House of Commons Hansard #30 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.


World Trade OrganizationPrivate Members' Business

November 23rd, 2004 / 6:20 p.m.


Roger Gaudet Bloc Montcalm, QC


That, in the opinion of the House, in the current World Trade Organization negotiations, the government should not agree to any concession that might weaken collective marketing strategies or the supply management system.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to move the motion today, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of the House, in the current World Trade Organization negotiations, the government should not agree to any concession that might weaken collective marketing strategies or the supply management system.

This is the complete text of the motion. The Bloc Québécois will support the supply management system, and it hopes that all political parties in this House will do likewise.

The Supply Management Five, or SM5, is a coalition for a fair agricultural model. Its goal is to support the Canadian government in the WTO negotiations. A broad-based coalition supporting supply management was set up in July 2003. It is composed of agro-industrial partners, businesses, financial institutions, consumer associations, unions, municipal, provincial and federal elected officials, as well as individuals.

Its aim is to unite all persons and organizations who believe in a strong agricultural sector and a prosperous food industry in Quebec and Canada.

Supply management is the means by which dair, chicken, turkey, table egg and hatching egg producers set the best possible equilibrium between supply and demand for their products in Quebec and Canada.

Producers thus only produce the quantities of agricultural products necessary to satisfy Canadian needs and avoid producing surpluses that would then have to be disposed of at a loss.

This planning process, coupled with the control of imports and a mechanism that enables producers to negotiate jointly for a price based on the production cost, assures them of a stable and fairer income, without governmental subsidies.

Supply management is based on three pillars. The first pillar is production management. Agricultural producers undertake to provide the Canadian market with quality products in sufficient quantities, avoiding surpluses. Dairy, chicken, turkey, table egg and hatching egg producers each undertake to supply a share of the Canadian market.

The second pillar is import control. The government commits itself to limiting imported products to ensure Canadian market requirements are met by Canadian production. This needs to be watched carefully.

Take the example of butter oil. The Ontario processed ice cream industry wanted to stop using cream in the production of its ice cream in order to cut production costs. It had hoped to buy a mixture of U.S. milk by-products and sugar called butter oil as raw material.

The federal government gave in to the industry lobby and abandoned dairy farmers by declaring that butter oil was not a dairy product, which opened the border to imports. In five years, between 1997 and 2002, imports increased by 557% resulting in a $500 million loss for dairy farmers.

The same is true for cheese sticks. Since this product contains as much bread as cheese, the government declared that it was not a dairy product. It promised the WTO to allow a certain quantity to enter duty free but regularly issued supplementary permits. Each time, the Bloc Québécois expressed its opposition and the government reversed its decision, until the next time.

The third pillar is a pricing policy that covers production costs. The government also introduced mechanisms to enable producers to receive prices that guarantee reasonable returns and a decent living from their production, without subsidy.

Supply management is a fair agricultural model thatensures consumers a nutritious basket of high-quality products that are among the least expensive in the world.

Under the Canadian Dairy Commission Act, the CDC’s legislated objectives are:to provide efficient producers of milk and cream with the opportunity to obtain a fair return for their labour and investment; and to provide consumers of dairy products with a continuous and adequate supply of dairy products.

Dairy products are a good buy for Canadians. According to an AC Nielsen survey this summer of 83 stores in 10 Canadian and 10 American cities, Canadians paid 23.6% less than Americans for the same 25 dairy products.

This backed up the findings of a previous study. Canadian dairy producers have been carrying out surveys on a smaller scale since 1996, and these show that dairy products are a far better buy in Canada than in the United States.

According to a Statistics Canada spending report, Canadians spend under $12 a week on dairy products, less than it costs to go to the movies, buy a CD or park for one day in Ottawa.

What the dairy farmers get for their milk is just a drop in the milking pail. Even the tip we leave for our waiter, or the taxes added to our restaurant bill, are more than what the dairy producer gets for the products sold to the restaurant.

Supply management also introduces stability into the market, and contributes to the success of processing companies, which realize attractive earnings in Canada.

For example, according to a survey by Samson Bélair/Deloitte & Touche, in 2001, Canadian dairy processing plants realized a 21% return on shareholder equity. This same sub-sector was found in the same survey to rank in the leading group of the entire Canadian agri-food sector.

This sector does not cost public treasuries one cent. Dairy, table egg and hatching egg, chicken and turkey producers get no government income subsidies whatsoever.

It stabilizes producers' revenues and allows a better distribution of the consumer dollar among the various links in the food chain, from producer to retailer.

It promotes efficient and human-scale agriculture throughout Canada that respects resources and people.

Supply management thus helps create a stable and equitable economic environment that benefits every link in the food chain.

I would now like to speak about the WTO, whose goal is to create a free-flowing international commercial system by eliminating all obstacles to trade, from high customs tariffs to restrictions on the types of products that can be imported into a country. For example, the Europeans no longer want to import beef containing growth hormones or genetically engineered farm products, also called GMOs or genetically modified organisms.

During the last round of WTO negotiations, the Uruguay Round, the issue of agricultural products came up for the first time. The treaty nations agreed at that time to reduce the obstacles to trade in these products. They began to trade more freely and agreed to continue this process during future rounds of negotiations.

In Qatar in November 2001, the WTO member countries began the Doha Round of negotiations, which was expected to conclude by January 1, 2005. Agriculture is one of the principal issues in this round.

The proposals are now on the table and if they are accepted they will have a very serious impact on agriculture here, and especially on products that come under supply management.

Export subsidies offered by the great economic powers are largely responsible for the ridiculously low prices of some agricultural products on the world market.

Our governments in Canada and Quebec do not have the means to compete with the United States or European Union treasuries. The proposal now on the table would not completely eliminate these subsidies.

I would like to tell the House about a study by Daniel-Mercier Gouin. It was published in Le Devoir on November 16, 2004, and reads as follows:

Replacing supply management for dairy production in Quebec by income support to maintain producers' income approximately at its current level would cost the governments $600 million more every year, without any guarantee that consumer prices would not rise.

