House of Commons Hansard #145 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was consumers.


Copyright ActGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

When shall the bill be read the third time? At the next sitting of the House?

Copyright ActGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Copyright ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Madam Speaker, you have such a good memory that you probably remember that, last Tuesday, I put a question to the Minister of Agriculture. I was not very pleased with the answer, that goes without saying. That is why I want to take advantage of these Adjournment Proceedings to revive the debate; I am ready to listen to the answer of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, who is currently in Japan to promote Canadian exports.

My question is quite simple. Pursuant to the agreement we signed three years ago with GATT, now known as the WTO, the 118 signatory states agreed to reduce direct farm subsidies in their own countries.

Canada is preaching by example. Of course, it is benefiting from all this since it is saving money on the backs of farmers, who will, of course, pass on higher prices to all consumers.

Let me give you an example. Here, in Canada, over a three year period, the government has, under the helm of the Minister of Finance, reduced direct farm subsidies by 21 per cent, or more than one fifth, compared to 23 per cent for our neighbours south of the border.

Some members will say: "Yes, but Jean-Guy, that is 2 per cent more". Yes, I agree, but these cuts are being implemented over seven years instead of three, which is more than twice as long. All things considered, the cuts in Canada are more than twice what they are in the United States. Our farmers are directly affected.

The most striking example is without any doubt the total elimination of subsidies to industrial milk producers over the next five years.

To keep their income at the level it was two years ago, farmers must raise the selling price of industrial milk. And you know as well as I do that each time the price of butter goes up, consumption goes down.

We are in a dilemma and our milk producers are able to increase dairy production by 5 to 10 per cent fairly easily. But if we raise the price, we will have to reduce the quotas. Thus, we are in a catch 22 situation with this government.

For example, the Western Grain Transportation Act was suddenly abolished in the West. That meant $860 million each year. Sure, since that was in western Canada, this good government of ours gave almost $3 billion as a bonus to farmers, while there was no bonus to the dairy producers when their grant was cut; there is a double standard.

Moreover, the Federation of Dairy Producers of Canada formally asked the agriculture minister to postpone until February 1, 1998 the next 15 per cent cut in the grant to industrial milk producers, which is to take effect on August 1, 1997. It is only a matter of six months. We are waiting for an answer and if you consult the calendar, you will see that there will be an election in June. I suspect our good Minister of Agriculture will make his announcement during the next election campaign, which I for one would find quite dishonest on his part.

We are only four months away from August 1, and I wish the agriculture minister would make that announcement, which would

be most reassuring for our dairy producers, since, according to reports, the income of Quebec dairy producers has fallen every year because of these famous cuts.

Copyright ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

Essex—Kent Ontario


Jerry Pickard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Madam Speaker, the government is eliminating dairy subsidy gradually at the dairy industry's request so as to avoid any disruptions.

The dairy industry is continually improving its efficiency and competitiveness so consumers can expect that dairy products will continue to represent good value in the future as they have in the past.

The Canadian Dairy Commission has been instrumental through its pricing policies in maintaining fair returns for efficient dairy producers and ensuring a continuous supply of high quality dairy products for consumers are affordable prices. I am confident that the dairy sector will be able to adapt to the changes in the subsidy that remain to be implemented because they will be gradual and foreseeable.

Comparing support for agriculture between countries is best done by looking at producer subsidy equivalents, PSE. The PSE measures how much farm revenue results from policy transfers counting both expenditures by government and support created by market regulations. The PSEs are estimated consistently for all OECD countries.

In 1996 the PSE for Canada for all agriculture was 22 per cent and for the dairy sector it was 57 per cent. In the United States the PSE for all agricultural products was considerably lower at 16 per cent and for the U.S. dairy sector it was lower also at 48 per cent.

Expenditures for agriculture overall in Canada are expected to decline over the next few years. Spending on income support especially for subsectors other than dairy, poultry and eggs is declining, but the spending is also being shifted from passive price or income support toward the development of transitional assistance. In the United States spending is targeted less on adjustment and more on plain income transfers.

