of Canada. The builders of both our nations, Quebec and Canada, are mostly farmers.
Agricultural development gave birth to small villages, some of which later became larger villages and then grew into towns, small and large. In this context, this historical review seemed important as part of my colleague's speech. He also used a rather harsh word to describe the federal government when he talked about the federal monster.
I want to ask him a question about that. What bothers farmers and the majority of people in both our nations, Quebec and Canada, the most is to see the federal government interfering in areas that are not under its jurisdiction. Whether in health, job training, environment or agriculture, the federal government has a tendency to become an administrative monster which sticks its nose everywhere and does nothing really to favour regional economic development.
Quebec would like to have a different kind of relationship with this federal monster. As my colleague mentioned, it would rather have direct agreements with the provinces. Quebec has a lot in common with Ontario. It may have less in common with the western provinces, but it does have strong ties with the United States. So this new kind of state that Quebec would like to become would allow it to negotiate directly with any province that would be willing to make a deal.
Milk is a good example of the economic life of various regions of the country. Of course, Quebec has a higher percentage of milk production quotas, with close to 50 per cent.
However, if we consider the Alberta beef production for example, we can see that Quebec buys nearly 75 per cent of the total production. In that sense, Quebec is a good friend of Alberta since it is a consumer of some of its products. The same thing happens when Quebec makes a financial contribution to the federal state and this federal state distributes the money. When the federal gives this money to western grain producers so that they can produce wheat and sell it on the international market, Quebec is giving back quite a lot to that region of Canada.
The Quebec population represents 23 to 24 per cent of the Canadian population. If we were to receive 23 to 24 per cent of the federal budget for agriculture, we would be getting $800 million more each year. So maybe our quotas are in fact more generous, but as far as financial fallouts are concerned, and I am talking here about direct annual statutory programs, we are losing $800 million a year. This figure does not even include special programs like those announced in the last budget, the $1.5 billion for western diversification for example. However, as announced, Quebec will also suffer cuts of 15 per cent this year and 15 per cent next year, but I heard nothing about a financial compensation for our region.
All the special subsidies awarded to western Canada over the last seven or eight years amount to more than six billion dollars. Quebec contributed one fourth of that sum through its taxes. We have thus been extremely generous towards Canadian products and it would be only fair that, when the time comes to share in another form of economic activity like milk production, we get a larger share. By the way, when the system for western wheat was put in place, sales to China or eastern countries were subsidized by the federal government. This type of production was a lot more profitable than milk production. Farmers in that part of the country were not interested in producing milk.
In other words, if you were a farmer, dairy farming was a job which paid less and was therefore less attractive. We agreed to do it, to develop our industry and improve its efficiency. Now that it is doing well, we are told: "Maybe you got too much". I was surprised by some of the chauvinistic interventions I heard in this debate, yesterday and again today, especially when my colleague from Frontenac was giving us market examples, examples of competition , and also examples from the Reform Party.
Speaking of the Reform Party, and I will conclude on that, I would ask my colleague whether he agrees with what I just said, since he talked about Mr. Claude Rivard, the president of the Fédération des producteurs de lait who said, and rightly so, quoting a respected American editorialist, that the system we presently have is quite exceptional and that the United States would do well to implement one like it instead of trying to destroy it.
I fail to understand the attitude of certain Reform members, when they say: "Abolish it, let free competition take care of it. Let us do it the American way". The most eminent analysts, however, would tell you that the result of the current American system is that they are investing 34 cents on the dollar instead of 49 cents as we do in product development in the dairy industry.
Therefore, that would be far from free competition, that would be abandoning Canada and Quebec to the American market. Regarding this, Mr. Rivard put it nicely when he quoted American economists and he is delighted with the agreement reached between six provinces a short while back at a meeting with 190 delegates. He is delighted that they voted unanimously in favour of the agreement. Bill C-86 is a step in the right direction as far as the Bloc Quebecois is concerned. It is also, I think, what Quebec and Canadian dairy producers have always wanted. They have a very fair system.
It is acceptable to producers, and very inexpensive for the federal government when compared with other interventionist systems, such as the Crow rate, subsidies for western farm production or the eastern fishery. Yes, it is relatively cheap compared to other economic policies.
So, when something is not broken, why fix it? Hence, I congratulate my hon. colleague on his representation and I would be interested in hearing his remarks regarding my comments which could only expound on his speech moments ago.