This is what Daniel Mercier Gouin, the director of the Groupe de recherche en économieet politique agricoles and a professor in the Department of the Agri-FoodEconomics and Consumer Sciences at Université Laval, concluded. This study was carried out for the Coalition pour un modèle agricole équitable, representing the five supply management sectors in Quebec, namely dairy, poultry (chicken and turkey) and eggs (table eggs and breeder eggs). The coalition has 7,000 members, including municipalities, businesses and various economic organizations. The party leaders in Quebec City and Ottawa also gave their support to this formula.

This 120-page study, presented yesterday morning with former Premier and coalition counsel Pierre Marc Johnson, Marcel Groleau, the president of the Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec (FPLQ), and Serge Lefebvre, the president of the Fédération des producteurs d'oeufs de consommation du Québec, present, marks the launch of a new public awareness campaign in preparation for the negotiations at the WTO, scheduled to resume next spring.

There have been various modes of regulation.

The study consisted in analyzing the various regulation modes for the dairy sector in five countries, namely Canada, the United States, France and the Netherlands in Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The professor found that, despite the Uruguay Round, safeguards at the borders remain high and interventionism is the rule to regulate dairy markets. For example, between 2002 and 2004, the United States paid $1.8 billion in direct subsidies. In Europe, quotas were imposed as part of a budget control process.

Whether it is in constant or absolute dollars, the study shows that the price paid to Canadian producers is stable and higher than the prices paid to their fellow producers in the other countries. Moreover, in those countries that have supply management (France, the Netherlands and Canada), prices paid by consumers increased less between 1981 and 2002 than in the other two countries. There is also this finding that Canadian producers are better protected, and that Canada is one of the countries where state support is the least significant. And producers are responsible for production surpluses.

Based on these findings, Mr. Gouin concludes that deregulating the Canadian dairy sector would not provide any guarantee of a benefit to consumers. Why then is there this widespread desire among WTO members to deregulate agricultural products? The answer is that this is part of a prevailing ideology to the effect that liberalizing the agricultural economy would result in significant gains. “It is an economic theory that does not stand the test of reality”, says Mr. Gouin.

Access to markets through tariff quotas is an effective means of promoting trade, while allowing the country to maintain programs such as supply management. If all countries were to put in place conditions that would provide clear access to the market though tariff quotas, the volume of agricultural and food products that could be traded in the world without being subjected to special tariffs would increase drastically.

Supply management or SM5 will not solve all agricultural problems. There are still the main crops, such as corn and wheat. Even the Prime Minister received a cow yesterday. Today, it was auctioned off for 18¢ a pound. This means less than $200, because the cow was not very heavy.

Therefore, we support supply management. This should not be negotiable. We should hold firmly to our position and defend it. I hope that all members of this House will support my motion.

World Trade OrganizationPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask a question of my colleague. First, I would like to congratulate him on moving such a motion. This was a very important issue during the last election campaign. I myself come from a rural riding. The Arthabaska RCM, which is part of my riding, is the largest milk producer in Quebec. Consequently, this issue was very important and still is.

We deplore the Liberal government's failure to defend supply management as it should have. It is thanks to a motion such as the one moved by my colleague from Montcalm that we will succeed in getting things done.

I would like to ask him one thing, since he was a mayor and also a reeve in a rural region and is very familiar with this issue. How will this motion alleviate the concerns of our milk producers, who are under supply management?

World Trade OrganizationPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Roger Gaudet Bloc Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.

The answer is simple. They will have a guaranteed income. That means that subsidies the government has difficulty providing will not be there; they will have a guaranteed income. They will themselves be responsible for their surpluses.

In that case, it would be better for the government to negotiate properly at the WTO to ensure that these five sectors remain efficient and do not produce more than is necessary. Moreover, our government must not import to interfere with our products.

World Trade OrganizationPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Richelieu, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too wish to congratulate my colleague from Montcalm on this fine initiative of putting forward a motion concerning the entire farming community in Quebec as well as Canada.

In his very sensible remarks, he provided a good background of the SM5. He clearly defined the SM5 movement, which started in Quebec. As we know, in the last election campaign, the current Prime Minister agreed to sign. So did the representative of the Conservative Party, as did every member of the Bloc Québécois. This commitment having been made, it is only a matter of having election commitments approved by the House.

This commitment proposed by our colleague would ensure that supply management is protected in WTO negotiations. I have a question for my hon. colleague however. I think that he left the door open when he answered the question of another member earlier.

As far as the supply management he is talking about is concerned, at present, the government is not implementing it fully. He mentioned that. The government is allowing butter oil. It has refused to get involved in the butter oil issue, and to implement supply management fully. And the Canadian representatives are always the ones granting a 5% allowance regarding the various supply management productions.

At the same time, does his motion not send the government a clear message not only to negotiate supply management properly, but also to implement it fully right away to show how important it is to us?

World Trade OrganizationPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Roger Gaudet Bloc Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is quite right. Given the current crisis in the agricultural community, I think that supply management is a good way to help the government and the producers make fair and equitable choices in the future, so that everyone can live within their means.

I find that very fair. Besides, this is the way to go. The government must make its support to supply management very visible.

World Trade OrganizationPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Andy Savoy Liberal Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that members of Parliament have an opportunity to discuss supply management, which is of critical importance to the Canadian agriculture and agriculture producers in my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac and across the country.

In my riding of Tobique--Mactaquac we have the beautiful Saint John River Valley with its rolling hills. Whether one is in St. Andre, in Stanley, in Millville, in Mactaquac country, in the Grand Falls region or in the Woodstock region, supply management is important to our agriculture community because it is the backbone of the economy in the Saint John River Valley. Supply management is a key pillar in agriculture.

Therefore, the issue is important to Canadians and very important to farmers in my riding who live up and down the Saint John River Valley.

At the outset I would like to affirm the importance and uniqueness of supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board in Canada's agri-food sector. These marketing structures have been the choice of dairy, poultry, egg and grain producers since they were established, and has been successful for these industries.

The Government of Canada has clearly, consistently and strongly supported supply management both domestically and internationally. Domestically by providing the legislative, regulatory and institutional framework for supply management and internationally by forcefully defending supply management against changes in the NAFTA and WTO.

Likewise, the Government of Canada has strongly defended the Canadian Wheat Board against politically motivated, unsubstantiated U.S. challenges time after time. NAFTA and WTO panels have consistently upheld Canada's position that the Canadian Wheat Board is a fair trader and that its mandate, structure and activities are consistent with our international trading obligations.

