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House of Commons Hansard #155 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.

Topics

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11:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, having listened to the minister, I cannot help but think we are starting to see the same kind of sell out that we have been seeing with softwood lumber. I come from British Columbia and very clearly the government has done nothing to stand up for Canadian interests.

The minister congratulated himself for the sensitive product regime. I have heard this from the horse's mouth, his chief negotiator for the WTO. At that time, he estimated that 11% of our products were part of the sensitive product regime and the Americans were pressing for 1%. His chief negotiator said that the compromise would be somewhere in between. This indicates the minister is willing to sell out half of supply management or perhaps three-quarters of it. He will stand up for the sensitive product regime, but we will end up with a decimated supply management system.

Therefore, would the minister confirm to the House today that his government will not sign any agreement that has a negative impact on the supply management sector and on communities across the country which depend on it?

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Andy Mitchell Liberal Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have a very serious topic about protecting Canadian producers and the hon. member chooses to throw rhetoric onto the House. That is his choice.

I am sure my negotiator said nothing about softwood lumber because he does not deal with that file. The hon. member's rhetoric about softwood lumber is absolutely wrong.

In terms of the American proposal on 1% of sensitive products, Canada clearly has rejected that and so too have most other countries. I will reiterate that we will work to an agreement that protects all of Canadian agriculture, including supply management.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I wish to advise the House that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Macleod.

I rise today to speak to an issue that concerns all agricultural producers in our country. That is the critical importance of positive outcomes from the current Doha round of negotiations at the WTO. All sectors of our agricultural community are anxiously awaiting the results of this current round of talks. Enough cannot be said about how much is on the line for all sectors of agriculture in this round. In fact, all sectors of agriculture in the country deserve our support, and I mean every one of them.

I am pleased to be part of a caucus that is determined and committed to supporting and defending all Canadian farmers.

Why are we here today? The WTO negotiations are underway and producers in all sectors should feel secure that their concerns and priorities are being kept in mind by their government. For the record, I wish to make clear what the Conservative Party position is in this round of negotiations.

The Conservative Party of Canada supports the goals of the Doha round, those being substantial improvements in market access, the phasing out of export subsidies and substantial reductions in trade distorting domestic support. This position is affirmed in the Conservative Party's international trade policy, which reads:

In future rounds of trade negotiations, a Conservative Government will vigorously pursue reduction of international trade barriers and tariffs. A Conservative Government will pursue the elimination of trade-distorting government export subsidies within clearly established time limits. A Conservative Government will seek a clear definition of what constitutes an export subsidy.

The Conservative Party is also strongly in support of supply management. This support is reflected in our party policy, which states:

The Conservative Party of Canada believes it is in the best interest of Canada and Canadian agriculture that the industries under the protection of supply management remain viable. A Conservative government will support the goal of supply management to deliver a high quality product to consumers for a fair price with a reasonable return to the producer.

Furthermore, our leader, the member for Calgary Southwest, has expressed his strong support for supply management by signing a declaration in support of this system.

Producers under supply management should know that the Conservative Party will continue to stand by dairy, poultry and egg producers. Further to that, we also passed a resolution at our convention in Montreal that forms our party's guiding principles when dealing with agricultural issues. It forms the foundation for how we will deal with agriculture in the future. It states:

The Conservative Party views the agriculture industry to be a key strategic economic sector of Canada. We recognize that various regions of Canada and sectors of the industry hold competitive advantages in agricultural production. National agricultural policy will reflect our belief that one size does not fit all.

When it comes to that last bit about one size does not fit all, I will explain that. I am sure at some point or another members have been in one of the fancy hotels where they provide nice fluffy robes. Unfortunately, no matter whether it is the member and his or her spouse who check in, the hotel only provides one robe, but it says that one size fits all. On average, it probably does fit, but it may be too small for the member and too big for the spouse. Really it suits no one but on average it fits everyone.

This is our approach to Conservative agricultural policy. One size, one solution will not fit all. We have to recognize that as we develop solutions, they must be tailored to the needs of the various sectors of the agricultural industry. We will recognize that when we form government.

