Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour for me to speak this morning on a bill that is extremely important to Quebec farmers, particularly dairy producers.
It is also an honour to speak immediately after the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the member for Prince Edward-Hastings, who really is quite familiar with agriculture.
As you know, Quebec alone produces 47.5 per cent of industrial milk. Furthermore, Quebec has always played a leading role in Canada's dairy industry. Quebec does a very good job of carrying out its responsibility as a leader among the other provinces where milk is still produced in Canada.
Canada's present dairy product supply management system was initiated by Quebec residents. Without the determination of Quebec dairy producers in the 1970s, we would not have supply management in this industry and, let me tell you, it would be an indescribable mess.
I am therefore especially pleased to note that the constituency of Frontenac has over 15 per cent of farm producers, the vast majority of whom are dairy producers.
Since we have been discussing Bill C-86 in this House, we have addressed the possibility of changing the Canadian Dairy Commission to a standing committee. Recently, on June 8, we had a chance to hear people who have worked very hard to ensure that this proposed change does benefit the dairy industry in Quebec and Canada, particularly our dairy producers. So it was that we met Claude Richard, president of the Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec; his counterpart from Ontario, John Cor; and Richard Doyle of the Dairy Farmers of Canada.
I also visited a great many dairy producers in the Saint-Hyacinthe area: the Martins, the St Laurents, the Gouins, the Vigneaults, the Barils, the Pellerins, the Lessards, the Poulins and the Loiselles.
These farmers explained to us once again the ins and outs of Bill C-86 that will allow the six provinces to come to an agreement.
In light of that information and the answers we have obtained to our questions, I am able today to reiterate to my colleague opposite that the Bloc Quebecois supports Bill C-86.
Without rereading Bill C-86 in detail or clause by clause, I do want to explain what the change consists of, and note that the dairy industry has been required to adjust rapidly to the context of the free trade agreements. The GATT negotiations in Geneva, and the campaign to defend article XI, as well as the discussions about the relevance of maintaining a supply management system, have indicated major upheavals to come in the dairy industry. Clearly, Canada's dairy producers had to find a solution quickly if they were to be competitive in the context of free trade and the globalization of markets. The challenge was a big one.
Bill C-86 will make it possible to implement the agreement signed by the six provinces-Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba-, which, I remind you, produce over 82 per cent of all milk in Canada. This agreement is a solution that will maintain our system and comply with the new requirements of the GATT and NAFTA.
Pursuant to the GATT definition of an export subsidy, under the free trade agreement, dairy producers must eliminate their system of export levies by August 1. That is the problem Bill C-86 solves by making changes to the Canadian Dairy Commission Act.
At present, producers of industrial milk pay a levy of approximately three dollars per hectolitre of industrial milk that is to be exported, mainly in the form of butter and skim milk powder. If we make a quick calculation, three dollars per hectolitre is three cents per litre, which represents approximately 7.5 per cent of the value of the milk and which each producer of industrial milk used to pay in order to promote exports.
Even though it comes out of the producers' pockets, not out of public funds, under the GATT and the free trade agreement, that levy is an export subsidy and, as such, illegal. Starting on August 1, GATT and our partners in the free trade agreement would not have accepted our continuing to operate in that way.
More specifically, this bill implements a national system for pooling market returns that will be used to support the export of dairy products. The pooling permitted under Bill C-86 will comply with the international agreements, while allowing producers to maintain the advantages of the present system.
However, we must be aware that there is a possibility that the United States, which is challenging anything and everything these days, may decide to challenge this two-price policy for milk: one price for milk for the domestic market, and one price for milk destined for export. In that case, the dairy industry in Quebec and Canada could be accused of dumping.
In order to be successful, however, the United States or the country that considered its interests harmed would have to prove that exports from Canada were harming its market. Since our exports are relatively small, and since we export an increasing proportion of value-added processed products, that harm may be very difficult to prove. Bill C-86, which we are discussing today on third reading, is the solution that will enable producers to face the upheavals in their industry resulting from the new international context.
We, the MPs of the Bloc Quebecois, therefore support Bill C-86, since it meets the needs of producers who want to adjust to the requirements of the international trade agreements signed by Canada. Of course there are certain shortcomings in this bill; in-depth discussions are going on, in Quebec at least. Apparently the bill is creating a bit of a problem for processors. The discussions are not sticking on dozens of points, only on a few specific ones, and in a few days there should be-at least we hope there will be-an agreement between the Quebec department of agriculture, the UPA, the federation, and the Canadian Dairy Commission.