The WTO agriculture negotiations provide another excellent example of how the government is working closely with the provincial governments and the full range of agri-food stakeholders, including the five supply managed industries and the Canadian Wheat Board, to advance Canada's negotiating objectives.

In 1999 the government announced Canada's initial negotiating position for the WTO agriculture negotiations. This position was developed in close consultation with the provincial governments and the full range of agri-food stakeholders, including the five supply managed industries.

Our position, aimed at levelling the international playing field, has truly enabled Canada to assume a position of strength in these negotiations. It has allowed Canada to work toward an outcome that is in the best interests of the entire Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector.

Since the negotiations began in 2000, the Ministers of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and International Trade, as well as members of Canada's negotiating team, have been working very closely with the provinces and the sector to ensure that they are kept up to date at each step of the way in these negotiations.

Both ministers and their officials have met with the provinces and stakeholders to listen to their perspectives on issues under negotiation and to ensure that Canada's negotiating approaches reflect the interests of the sector as a whole.

Agri-food industry representatives, representing a wide spectrum of the sector, have attended all WTO ministerial conferences since the Seattle conference in 1999. Canadian ministers and officials have ensured that all stakeholders were fully briefed on the discussions. As well, officials have provided detailed briefings before and after significant developments to a wide range of agri-food stakeholders, both at the event itself and those back in Canada.

At no time has this kind of collaborative effort between government, industry and the provinces been more evident than during the intense period of negotiations in July during which 147 members of the WTO unanimously agreed on a framework on agriculture to guide the next stages of negotiations.

Almost 40 Canadians were in Geneva during the last two weeks of July to follow the framework negotiations, many of whom were from the five supply managed industries and the Canadian Wheat Board. The Minister of International Trade, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and members of Canada's negotiating team spent a great deal of time each day seeking views and briefing them on the latest developments in the negotiations.

The framework on agriculture points in the direction of a more level international playing field. While it went further on a few issues than Canada would have liked, it provides scope for us to continue pursuing our negotiating objectives and reflects many of the key ideas that Canada has put forward since the negotiations began.

As the negotiations progress, the government will continue to face strong pressure on certain issues. While the framework does not include a reference to the reduction of over-quota tariffs, Canada will continue to face significant pressure from other WTO members on this issue as the negotiations progress. All other WTO members are calling for tariff reductions on all tariff lines.

The U.S. and European Union will also continue to press for new disciplines on state trading enterprises like the Canadian Wheat Board.

However the government will remain steadfast in its commitment to defending the right of producers, producers like those in my riding of Tobique—Mactaquac, to choose how to market their products, including through orderly marketing structures like supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board.

We will continue to put forward our view on behalf of all agricultural producers and those in my riding that countries should be allowed some flexibility in how market access improvements are made to reflect their different domestic policy approaches. We will continue to insist that the Canadian Wheat Board is a fair trader and that its mandate structure and activities are consistent with Canada's international trading obligations.

We will continue to work closely with the entire range of agri-food stakeholders to achieve a positive outcome for the entire agri-food sector. The whole of the agri-food sector and the whole of the Canadian economy stand to gain from these negotiations.

We are seeking prosperity for Canadians through secure access to markets around the world, a stable and predictable business environment and a level playing field for our producers.

The WTO sets the rules for global trade. We must remain focused on getting the best outcome for Canadians and we will work with all stakeholders to achieve it.

World Trade OrganizationPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in the House today to this important issue. My colleagues from Quebec raised the subject of government accountability. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about this subject that truly matters to Canadians.

During this past summer's federal election campaign I was greeted at doorsteps with an unprecedented level of cynicism. People told me that they did not respect politicians any more. Their trust had been violated one too many times. They had heard the Liberal promises, put their faith in the government over and over again and waited for action, only to see the Liberals continue to break promises, ignore Canadians and further demean elected office in the eyes of the Canadian taxpayer.

The arrogance of the government has grown to such heights that it has forgotten that government, minority or otherwise, brings not only the privilege of the fancy seats on the other side of this chamber but also the responsibility of governing on behalf of Canadians.

I am proud to join with the members of the Bloc to call on the Liberal government to do its job, to honour commitments made to Canadian producers and to negotiate in good faith with the WTO.

Canadian producers from all sectors of agriculture were snookered into thinking that they knew what to expect from their negotiators at the World Trade Organization. Prior to the launch of the Doha round of negotiations in 1999, the Liberal government and the then agriculture minister, Lyle Vanclief, made the following statement on August 19, 1999:

Over the past two years the Federal Government has been consulting closely with the industry and the provinces to determine how Canada's initial negotiating position could best reflect the interests of the entire Canadian agri-food sector.

The statement went on to say:

Another theme raised by many stakeholders is the need to maintain Canada's ability to continue orderly marketing systems, such as, supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board. The Federal Government is committed to preserving the ability of Canadians to operate the orderly marketing systems necessary for stability and profitability. Decisions regarding marketing system choices will continue to be made in Canada.

Why are we here today? The negotiations continue and producers in all sectors should feel secure that their concerns and priorities are being kept in mind by their government.

The Liberals claim to have sought consensus of the industries through stakeholder consultations, convincing producers that they had input into creating the trade negotiations mandate. However the Liberals have violated their trust. They have leaked their willingness to make concessions and deals, and even sacrifice one sector for another. The government has abdicated its responsibility to live up to its own negotiating mandate.

It is clear that the Liberals have just tried to distract Canadians and producers from what is really going on in Geneva. For years the Liberals have pursued a divide and conquer strategy with Canadian agriculture. They have pitted producer against producer and region against region.

The Liberals have been very good at this. The issue of supply management, in particular, is often used by the Liberals to redirect producer anger over uncertainty at the WTO. This is a devious ploy that falls flat in the face of reality.

During the federal election campaign this past summer, our leader, the member for Calgary Southwest, expressed his strong support for supply management by signing a declaration in support of this system. Our party is on the record supporting supply management and also in support of the three pillars of supply management as expressed in the declaration which reads:

--the Canadian supply management system, which is based on planning production to match demand, on producer pricing that reflects production costs, as well as on control of imports--

The Conservative Party will continue to stand by dairy, poultry and egg producers. We have been clear that a new Conservative government will ensure that industries under supply management remain viable.