The Canadian government's resolve to cut back on spending overall, not only in agriculture, has helped to create an economic environment that is conducive to investment and development. Interest rates are lower in Canada than in the U.S. Agriculture benefits for Canada are very positive.

Copyright ActAdjournment Proceedings

March 17th, 1997 / 7:50 p.m.


Vic Althouse NDP Mackenzie, SK

Madam Speaker, some weeks ago I asked a question in the House to which the minister of agriculture chose to respond. It had to do with the establishment of branch lines after the change in the Transportation Act that occurred in the House the last year. The protection of branch lines which was intended to last until the end of 1999 simply disappeared.

As a result we have seen at least the CNR post its list of branch lines that will be abandoned. That list is becoming very instructive for communities looking to see what will happen to them if they are living on branch lines.

The point I was trying to make with the government was that we are finding time after time the railways have announced that they will no longer maintain or provide service to branch lines. When community groups or others investigate to see whether or not they should buy them, they find the railway has already achieved an agreement with the elevator companies along the lines to agree they will not sell to anybody attempting to use the elevators and purchase them later.

The point I was trying to make with the minister of agriculture because he represents a seat on the prairies was that the envisioned creation of a whole bunch of short lines will not happen.

We have several actual examples. One is in my riding. It is light rail. A short line could exist if they moved traffic out slowly and they are willing to set up a short line. There is a large alfalfa dehydrating plant at the end of that short line which provides quite a lot of tonnage. To make the short line efficient and effective economically they will also have to continue to haul the grain gathered on those lines.

The two companies that have elevators at three or four points along that line decided to build inland terminals 30 or 40 miles away. They do not want their own gathering outlets competing against the capacity of those inland terminals. They have an agreement which seems to be held by the railway that the line can only be purchased by someone who refuses to move grain on the line. That makes it uneconomical for the community short line to exist.

The minister being a political person decided to make some politics with his answer. He decided to ignore the question completely and say that if there were no short lines in Saskatchewan it would be because of the provincial law.

If he had listened at the short line conference he and I were in attendance at, he would have heard existing short line operators point out that it was not a problem for them at all. They could simply constitute themselves first off as a Canadian corporation and use Canadian successor right laws. In fact the operators already in existence say Saskatchewan successor right laws are not an impediment whatsoever. Their real problem is having the elevator companies stay in existence along those lines.

We are back to the situation we had 100 years ago before we started regulating rail lines and elevator companies, where the elevator companies and the railroads simply have farmers at their mercy.

Copyright ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.

Essex—Kent Ontario


Jerry Pickard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Madam Speaker, by streamlining and shortening the current process for rail line rationalization the Canadian Transportation Act will encourage the conversion of underutilized rail lines to short line railroads as opposed to their abandonment.

The main line railways are required to make available a three-year plan showing which lines they intend to keep and which they intend to sell, lease or discontinue.

Once the railways have advertised their intention to divest themselves of a particular line, parties interested in setting up short line railroads on that line would then have at least 60 days to indicate their interest to the railway. The elevator companies cannot prevent the creation of short lines.

Within the legislation there is a provision that states the railroads must negotiate with the interested parties in good faith. It is a business decision of the elevator companies whether they continue to operate an elevator or close the elevator to consolidate their operations.

It is anticipated that there will be line abandonments due to elevator closures. However it is also anticipated that opportunities for short line operators will arise on branch lines that have operational elevators and sufficient volumes.

Short line operators have to take into consideration the consolidation of an investment plan of grain companies when they make decisions on potential purchases of lines. If no interest is expressed by short line operators, the CTA allows provincial or municipal governments to acquire the lines at net salvage value.

In summary, new provisions of the CTA encourage the transfer of lines where it makes economic sense and provides opportunity for governments to acquire lines if it is in the public interest to do so.

Copyright ActAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

Pursuant to Standing Order 38(5) the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. The House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7.55 p.m.)