Canada's agriculture sectors are as diverse as Canada itself, and I believe our policy reflects that. It is in light of this diversity that we wish to work, and are trying to work, with our Bloc colleagues on an amendment to the motion that would reflect the wide diversity of agricultural interests in Canada and in Quebec.

The amendment we will be seeking is intended to protect producers under supply management, while seeking the enhancement of agricultural exports that are so needed by so many sectors in our country. I am not talking just about the grains and oilseeds, or the corn producers, or cattle producers or any others, I also am talking about those producers who operate under supply management.

In my riding of Haldimand--Norfolk I have been approached by many producers, many dairy farmers, who were very frustrated by the closure of the border to the U.S. as a result of BSE. Even though they are supply managed, they depend heavily on exports of their replacement heifers. There also is the issue of several other products from supply management that these producers want to export to increase their production and therefore their profitability.

When we talk about supporting the export-oriented agricultural producers, we include the dairy and the poultry producers, all those under supply management, in this category.

We know no one agricultural sector wants to profit at the expense of another and regardless of the sector, agricultural 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, but this whole thing boils down to accountability. The biggest challenge that supply management faces is the international pressure to reduce tariffs on all agricultural commodities. Without tariffs, Canada's supply managed industries are unable to predict the amount of imports and the whole system is disturbed. Predictability is a key component of supply management and that is managed through the board of controls, one of the three pillars of supply management.

During this round of talks at WTO, the Prime Minister and his Liberals are once again promising to protect supply management. Frankly, based on the record of the Liberals and their complete lack of accountability, as demonstrated most glaringly by the sponsorship scandal, I have to wonder if Canadian dairy, poultry and egg producers can trust them.

The last time around, Liberals sold out Canada's farmers by signing away article XI which protected the industry with quantitative import restrictions. These were replaced with tariffs which have proven to be a failure in protecting Canadian producers from international competition. A case in point is we are witnessing substitute products designed to get around the tariffs, displacing Canadian dairy products in the production of ice cream.

Again, I cannot reiterate the critical importance of ensuring that all Canadian agricultural producers are fairly represented at the WTO so as to ensure that their best interests are looked after.

My concern is, having spoken with a number of producers in Haldimand--Norfolk, they are very frustrated. It is true that they need more access, but our supply managed farmers have seen over the last 12 years various components in protection measurements of supply management chiseled away at, like water eroding a rock. It does not happen overnight, but a lot of damage can be done over time. They recognize now it is not a coincidence that this erosion has taken place over 12 years, the same amount of time the Liberal government has been in power. That is too much of a coincidence.

The Liberal government has been at the negotiations, conducting the negotiations and selling supply management out at those negotiations. It is one more example of the low regard with which the Liberal government holds agriculture across this country. We have seen it in many ways. We have seen them poke the U.S. in the eye with a stick on one issue and then ask for a favour on the BSE.

We were scheduled to have a debate this evening on the very real crisis in farm incomes, but it had to be cancelled at the request of the Liberal government.

These negotiations in the Doha round are important to all Canadians, not just our farmers. One in eight Canadian jobs is a result of agricultural production. That is how important this is.

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11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really enjoyed the hon. member's speech.

We are just a few weeks away from the WTO negotiations, in Hong Kong. There is a gloomy feeling among producers in my riding, in Quebec and in Canada. Supply management, which is a great system for the marketing of agricultural products such as milk, eggs and poultry, is being threatened. Right now, producers do not have confidence in this government.

Back home, the president of the UPA is worried. He said:

On the eve of the renewal of the Canadian negotiators' mandate, if what is currently on the WTO table is to be agreed to—that being the lowering of over-quota tariffs and increased access to our milk, egg and poultry markets—this would be a death sentence for any productions that are under supply management”.

My question is for the hon. member. The latest American proposal during the negotiations is that what are known as sensitive products in the WTO negotiations not be accessible to more than 1% of the tariff lines. If that measure is implemented, 80% of the supply managed products would be threatened.

What does the Conservative member think of the government's position, which has not been openly critical of the American proposal?

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have to make sure that we have all the details and that we do not just look at one aspect of the negotiations.

I had the opportunity to be involved in a number of different negotiations in my career prior to entering this House. We must always keep the perspective of the big picture. We must pay attention to the details but look at the whole picture. If we talk about one issue like this in isolation, we are not considering the broader picture. We have to make sure that we look at the whole picture; otherwise, we would just be chiselling away at ourselves. This is just common sense in any negotiation.