We will support supply management and we will work to protect it in international trade discussions. Mr. Harper said this in speeches from Regina to Belleville during the election campaign, and I am proud to repeat it in the House of Commons today.

World Trade OrganizationPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

May I remind the hon. member that she is to use the titles or riding names of members and not family names.

World Trade OrganizationPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize.

We as Canadians should not allow ourselves to be baited into this false controversy of arguing about which sector must be sacrificed at the Liberal altar. These producers must realize that it is the Liberals themselves who are weak in their support of producers.

With regard to the motion at hand, the Bloc asks that this House agree to ask the Liberal government not to agree to any concessions at the WTO that would weaken collective marketing strategies or the supply management system, but the real issue at stake here is that we are hearing talk of concessions at all.

What negotiator goes into arbitration talking of concessions? Is this what they are saying in Geneva? How can they possibly expect to achieve their objectives if they have already admitted defeat or have given up the fight?

The Conservative Party of Canada knows that this is not how to govern. Canadians expect more than a government that gives up before the fight is over. The Conservative Party is disgusted that the government would rather encourage divisive debate on which farmers have to lose their livelihood because the Liberal government cannot be bothered to live up to its commitments.

Conservatives know that producers have no appetite for these battles. No producer wants to gain at the expense of his or her neighbour.

The Liberals have promised Canadian producers that by joining together and crafting and negotiating a mandate the efforts of the Canadian whole will be stronger than its parts. Before the negotiations are even over, we have a government that is trying to get out of delivering on its side of the deal by playing one group of producers off another in order to discredit them all.

Regardless of the sector, agriculture or other, Canadians deserve to be treated with respect by their government. They should have confidence that their representatives will stand tall for them and stay true to their commitments. We will not be drawn into a discussion of the merits of one sector over another. This boils down to accountability. The Liberal government has abdicated its responsibility to live up to its own negotiating mandate.

We support this motion because it is unacceptable for the Government of Canada to consider concessions that would inevitably cause producers to believe that they had to fight against each other just to survive.

World Trade OrganizationPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the hon. member for Montcalm for this motion on such an essential matter. Essential not only for the livelihood of our farmers, but also for the maintenance of an independent food policy, in Quebec as well as in the rest of Canada.

Our system of dairy product supply management as well as the collective marketing of wheat is endangered at the present time. Its life is in danger: first of all, because of the attacks by the World Trade Organization; second, because of the propaganda from the right, for example the Fraser Institute and the lobbyists connected with multinational interests; third, and most important, the lack of resolution and sincerity on the part of the Liberal government.

Let us start with the WTO. Everyone knows that the World Trade Organization, the WTO, which replaced the GATT in 1994, is mandated to promote integral free trade for all international trade, with the corollary being the abolition of any form of subsidy or control mechanisms for agricultural production.

Whereas initially the GATT and then the WTO had set agricultural products aside in a separate category, the tack that has been taken in the negotiations in recent years is a bad sign. From now on, the WTO wants to consider agriculture as a sector just like the others, and to eliminate not only any possibility of subsidy, but also the mechanisms of supply management and collective marketing that are so important to Canada.

In fact, as recently as July 31, 2004, the 147 members of the WTO, Canada included, unanimously agreed on a negotiation framework to allow the resumption of the Doha round of trade negotiations.

The new agreement commits WTO members to the elimination of agricultural export subsidies and targets in the longer run Canadian supply management practices and state trading enterprises such as the Wheat Board.

We know full well that agriculture is not like other sectors and that we cannot leave this key sector in the hands of bureaucrats and WTO officials or the dozen or so multinationals that control the world's food production.

We know full well that a farm producer's job is one of the most difficult and essential jobs there is. Food does not grow on the supermarket shelf. A farmer has to take risks and work very hard in order possibly to earn enough to live on, small compensation for the invaluable service farmers provide to Canadian society.

It is only normal, and we must commend them, that farmers have managed to come together to create such important management mechanisms for the smooth functioning of this key sector and to ensure that their family gets a fair share of the fruits of their labour.

In my opinion, this House has a duty to protect these assets, especially since it is in the public interest to do so.

This brings me to the second threat against our supply management system and single desk selling: the relentless attack of big agribusinesses and those who serve them. Their agenda is to promote bigger profits and the control of larger market shares through the complete deregulation of agriculture. Why else would they want to abolish such a successful system of supply management in the dairy sector, a system which in fact secures a decent income to our farmers without any drain on tax revenues?

Poultry and dairy are two of the few areas in agriculture where farmers make money and can stay in business without being run down by multinationals. Instead of applauding a system that helps us remain standing and keep what is left of our family farms and preserve some of our farming communities, those so-called free marketers, which in fact are looking for a back door to corner the market, allege that Canadians pay more for dairy products than do American consumers. This is hogwash, frankly.

A 2001 OECD report comparing estimates of total consumer and taxpayer support to milk producers in Canada and the U.S. for the period 1998 to 2000 found that they are virtually identical: 58% and 55% of total gross farm gate receipts respectively. Producer support to milk producers throughout all OECD member nations also averaged 58% during that same period. Moreover, for the past decade the dairy farmer of Ontario grocery basket has been cheaper than the American equivalent.

Because the Canadian Wheat Board is a state trading enterprise, it is under constant attack from Canada's trading partners, particularly the United States and the Cairns group, of which ironically Canada is a member. These forces continue to challenge its legitimacy, lobby the WTO and support their friendly lobbyists in Canada to undermine the confidence of Canadians in the Wheat Board.

This brings me to my final point, the third danger to our agricultural marketing system: the apathy and insincerity of the federal government. Although the Liberals made the support of the Canadian Wheat Board and supply management one of their platform planks in the last federal election, the WTO framework of negotiations to which the Liberal government agreed in Doha contains elements that could eventually impact the Canadian Wheat Board's current capacity to market wheat and barley.

For instance, article 18 of the WTO framework calls for the elimination of export credits, export credit guarantees or insurance programs with repayment periods beyond 180 days. The same article also mentions that the following should be eliminated:

Trade distorting practices with respect to exporting STEs (State Trading Enterprises) including eliminating export subsidies provided to or by them, government financing, and the underwriting of losses. The future issue of the future use of monopoly powers will be subject to further negotiation.