At present, the dairy industry is managed partly by the provinces and partly by the federal government, as are many industries that appear to have two heads. In these cases, of course, two heads are often not better than one. At present, the provinces have jurisdiction over fluid milk, and the Canadian Dairy Commission has jurisdiction over industrial milk only. The bill provides for a delegation of powers between the Commission and the provinces in order to administer the pooled market returns. If the agreement were not signed, the Commission would administer the pooled market returns for industrial milk only.
Those, then, are the technical changes made to the Canadian Dairy Commission by Bill C-86; I call them technical changes because they are regulations that will allow dairy producers to achieve their objective of adjusting the system as we now know it to the new standards of our international commitments, such as the GATT and NAFTA.
Mainly, we must remember that six provinces have signed an agreement in principle to pool their entire milk supply system. The initiative comes from the dairy industry; that point must be emphasized. The initative comes from the dairy industry, whose producers decided that they had to take the necessary action in order to make the most of the resources available to the dairy industry. The distinction made between industrial milk and fluid milk will be eliminated; the provinces' present quotas will not be changed.
I am particularly proud to state in this House that the concept of single-price milk was initiated in my region, the Eastern Townships, and that the then president of the federation in Sherbrooke was Jacques Blais.
I remember very clearly indeed the initial meetings, at which people wanted very serious discussion of a future single price for fluid milk and industrial milk. Those discussions were lively-and sometimes even physical. I attended one of those meetings and I certainly was not at ease. Those farmers had some powerful arguments. The Eastern Townships played a pioneering role in this debate.
It should be noted that, at the time, there was a difference of more than 10 per cent between the prices for fluid milk and industrial milk. It was practically the same milk. At the time, the farmers were told: streamline your operations; become more productive and more competitive; lower your production costs. And they did.
At the time, you could encounter three tank trucks on the same concession road, which might have only three dairy producers along it. You could see a truck for fluid milk, a second truck for industrial milk belonging to the Coopérative fédérée, and a third truck that might belong to an independent company like Lactantia, for example.
Today on that concession road, there are still only three dairy producers, but only one truck. So we have managed to reduce transportation costs. Fluid milk, the price of which, as I was saying, was 10 per cent higher, is now carried in the same truck. I can even tell you that the same cows, the same milk, and the same consumers are involved, and so, 13 or 14 months from now, the price should be exactly the same.
I have here a document showing Quebec's dairy production, from 1950 to 1994, in fact. In 1994, there were 11,763 dairy producers in Quebec. These 11,000 dairy producers produce pretty well the same volume of milk as was produced in 1970. But wait a minute. In 1970 there were 43,669 dairy producers. That means that, with one quarter of the number of dairy producers, we are producing practically the same volume of
milk. Better yet. If I take one cow as an example-I am sure the member for Drummond will be pleased-, in 1970, the average cow in our herds in Quebec produced 3,324 litres of milk per year-and without hormomes, without being shot up, just through improved breeding and better livestock feed. Look at this: in 24 years, the average cow in Quebec has gone from producing 3,324 litres of milk to producing 5,336 litres. The figure has not doubled, but it is at least 75 per cent higher.
I was reading in La terre de chez nous , the magazine for Quebec farmers, that a 3 per cent production increase was anticipated for the current year. So it is possible to up the quantity of milk given by our dairy cows each year without ``boosting'' or shooting them up, without altering the milk, without risking animal and human health.
I would remind you that the milk produced in Quebec and in Canada is a credit to us. We have some of the cleanest, freshest milk in the world. Within minutes of leaving the cow's udder it has already been refrigerated to a temperature where it can be properly kept. We are proud of that. Our facilities prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that without exaggeration we can increase milk production by 3 per cent without increasing the size of our herds.
The farmers in my riding tell me that if their milk quotas could be upped by 10 per cent per year, they could meet the demand without having to struggle.
What would give me the greatest pleasure would be if all our farmers in Quebec could have a chance to read the text, or a part of the text, that we received a copy of on June 2, 1995, signed by an Assistant Deputy Minister at the federal Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food. It was a copy of a letter addressed to the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, Bob Speller; it is signed by J.B. Morrissey.