To discuss any one particular phase, as the hon. member is asking me to do, would be irresponsible without looking at what else is happening in terms of market access that is being granted to us and what our counterparts in Europe and the U.S. would be doing. Already over the last 12 years we have accelerated the decrease in our tariffs whereas they have not kept up. We have to make sure that Europe and the U.S. accelerate their timelines to catch up with us.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the comments from the Conservative Party's agriculture critic. She put forward a very impassioned defence of supply management. This is important, because in this House we need to stand four-square. All four corners of this House need to support supply management institutions and the communities across the country that depend on them.

She signed a letter in July 2005 which said something quite different. I will read it into the record:

It is absolutely not the position of the Conservative Party that the Government of Canada leave the WTO negotiations if over quota tariffs on sensitive products are reduced.

She concludes her letter by saying:

Again, I believe it would be irresponsible for Canada's negotiators to walk away from the WTO negotiations.

Here we have a situation where we know the Liberal government is prepared to at least sell out half of supply management, if not three-quarters or four-fifths, and the Conservative Party was saying, at least in the summer, that it would not stop that process of selling out half, three-quarters or 80% of our supply management sectors.

I am asking the hon. member which is the Conservative Party's position, what she said today in an impassioned defence of supply management, or what she said in July?

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Diane Finley Conservative Haldimand—Norfolk, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have heard of trade distortion, but that was a classic example that really set a new record.

What I said in July in the letter was perfectly consistent. I do not understand how the hon. member across the way would pretend to defend supply management if he were to walk away from the table, which is what he is suggesting I should do. If we are going to protect people in negotiations, we have to be at the table. We cannot defend them by walking away, because who would be there to defend their interests? No one. It is in everybody's best interests to remain at the table and continue with the negotiations, not to take a hard-line position, throw a hissy fit and walk out. That will not accomplish anything for anyone. For the hon. member to suggest otherwise indicates that he does not understand the sophistication of this process.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge my hon. colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska for bringing forward this motion. I have had the privilege of travelling with the member and recognize his understanding of the agricultural issues.

It is a great opportunity for us to rise in the House and represent our constituents. Many of my constituents are farmers, as am I.

I have some concerns with how narrowly focused the motion is. It certainly speaks to one sector of agriculture, but we need to recognize that there is more than one sector of agriculture in Canada. Despite the rhetoric we are hearing from the other side, the Conservative Party is very adamantly supporting supply management, as it is supporting all sectors of agriculture. In fact, 24 of the members from this side of the House are farmers themselves. They do not just represent rural ridings, they are farmers themselves. I think we understand of what we speak.

As we approach the federal election campaign, and we all recognize there is one soon to be upon us, I would like to contrast the ambitious Conservative approach to agriculture and trade policy to the utter failure shown by the Liberal government on trade and agriculture.

The motion should be broadened, as I have mentioned, to show the government's failures not just regarding supply management, but also regarding our export oriented sectors. The grains and oilseeds sector, beef and value added products have been left completely out of the motion.

The Government of Canada should reiterate its support for supply management. We have heard a bit of the rhetoric, but I am not sure that can be classified as solid support for this sector.

The Government of Canada must ensure sufficient flexibility to retain supply managed production after the conclusion of the current WTO round. The government must also recognize that nearly 90% of Canadian agricultural producers rely on exports. The Government of Canada must mandate our WTO negotiators to ensure the elimination of export subsidies by a specific end date and ensure substantial reduction of trade-distorting domestic support under clear definitions of what constitutes a subsidy. We must get clear rules for tariff rate quota administration, with the goal of increasing clear market access for Canadian agriculture products in foreign markets.

The Liberal government has not supported supply management. It has not supported any sector of the farming community. Liberal support has resulted in probably the largest farm crisis that we have faced in decades. It is not much to be proud of.

Liberal support has resulted in repeated trade challenges from our closest trading partners. With this kind of Liberal support, the farm industry could probably do quite well without it.