While current practices are consistent with current trade obligations, the latter are a priority on the WTO negotiation table. Given that government financing and export credit could be eliminated, it is unclear how the Wheat Board could survive in the long run without vigorous political action. On one hand, the federal government swears allegiance to the Wheat Board and supply management; on the other hand, it signs international agreements that restrict our freedom to choose what is good for our sovereignty and our existence as a nation.

The federal government has overseen crippling grain prices and rising input costs while helping foreign investors through deregulation, NAFTA and the WTO. Under NAFTA the income of farmers in all three countries has declined. How can we trust the government to defend those institutions and walk the talk when the record is a record of broken promises?

We cannot trust what the Liberal government says since it uses its words to disguise its thoughts. We must be vigilant and closely follow its initiatives at the WTO and elsewhere.

Just before I conclude, I would like to read an extract from The New York Times editorial of October 1, 2004: “In Canada, the supply management system estimates demand, coordinates supply, and is profitable for small farmers. It is a non-subsidy way of supporting farmers and does not use tax dollars. The system is under threat from world trade rules. Should Canada be required to dismantle the system in the years to come, it could mean significant reorganization and re-scaling of sectors of the dairy industry and one that may be less secure for small farmers”.

The Wheat Board and supply management is under attack. The motion that has been brought forward by the member of Parliament for Montcalm helps to address that critical issue that has importance not only for rural communities across the country, but also for urban areas that benefit from the contribution rural areas make.

I and the caucus of the NDP strongly support this motion. We hope that it will pass in the House.

World Trade OrganizationPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


Denise Poirier-Rivard Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the critic of the Bloc Québécois for agriculture and agri-food, it is with enthusiasm that I support my colleague from Montcalm concerning the motion to maintain supply management. The government must not do away with supply management.

The largest part of farm income in Quebec comes from sectors organized under the supply management system, particularly the milk sector. This system has the double benefit of providing decent income to our producers and skewing world markets.

In fact, the supply management system deserves to be better known in other countries and might even be part of the solution to the world farm crisis. The federal government, which is responsible for trade negotiations, should believe it.

Supply management is based on three pillars.

Production is restricted through a quota system. A milk producer buys a quota, that is, the right to market a certain quantity of milk, to ensure that it meets domestic demand, but does not result in overproduction, which would cause prices to fall.

With production restricted to need, prices are regulated to prevent excessive fluctuations. Prices are established to ensure producers can cover their costs and feed their family.

In order to maintain the balance between supply and demand, the borders are closed through the imposition of high tariffs on imported poultry, eggs and dairy products. Thus, imports cannot upset the balance.

It is essential to maintain all three pillars. If one of them falls, the whole system crumbles. For years, the federal Liberals have pretended to support supply management. But each time the system has been attacked, the government has helped to weaken it.

Ottawa is a poor defender of supply management. Take butter oil, for example. Ontario's chemical ice cream industry wanted to stop using cream in manufacturing its ice cream in order to reduce production costs. It wanted instead to purchase as a raw material an American mixture of milk by-products and sugar called butter oil. Giving in to the industry lobby and abandoning Quebec's dairy producers, the federal government ruled that butter oil is not a dairy product, which made it possible to open the border to imports. In the five years from 1997 to 2002 imports of butter oil rose by 557%, representing a loss of half a billion dollars for Quebec dairy producers.

A similar tangle ensued over imported cheese sticks. Only the Bloc Québécois's vigilance in bringing this issue before the public forced the government to go back on its decision to issue additional import permits.

Let us take a moment to analyze Canada's role in the World Trade Organization; once again, let us repeat that supply management is not negotiable in this context.

Ottawa hesitates to support supply management in WTO negotiations. The agricultural issue is at the heart of the current round of WTO negotiations. The supply management system has been criticized by a number of member countries which want Canada to abandon it and open its borders. The United States and New Zealand have already taken the issue to the WTO's arbitration tribunals.

The worst thing in this story is that Canada has been a member of the Cairns group for many years, in order to influence WTO negotiations, even though all these countries object to the continuation of supply management.

A cabinet memorandum obtained by the Bloc Québécois in the spring of 2003 indicated that Ottawa would be ready to abandon supply management if that doing so enabled it to obtain a significant reduction in other countries' agricultural subsidies and better access to their markets.

That is the position Canada took at the last WTO ministerial meeting held in Cancun in September 2003. Ottawa indicated its willingness to let the WTO set limits on its ability to charge import duties. But we know that supply management involves borders being kept closed through high duties.

Had an agreement been reached in Cancun, that would have been the end of supply management. Fortunately for Quebec's producers, the meeting ended in failure. But it is not over, because negotiations between officials are ongoing, and another ministerial meeting will soon be held.

In this context, we in the Bloc Québécois believe that the Liberal government is prepared to let Quebec down in order to please western Canada. We can see the role played by Canada among its allies in the Cairns group, and it is easy to conclude that Ottawa is prepared to ruin Quebec's agriculture in exchange for growth in grain exports in western Canada. In cooperation with Quebec's agricultural community, the Bloc Québécois intends to fight to prevent this from happening.

The thing is that western Canada and Quebec have different agricultural bases. In western Canada, agriculture is characterized by monoculture farming with a large proportion of GMOs grown in export oriented megafarms. Grain producers are calling for total free trade in agriculture to stimulate their exports, and the elimination of agricultural production subsidies worldwide, because these subsidies have caused prices to collapse, which affected their incomes.

They have a very active lobby in Ottawa, which has succeeded in convincing the federal government to support their position. This is no surprise in light of the fact the agricultural system in Quebec is different from that of the majority in Canada.

Conversely, the supply management system governs the production of poultry, eggs and dairy in Canada. In Quebec, which accounts for 47% of Canada's dairy quotas, supply management production account for 61% of agricultural income in Quebec.

The prosperity of rural Quebec depends in large part on maintaining the system of supply management, a system with many advantages.

Despite the present crisis in agriculture characterized by price decreases triggered by foreign subsidies and, in the case of beef, by the mad cow crisis, dairy revenues did not go down in 2003. As a result, Quebec fared less badly than Canada last year. This indicates the advantages of supply management. On the other hand, supply management, unlike subsidies which enable farmers to sell their crop below cost price, does not skew world prices.