A question had been raised by my colleague, the honourable member for Champlain, Réjean Lefebvre of the Bloc Quebecois, and I'm going to read you a sentence from it: " -with respect to expenditures on primary agricultural research relative to research into finished agrifood products, for a period going from 1990 to roughly 1998, the projections, as Table I shows-"
Quebec's farmers are responsible, in terms of Canada as a whole, for about 18 to 19 per cent of agricultural production. Quebec has about 24 per cent of the population and it pays between 23 and 24 per cent of Canada's income taxes.
And at this point I would hope that the farmers in my riding are listening closely, when I talk about the share that this government-and when I say "this government" I do not necessarily mean the party currently in power. Quebec agriculture has always been shafted by the federal system and I have another egregious case here, where Quebec has been cheated year after year.
For instance, in terms of the resources allocated to full-time equivalents in research and development, Quebec in 1990-91 received 12.4 per cent of the total research and development budget allocated among all the provinces by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. In 1991-92 we got even less, and that was under the Conservatives, which is why I say that it is not necessarily the current government. In 1991-92 the Conservatives gave us 12.04 per cent of the total, or let us say 12 per cent.
I would remind you that Quebec's relative participation in this Department's activities is from 17 to 19 per cent, so we are being cheated out of 5 per cent every year. The pattern is the same right up to 1995-96, the current year, where Quebec's share is 13 per cent. At 13 per cent, we are still having a minimum of 4 per cent in research and development resources stolen from us.
It is not the sovereignists, the Pequistes, the Bloquistes, who are inventing these figures. This is an official document. I see here the logo of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and it is signed by an Assistant Deputy Minister of that department.
In October 1993, when I was campaigning during the last election, I said to the people of my riding, "Send us to Ottawa. We will audit the books and we will come back and tell you what we find. If they are giving us too much money, we will tell you that and we will give it back to them. We will be honest with the rest of the country". This document from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada that I have just read to you has its equivalents in all the departments.
Quebec's farmers have to understand that the federal government is not necessarily the modern Messiah. The federal government serves western agriculture well, but when the time comes for it to serve agriculture in Quebec and the Maritimes, there is nothing left in the coffers.
Here is another example. In the Magdalen Islands, the UPA arranged for a special quota so that the Islands could be self-sufficient in egg production. A special quota was awarded to an egg producer in Etang-du-Nord. Now that assistance to eastern grain transportation is being abolished, the price that this egg producer will have to pay for meal will shoot up by over $50 a tonne. Is it going to be more cost-effective for the Magdalen Islanders to import eggs from the mainland or to continue to import meal?
Many more crazy situations like that can be found in Quebec. No, the federal government is not a Messiah, and when Quebecers want information or help they head first for the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture. Last week I just asked a number of farmers whether they knew the name of Quebec's Minister of
Agriculture. Eight out of ten of them could name him, but not one out of ten could name the federal Minister-he is completely unknown. When people do know his name, they massacre it so that if you did not know it yourself you would not be able to decipher it.
It is a pity to have two Ministers of Agriculture for the same farmer, the same cows. One of those ministers is very expensive to keep and never, ever, gives Quebec the share to which it is entitled.
Whether you look at it in terms of Quebec's proportion of the population, which is 24 per cent of the Canadian total, or in terms of the percentage of income tax we pay to Ottawa, or in terms of GDP directly related to agriculture, Quebec is not getting its fair share.
Worse still, it is the taxes Quebecers are paying to the federal government that are paying, compensating, the western grain producers so that they can diversify and compete against us in our own province, and we are paying with our money for the privilege of getting booted on the backside. You all know that 80 per cent of Quebec's farmers are in livestock production. When I say livestock production, of course I include eggs and dairy production, because to get eggs you have to raise hens.
The opposite holds true in the west. There it is grain production that predominates. But diversification is changing the stakes. Obviously it is easier to work six or seven months a year and then to garage the machinery and wait for spring to start work again, crops and seed-if you raise livestock, it is not five days a week, it is seven out of seven, 365 days a year. It would be unthinkable for any of our dairy farmers or egg producers in Quebec to treat themselves to vacations in the south the way some of those western grain farmers can, for two or three months, you will agree with me on that.
So it is a choice, and the choice has been entirely decided by successive governments in Ottawa. Eastern Canada, Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes, were directed into livestock production while the west grew grain; that was the arrangement and it was accepted. The building of the railway that tied the country together was of course done to satisfy the farmers.
So the dairy farmers know what a fair deal is, and in the budget and in Bill C-76, which passed a couple of days ago, we identified unfairnesses and we criticized them in this House on more than one occasion, such as the way the industrial milk subsidy is being cut by 30 per cent, in two 15 per cent cuts. The budget makes it clear that the remaining 70 per cent will be done away with sooner or later. No compensation is provided for, no $300 or $400 million is going into an adjustment fund for our farmers, to help them change direction.