There are politics in all things, according to the Minister of Agriculture, but farmers cannot afford to wait while the Liberal government gives out untendered contracts to the likes of David Herle so he can poll to find out what international trade policy might win the Liberals the most votes.

It is clear that the Liberal government is not up to the job any more. The Liberals have lost the moral authority to govern and we on this side are ready to take up the reins of government and bring policy back to the best interests of Canadians.

Farmers, agri-business and average Canadians just are not buying the Liberal hype any more. They see through the Liberal threats and they are ready for change. They will not accept the crass politicking from the Minister of International Trade, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of International Cooperation having threatened Canada's farmers, non-governmental organizations and business communities by saying they will not attend the WTO meetings in Hong Kong in December. That is unacceptable.

The Conservative Party stands four-square behind Canada's farmers. We have members such as myself who have actually attended ministerial meetings before. I was a farmer representing the agricultural industry at the Seattle trade talks in 1999 and again in Cancun in 2003. That of course was before I was a member of the House. We have actually made an effort to talk to other countries. We have tried to build bridges with no backup from the agriculture minister.

On this side of the House we have the experience and commitment to negotiate free trade agreements that benefit, not harm, Canadian agriculture. A Conservative government would not threaten to boycott WTO meetings for partisan political gain. The Liberal government has consistently played the interests of Canadian farmers against each other to achieve its objectives.

The Conservative Party does not believe that consulting our trade partners is an acceptable negotiating ploy. The Conservative Party of Canada would mandate Canadian negotiators to table proposals at the WTO, not hang around simply on the margins hoping to ride on someone else's coattails.

The Conservative Party of Canada is committed to making Canada a good faith broker on the international stage. According to former Liberal trade ministers and negotiators, it is embarrassing to see how little Canada counts at the WTO. According to former Canadian trade negotiator Bill Dymond, Canada has become essentially marginalized.

It took 12 years of Liberal government to destroy what hard-working Canadians have achieved in almost 150 years. It is time to stand up for Canada. That means it is time for a Conservative government.

The Liberal government has been in power for over 12 years. Farm incomes have dropped all the while. Trade irritants have grown and have been grossly mismanaged by the Liberal government. Producers in agri-business have rejected the Liberal farm support programs, have questioned the Liberals' lack of trade vision, and have demanded real action on policy reform. After over 12 years, things are just worse for everyone. Canada needs a Conservative government to clean up this mess.

Because the Minister of Agriculture refused to come to the House of Commons on November 22 and account for Canada's farm income crisis, Parliament is unable to debate what solutions might be available for this crisis.

The Minister of Agriculture voted against a Conservative motion to drop the deposits on the CAIS program. We were willing to accept that this may work, but the minister, recognizing its failure, would not support a motion because it did not come from his side of the House. The Minister of Agriculture voted against a Conservative motion to return the lands appropriated for Mirabel airport to Quebec farmers.

Canadian farmers have suffered from poor ministerial representation at WTO negotiations. An example of the Liberals shirking their duties to Canadian farmers was the absence of the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of International Trade at the mini ministerial meeting in Kenya on March 2 to 4 of this year. At this meeting member countries discussed their commitments to the Doha round of the WTO. The international trade minister and agriculture and agri-food minister were not at the meeting because they were attending a Liberal convention. Under the rules of the mini ministerial meeting, without a minister present, no other representatives of that country are allowed to speak officially.

The Liberals have done a poor job of showing other countries that Canada's supply managed sectors ought to be exempt from WTO negotiations. The proof is that many other countries believe that supply management is purely a government subsidy program when in fact it is not.

These ministers' poor showing at the WTO imperils the livelihoods of all farmers. Canada is the third largest agricultural exporter in the world. Given that the two ministers have given mixed messages at the WTO and member countries, it is not surprising that Canada is losing its credibility among WTO countries.

A former Liberal international trade minister, Roy MacLaren, went on the record in the Globe and Mail on November 8 by saying, “Canada has mysteriously disappeared from the global trade arena”. He also said:

Canada's current policy of ambivalence--offering little in terms of liberalization, free-riding on what others negotiate, and implicitly protecting our preferential access to the U.S. market by not pushing for an ambitious global deal--may buy short-term political peace.

I leave members with one final question: do we not all deserve better than the Liberal government has given us?