The current government is attracting a lot of criticism. Jean Grégoire, past president of the Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec, has said “Governmental inaction will destroy dairy production.”

On September 16, 2003, Laurent Pellerin also said in connection with the WTO conference at Cancun:

We have understood that, if Canada had had to make the choice between concessions unfavourable to producers under supply management and not signing the agreement on the table, it would have opted for concessions—let us be up front about this, great vigilance will have to be exercised.

This is why I support the bill introduced by my colleague this evening without reservation. The financial and personal situation of our Quebec farmers is of the utmost concern to us and I feel that this will ensure them of a better future without the fear of losing income they have worked so hard to earn.

World Trade OrganizationPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Marc Godbout Liberal Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak tonight in this debate on the agricultural negotiations before the World Trade Organization.

The WTO is primarily an instrument to ensure domestic prosperity. It offers our exporters access to the markets of the world, a stable and predictable business climate, and equal chances for all our producers. It also makes it possible for our importers to purchase supplies from the most efficient producers in the world and thus pay prices low enough to stimulate productivity and provide more choice to consumers.

The WTO sets the rules for international trade. These multilateral rules are an essential instrument in Canada's exchanges with its long-standing partners like the U.S., the EU and Japan, and with emerging markets such as China, Brazil, India and the developing world.

The WTO helps us to manage our disputes with the United States and our other trading partners by relying on the rules and not the power of the parties. In short, the WTO opens the door to the world's markets for Canada.

As a middle size nation that depends on trade, Canada knows that it is important to have clear and enforceable rules and efficient dispute settlement mechanisms so that political power does not adversely affect worldwide trade in agricultural and food products.

Canada has always worked with a broad range of countries to establish a system of trade in which all nations, regardless of political or economic weight, could compete under the same conditions established according to the terms of multilateral agreements.

That is why the negotiations on agriculture at the WTO are so essential to all of Canada and the agri-food sector in particular. These negotiations give us an excellent opportunity to work with other countries to establish equal opportunity for everyone by addressing the foreign subsidies and tariff barriers that create unfair competition on foreign markets

Before the negotiations on agriculture began in 2000, the government held extensive consultations with the provincial governments and the entire agri-food sector in order to define Canada's initial negotiation position. As a result of these consultations, the main objective became to establish equal opportunity for everyone.

More specifically, we want export subsidies to be eliminated as soon as possible, internal support that distorts trade to be eliminated or at least reduced, and access to markets to be improved in a true and appreciable way for all agriculture and agri-food products. Our negotiating position has helped Canada propose solid and credible ideas and approaches throughout the negotiations.

I am proud to say that Canada is one of the most active and influential countries in these negotiations. Our negotiators are working with a broad range of developed and developing countries to find a solution.

World Trade OrganizationPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry, but the hon. the member for Ottawa--Orléans will have six minutes when we resume debate. The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

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

World Trade OrganizationAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to stand today to follow up on a question I asked in the House of Commons on November 2. I was asking for a response from the Minister of Industry with regard to an auto policy. At the time I gave a reference of some dates, asking for an auto policy going back to 2002. The minister at that time said he would have something together but it was going to take a couple of weeks. Since that time it has been three weeks and we have yet to hear from the minister.

To provide some context, I first want to touch on a couple of things that have been happening over the years and also in that timeframe where people out in the community in business and labour as well as organizations are very much interested in advancing Canada's automotive strategic position to make sure that we are going to be competitive in the world, and also that we are going to be able to move our industry in an environmental way that really will benefit not only our producers, our manufacturers and our employment but also our environment.

Since 2002 I have heard from three separate ministers that they would move on auto policy but I have yet to see action. There is a history of this. I would say that the CAW needs to be congratulated for its original position, “Getting Back in Gear”, which was the first comprehensive paper on auto policy advocating for an active role in the government since the collapse of the auto pact.

We worked with the CAW, Greenpeace and David Suzuki to make sure that we had a green auto policy in this last election. There was great interest in the creation of manufacturing jobs related to renewing our industry through the environment.

Second, what precipitated my question was a recent policy which was a call for action. The Canadian Automotive Partnership Council has finished its last draft of a call for a national strategy on auto policy. In it there are five suggestions at the top of the list; there are others that are part of the list but it is pushing for the government to act on some and have graded some favourable but others very low. We need to make sure that those graded very low get the appropriate supports.

Last, since that time the Sierra Club was host for a day on the Hill where we talked about environmental conditions, auto policy and the procurement of a new strategy.

Therefore, my question for the parliamentary secretary is to find out exactly when we are going to see this auto policy. The minister has committed to it publicly in this chamber. He said that he would have something within a couple of weeks. He has indicated to me in other discussions that he does want to move on this file, but we need more than just rhetoric. We need to make sure that we are going to have an actual policy, because we have seen lost opportunities. From my community we have witnessed the lost opportunity with DaimlerChrysler. The Liberals basically botched the file. I would give the government credit for recently being able to actually do a deal with Ford in Oakville, which was very important for that community and also for this country.

Finally, we need to have a transparent auto policy which makes sure that the industry, consumers and also this country understand the importance of the auto industry and also the accountability of addressing the subsidization that is happening across this country and across the world and is costing us auto jobs.

World Trade OrganizationAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Chatham-Kent—Essex Ontario


Jerry Pickard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to the member for Windsor West's comment about our auto policy and the direction in which we are going.

The member has expressed his concern that the government is moving too slowly. Quite frankly, this is a major task that we are moving forward on.

As the member for Windsor West knows, in 2002 we created the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council, or CAPC, to help identify ways the government and private sector could work together to strengthen this key sector. On October 26 of this year CAPC released a report entitled “A Call for Action: A Canadian Auto Strategy”, which outlines a vision for increasing investment and innovation in the Canadian auto sector in order to make Canada the location of choice in North American manufacturing.

I can assure the House that we will be responding very shortly with a new strategic framework for the automotive sector. The CAPC report represents an important contribution to the new framework and we have been looking very carefully at its findings. The industry minister and I had an excellent half-day meeting with CAPC executives on November 3, when the report was discussed at length.