In August our farmers will be going on a pilgrimage to the Canadian Dairy Commission to request an increase to compensate for the subsidy cuts. The result will be that you the consumers will be paying more for milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt, ice cream. Just as with gasoline, the increase will be greater than the increase in the cost of living. The government is washing its hands of the whole affair and saying, "Oh, we are not raising taxes. The prices of butter and cheese and yogurt and ice cream are going up, and gasoline taxes are pushing up the cost of gasoline". And it proudly announces, "We have not raised anything". The consumer price index is going up by 2.9 per cent. There has not been an increase like it in four years.
We are very comfortably installed in this House or elsewhere in Canada discussing the benefits of the pooling arrangement agreement reached by six provinces, but the negotiations that led to the agreement should not be left unmentioned. I want once again to emphasize the hard work done by people from my region, as Quebec had a strong voice in the negotiations, particularly the Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec and its president, Claude Rivard, its vice-president, Jean Grégoire, and their senior economist, Guylaine Gosselin.
One question came up repeatedly during the committee's hearings, and that was: why have only six provinces joined the pooling agreement? We were told that certain provinces were taking advantage of the opportunity to get the CDC to review the way it treats them, that others did not operate the same way at the provincial level and that the jump involved in pooling all their milk with the other provinces was too great. But the most interesting thing to emerge from the discussions was that these six provinces are powerful enough without the rest, because they represent, as I mentioned earlier, 82 per cent of total milk production. So the other provinces can always join later, and their abstaining, at the moment, will not jeopardize the success of the agreement as it now stands.
This historic agreement will have a much more far-reaching impact than appears at first glance. If we take the example of Quebec, in 1996 the dairy producers should enjoy an increase in income varying from 60 to 70 cents per hectolitre. And because of GATT, Canada will have to accept imports of butter this year, which will probably affect quotas.
Since the six provinces will be spreading out the market variations over all the milk produced, the impact will not be felt too strongly, because it will not be just one province that has to absorb the costs. More clearly, if there were to be more butter or cheese imported into Canada from other GATT members, each of the provinces could see its quota drop by, say, 1 per cent. It
would not be just one province that was affected. The same thing would happen if, for example, consumption, or our exports, went up: it would not be just one province that saw its quota increase but all the provinces.
I could perhaps remind you that under this agreement dairy quotas will no longer be confined to one province. A dairy farmer in Quebec could buy an Ontario quota, or a Nova Scotia quota, or he could sell his quota in Alberta. And if ever too great a proportion of our quota were to go outside the province, the province could withdraw for a year or for the current year, as soon as 1 per cent was reached. So no province could have more than 1 per cent of its quota siphoned off, unless it was willing to sell its quota to other provinces.
In conclusion, I want to recall the political context that underlay the signing of this agreement. This kind of arrangement may well turn out to be a prototype for similar agreements in other sectors, since its basis is the one that is likely to predominate in the years to come. Why? Because it is an economic agreement.
The agreement banks on the advantages that all partners will derive from working as a team. With a referendum coming up this very year, the producers in many provinces have not hesitated to enter into an association with Quebec, because it is in their best interests. When it comes down to reality, not some hypothetical disaster situation, it is clear that logic counts for more than political considerations.
Rest assured that our prize cow in the Plessisville region will still be a prize cow, even after a "Yes" vote in the referendum. There are those who would like to frighten people by saying, "Your quotas will not be worth anything, your cows will get mastitis, they will injure themselves grazing, they will have more trouble calving in the spring". These are scare tactics, and increasingly our dairy farmers realize this.
One scare tactic the federalists use a lot is saying that if Quebec becomes sovereign, its producers will immediately lose their sale quotas in Canada: that is not true.
In conclusion, I would like to say that the Bloc Quebecois is proud to be associated with Quebec's dairy producers and to endorse Bill C-86 in this vote at third reading, for the good of all dairy producers everywhere in Canada. And I hope that Canada will give Quebec more of a share in research and development funding. The people who will not go beyond 12 per cent and who laugh at our farmers should be ashamed of themselves, especially when they visit our farmers or turn up at auctions, Encan Lafaille for example, and swagger around trying to impress people and then come back here and make fun of them. They laugh at them and will not go beyond a miserable 12 per cent.