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11:40 a.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development)

Mr. Speaker, what a ridiculous rant and so far off today's motion. Talking about standing up for Canadian farmers, this government and this minister have stood up for Canadian farmers consistently inclusive of supply management.

That is why the payments to Canadian farmers have never been higher in Canadian history. The member opposite knows full well that the real reason why commodity prices remain so low is as a result of the global situation that exists out there. Both the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food have negotiated extensively and put Canada on the map. In fact, they punched far above their weight in terms of those negotiations.

However, the party opposite talks about undermining the credibility of a government and its members are trying to defeat the government in the House when the most important international trade negotiations ever are taking place. We would not have a minister there with the confidence of the Canadian people. That party is undermining our ability to do our job at the WTO.

I have a question on the specifics of the motion today. This was the policy of the party opposite in May 2002. It stated:

We will ensure that any agreement which impacts Supply Management gives our producers guaranteed access to foreign markets, and that there will be a significant transition period in any move towards a market-driven environment.

That was the policy as of May 2002. Is that still that party's position?

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy questions from my hon. colleague on the other side of the House. I know that he has a great deal of agricultural experience, growing potatoes in Prince Edward Island, and representing the socialist side of agriculture that does not believe that there is a future in agriculture without protection.

The rest of us understand that we are a trading nation and that the future of Canada being able to compete on an international scale is providing opportunities for those farmers, opportunities that market access can and will be negotiated in Hong Kong whether or not our agriculture minister is there. There is no reason on earth why our agriculture minister, our trade minister, and our Minister of International Cooperation cannot be in Hong Kong. The precedent has been set.

The Prime Minister travelled to a G-7 conference in the middle of the last election. I would ask any hon. member in the House to give me a reason why this meeting in Hong Kong is not important enough for the government to defend not only agriculture but all industries in this country? If the Liberals are not willing to stand up for Canadian industries, they better not expect to ever govern again.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Liberal

Raymond Simard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Internal Trade

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all parties concerning the recorded division scheduled to take place later today on the motion to concur in the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. I believe that you would find unanimous consent to the following motion: I move:

That the motion to concur in the 10th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, be deemed carried on division.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent?

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Conservative Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, in talking with producers in my riding and supply managed sectors, there is growing anxiety and it has been happening over the past decade under the Liberal government's rule. Producers are looking at Hong Kong and quite frankly, it is make it or break it for their future right now.

We have a minister who does not show up at a mini-ministerial meeting. Instead, he was at a Liberal convention. What does that speak about the government's priorities in protecting supply managed sectors?

My hon. colleague was in my riding not that long ago to talk to producers, to talk to supply managed producers, and I have this question for him. Is it any cold comfort that the government is representing us at the WTO for them, when instead the Liberals prefer going to conventions instead of to meetings to talk about what is going to happen in Hong Kong?

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to publically acknowledge the warm reception I received when I visited with some of the farmers that the hon. member represents. Certainly, we heard some concerns from corn producers who are looking at the government and asking what it is doing to stop the dumping of U.S. corn that has dropped prices incredibly low. We met with dairy farmers and we reassured them of the strength in this caucus on this side of the House that will stand up, even if those ministers claim they cannot go to defend the interest of supply management. We would be proud to do that.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise on behalf of the NDP caucus on this motion by the hon. for Richmond—Arthabaska. It really strikes to the very heart of both the agricultural crisis that we are currently living through and the government's repeated sellout of Canadian interests.

I would like to begin by reading for the record the motion itself:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should give its negotiators a mandate during the negotiations at the World Trade Organization so that, at the end of the current round of negotiations, Canada obtains results that ensure that the supply management sectors are subject to no reduction in over-quota tariffs and no increase in tariff quotas, so that these sectors can continue to provide producers with a fair and equitable income.

This is an important point because the motion calls for, and we will be supporting the motion in the House, full protection for the supply management sector. There are no ifs, ands or buts. It calls for full protection for the communities from coast to coast that depend on supply management to provide that equitable and fair income to which the motion refers.

We have heard in just the last few minutes both the Liberal Party position and the Conservative Party position. When I asked the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food directly whether he would refuse to sign any agreement that would diminish our supply management sector and hurt communities from coast to coast, he did not answer. He did not for one very good reason because he is prepared, as is the rest of his government, to sell out supply management.