Those hon. members who are familiar with the CAPC report will know that many of its recommendations align very closely to federal government priorities. For example, one of our top priorities is to improve the Canada-U.S. border infrastructure to facilitate secure and efficient trade. This government is also serious about attracting new automotive investment to Canada, another core priority identified in the CAPC report. This is evidenced by the government's $100 million contribution related to Ford's $1.2 billion investment in the Oakville facilities and important new research and undertakings by Ford.

Budget 2004 committed the government to develop a new strategic automotive framework. I will reiterate for all members of this House that we are working hard to develop this framework. Several ministers are involved with the auto issues, and CAPC and others have expressed perspectives that we are assessing.

This new strategic automotive framework will outline a vision for Canada's automotive sector through the year 2020 and examine the key competitive issues impacting its long term growth. Skills development, R and D, trade infrastructure and regulatory harmonization will be important parts of the basis of this study.

It is very important to realize that this minister and this government are very concerned about moving the agenda of the auto sector forward. We are putting plans together at this point in time and with other departments, by the way, because it is not one department in the federal government but several that are involved in making sure the auto industry has the correct direction. I am sure the member for Windsor West would agree with me that we must make certain we get it right and we get it straight the first time. It is critical that we look at all suggestions and all directions very carefully and make sure we have it right as we introduce it in the House.

World Trade OrganizationAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would agree that we have to get this straight and get it right and that is what I have been asking for since 2002. This is why I find it very difficult to accept promises.

The minister said specifically on November 2:

Over the next couple of weeks we will be putting together the final touches on an automotive industry strategy for all of Canada.

That was within two weeks and we are on the third week today. I understand that we do need to have organization and meetings with the different departments to have the file progress, but at the same time we have important opportunities. For example, there is GM's Project Beacon right now.

Taxpayers deserve to understand the transparency of supporting procurement and renewing the auto industry. That is why I think this government needs to be held to the fire: to make sure it actually completes the progress it claims is happening on the file. The minister said it could be done in a couple of weeks and I will not be satisfied unless we actually hear some public discourse and greater commitment to the auto industry, because verbatim does not do it anymore.

World Trade OrganizationAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


Jerry Pickard Liberal Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no question. It is critical that we work with industry and all of the people who are participants in the auto industry and that we make sure we have coordinated all the departments in the federal government. I believe the minister has been moving in that direction and working very hard.

The Beacon project was mentioned. I believe the government is very serious about working with General Motors in order to make sure that our opportunities and direction will be positive ones for the auto industry in this country, but it is extremely important to make sure that all proper elements are in place.

Our discussions with CAPC people occurred just a couple of weeks ago and it is critical to realize that their input was extremely important in making sure the auto policy in this country goes forward, so we have to work with all shareholders and make sure we move in the right direction.

World Trade OrganizationAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.


Rona Ambrose Conservative Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this issue as it is an issue of great importance for the people of Alberta and for many Canadians. The Conservative Party of Canada is committed to appointing elected senators from any province that holds elections and we think it is time the Liberals made the same commitment.

The question I asked was very specific. I asked:

Will the Prime Minister keep his word to Premier Klein and use his unilateral power to appoint Alberta's elected senators?

Breaking this suggestion down, I asked two things. First, I asked if he would keep his promise to Premier Klein that he would consider appointing a senator from Alberta. Second, I asked if he would use his unilateral power to appoint a senator that Albertans have chosen in an election.

In response, the hon. deputy House leader and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform answered:

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has indicated repeatedly that we are open to reform of the Senate, but we are not going to do it in a piecemeal manner. If we are to reform the Senate, it will be done entirely. For that, we need a consensus, a wide consensus across this country, which is obviously not present at the current time.

The answer I received is deficient on five fronts. First, it came from the Minister responsible for Democratic Reform. The point is, I wanted to hear from the Prime Minister. It simply is not right that he would make a promise and then hide behind the minister when Canadians ask that he keep his promise, but this of course is something we have seen a lot of from the Prime Minister.

Second, the answer did not acknowledge the promise the Prime Minister made to Premier Klein at the Grey Cup meeting last year.

Third, the Prime Minister did not get up to acknowledge that he has the unilateral power to appoint senators, and he did not tell us whether he thought that was a good thing.

Fourth, we hear a lot about the desire of the Prime Minister to reform the Senate, but we do not know how he would like to reform the Senate. We do not know what policy he has regarding how the Senate ought to be reformed. We have not seen any action on Senate reform from the Prime Minister.

So we do not know what he thinks and we do not know what he would do. On this issue, the Prime Minister has been inert. Albertans are now eager to see what he is planning on doing in relation to the Senate. It is time for him to act.

Finally, the minister did not say whether or not he believes in the overall goal of an elected Senate and whether or not Alberta's senators of choice would be, in his mind, fit for an appointment by him to the Senate. I, for one, trust the electorate. I wonder if the Prime Minister does not. If that is so, why not?

I think it goes without saying that the answer was lacking, but I would argue further that the answer was intentionally vague and lacking so that the Prime Minister can hedge, do nothing and keep his back turned to Alberta as long as possible.

Let us think about it. He said that he is for Senate reform but only if we open up the Pandora's box of the Constitution and do it all at once. He is on the record as supporting wholesale Senate reform as far back as 10 years ago.

If we look at our parliamentary history, both here in Canada and in the history our country has inherited from Britain, much of what we do is based upon convention. The laws that we create are more often than not a recognition of what works or what has been working informally versus radical change.

It is in this light that we ask the Prime Minister to appoint Alberta's elected senators to the upper chamber. Let us see if it does work. It seems that we do a somewhat competent job as elected officials in Parliament, so a precedent does exist for him to at least try.

I would therefore suggest that appointing an elected senator is one way for the Prime Minister to prove to others that his apparent dream of an elected Senate could work, but as with much of what the Prime Minister does, most Canadians are starting to see that it is all a bunch of talk, which is really too bad because more and more Canadians are suggesting that they want a voice in the Senate and that the Senate should be elected.

Other provinces have signalled an interest in Senate reform, so this is not an all or nothing issue. And it is not an Alberta versus Ottawa issue. It is an issue about representation and democracy. Yet the Prime Minister is doing nothing when instead he could show some leadership on fixing the democratic deficit.

Under the formulation--

World Trade OrganizationAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

We will hear a response from the hon. deputy government House leader.

World Trade OrganizationAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Ottawa—Vanier Ontario


Mauril Bélanger LiberalDeputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to elaborate on the response given in answer to the question from the hon. member for Edmonton—Spruce Grove.

First of all, this is not a question of whether it is constitutionally possible for the Prime Minister to appoint senators that have been elected in provincial elections. No one questions whether the Prime Minister could do so if he wished. That is certainly his prerogative. However, constitutionality is not the only question here. There is a larger question on whether or not it is a good idea to appoint elected senators and thereby embark on a piecemeal path to Senate reform.

This brings me to a point that has been repeatedly made and that is the Prime Minister's position on Senate appointments. There have been a number of occasions over the past year, both before and after the recent federal election, where the Prime Minister was asked specifically about his position on the issue of appointing elected senators.

At a CBC public town hall meeting in Ottawa last February he was asked whether he would appoint senators elected in Alberta. The reply he gave then has been his consistent position on this matter. He supports Senate reform but not in a piecemeal fashion.

As the Prime Minister and others have noted, the method of appointment is only one aspect of the Senate. Fundamental reform would need to consider other matters, such as the distribution of seats among provinces and the Senate's role in Parliament. This type of reform cannot be done unilaterally. It will require a consensual approach with the provinces and we should let the Council of the Federation, which embarked to look at this under the leadership of the premiers of New Brunswick and British Columbia, time to carry out its work.

On September 8, following the cabinet retreat in Kelowna, the Prime Minister again was asked this question and again made it clear that pending an agreement on comprehensive reform, which someday we hope to see emerge, he intends to continue to make Senate appointments in the traditional fashion.

Last month, in correspondence to Premier Klein, the Prime Minister reiterated his view that piecemeal changes to one aspect of the Senate would not be an effective way of achieving meaningful reform. At the same time, he reaffirmed that the government remains willing to consider fundamental changes to the Senate should the provinces come forward with a consensual approach.

This brings us to last week, when once again the Prime Minister was clear in response to the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister said:

I do not believe that doing Senate reform piecemeal would bring us the desired result. What it could quite well do is simply exacerbate a number of the problems. What I think we should do is look at Senate reform but look at it in its entirety.

The Prime Minister's position on this matter has been clear and consistent, and for good reason. Patchwork or scatter-gun reforms would cause more problems than they would solve.

World Trade OrganizationAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.


Rona Ambrose Conservative Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

Mr. Speaker, the one thing that the Prime Minister has not been on this issue is clear. The member talks about not wanting to reform the Senate in a piecemeal way, but we have not seen any sort of comprehensive plan that he is suggesting, that some day will be implemented down the road. If he is truly committed to it, then I would suggest that he puts a plan forward immediately, whether it is piecemeal or a whole plan.

When the Prime Minister made the comments and the overtures to Premier Klein at the Grey Cup meeting last year that he would look favourably at appointing the elected senators in Alberta, he set into motion a set of expectations. Premier Klein has held Senate elections and Albertans have spent $3 million of taxpayers' money holding these elections. Now he has gone back on his word and I have a serious problem with that.

World Trade OrganizationAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has been consistent on this. He said that we would entertain Senate reform but in its entirety and not in a piecemeal manner. He is not the only one saying that. I hope the members opposite will take note that there are a number of commentators that have noted the same thing.

I refer to a recent study by Gordon Gibson who is well known in western Canada. He has been quite an ardent supporter of Senate reform for many years. He was particularly critical of the idea of appointing elected senators as an interim solution to fundamental Senate reform. In fact, he referred to this idea as a horror show. He noted that under current rules once senators were elected they would be able to serve until the age of 75 without ever standing for election again. That is in the Constitution.

More importantly, he also noted that the imbalance in the distribution of seats in the Senate would remain, and what he called the recipe for serious national discord. To say nothing of the institutional dysfunction that could result from having senators appointed via different methods.

It is for these reasons and many more that the Prime Minister has consistently argued against half measures and piecemeal reform. His arguments are sound.

World Trade OrganizationAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(4) the motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been withdrawn. The House will now resolve itself into committee of the whole to study all votes under Health in the main estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2005.

I do now leave the chair for the House to resolve itself into committee of the whole.

(House in committee of the whole for consideration of all votes under Health in the Main Estimates, Mr. Strahl in the chair.)

SupplyGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

The Chair

Order, please. I would like to open this committee of the whole session by making a short statement on this evening's proceedings.

Tonight's debate is being held under Standing Order 81(4)(a) which provides for each of two sets of estimates selected by the Leader of the Opposition to be considered in committee of the whole for up to four hours. Last week the committee considered all of the votes under Canadian Heritage.

Let me explain how we will proceed. Tonight's debate is a general one on all of the votes under Health. Earlier today the House adopted a special order that established the rules of debate for tonight. They are as follows.

Each member will be allocated 15 minutes. When a member is recognized, he or she will indicate if the 15 minute period will be shared and how the time is to be apportioned between speeches and questions and answers. In other words, a member might say that he or she has a five minute opening statement and questions to follow, or whatever the numbers are.

In the interest of fairness, the Chair will expect that the minister's responses will generally reflect the time taken by the questions since this time will be counted in the time allotted to the member. Members may speak more than once though the Chair will try to ensure that all members wishing to speak are heard before inviting members to speak again. Members need not be in their own seat to be recognized.

As your Chair, I will be guided by the rules of committee of the whole agreed upon earlier by the House leaders of all parties. However, in the interest of a full exchange, I am prepared to exercise discretion and flexibility in the application of these rules.

The first round will be the usual round for all parties, namely, the Conservatives, the government, the Bloc Quebecois and the New Democratic Party. After that we will follow the usual proportional rotation.

At the conclusion of tonight's debate we will rise, the estimates will be deemed reported to the House, and the House will adjourn until tomorrow.

We may now begin tonight's session and the Chair will recognize the hon. member for Charleswood--St. James--Assiniboia.

SupplyGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.


Steven Fletcher Conservative Charleswood—St. James, MB

Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the minister for coming out this evening. We have some very important issues that we would like to raise. My first question for the minister is, when you were Premier of British Columbia, you favoured--