As the negotiator for the WTO clearly indicated in a briefing a few weeks ago, 11% of our products are in the sensitive product regime. The Americans are demanding that it be reduced to a ceiling of 1% and the negotiator felt that the compromise would be somewhere in between.

We see very clearly from the negotiator, and the motion refers to a solid mandate that would be given to the negotiator, that the figure is going somewhere between 1% and 11%. What that percentage will be, we do not know. Is he prepared on behalf of the government to sell out 50% of our supply management sector? We do not know. Is he prepared to sell out 75% of our supply management sector? We do not know that either. Is it 90% of our supply management sector that will be gone after these negotiations?

The truth is that we do not know how much of our supply management will be sold out. We do know that the negotiator and the government are prepared to sell out a huge chunk of it. We know that there will be enormous ramifications in communities from coast to coast that depend on our supply management institutions and expect our government to stand up for those institutions.

I will be coming back later on to the whole issue of the repeated sellouts of the Liberal government. However, it is important to note a couple of comments that the trade minister made in a recent interview a few weeks ago on other aspects of essential parts of Canada's economic institutions that support communities from coast to coast.

In an interview with the National Post , the international trade minister, in referring to the fact that the Americans are coming after the Canadian Wheat Board, said, almost bragging, that we have made concessions to the Americans with respect to the financing of the Canadian Wheat Board and in respect to underwriting losses.

He was asked if he could articulate our position on softwood and energy, if there was a linkage or not? He said very clearly that there was no linkage. We have an international trade minister who has signalled not only with supply management but obviously with the Wheat Board, and obviously with NAFTA, and the privileged and proportional access to our energy resources that we continue to give even though we no longer have a functioning dispute settlement mechanism, that the government's intent is to sell out again. We have a very clear indication from this Liberal government that it is ready to sell out a huge chunk of supply management.

How many communities would be impacted? How many farmers would be shut down? We do not know at this point. It is all in the fog. However, very clearly, the intent is there. The negotiator is going with the intent to sell out supply management and this government, coming back from Hong Kong, will try to spin it by saying it saved 4%, or it saved 5%, or it saved 6%, or 2% of supply management and in some way claim that as a victory. That is completely unacceptable.

With this parliamentary motion, that we hope would be adopted with support from all four corners of the House, we would hope to move forward, so that the negotiator understands that he is not to sell out any portion of supply management institutions that maintain our communities from coast to coast.

The next question should be: If the Liberal government is prepared to sell out supply management, what are the Conservatives prepared to do?

We had an answer from its agriculture critic just a few minutes ago in this House. Indeed, even though the Conservatives are ready to make the speeches in the House saying that they support supply management in principle, very clearly, the Conservative Party, as it stated clearly and concisely this summer, is prepared to allow our supply management institutions to be gutted and it will stay at the table and sign whatever agreement is put forward.

With the Liberals and the Conservatives both ready to sell out a significant proportion of our supply management institutions, it appears, certainly outside Quebec, that there is only one party standing up for the communities from coast to coast that depend on supply management, and that is sad.

I am hoping the Conservatives will adjust their fire, will support the motion, and will speak very clearly that they will not sign a WTO agreement that guts our supply management institutions. The Liberals have clearly signalled that is where they are going.

The Conservatives are going to have to change their statements and change their attitudes if they hope to keep seats in rural Canada because, as we know, this is a significant issue. Rural Canada will not accept half measures, will not accept half of the gutting of supply management, and will not accept a three-quarters gutting of supply management.

Rural Canada will accept complete protection of our supply management institutions and will not support a government or a party that will simply allow those institutions to be gutted. That is the essential issue that we are talking about today. We are talking about the fundamental support for supply management.

Why would we support supply management? We know fully that communities from coast to coast depend on it. We are talking about supply managed industries that add a net $12.3 billion to our GDP. Why this government would mess with that formula is beyond me, but very clearly, it has signalled the intent to do that.

We are talking about supply managed industries that support $39 billion of economic activity and the government, like some drunken sailor on shore leave, is ready to gamble all that at the WTO in Hong Kong, ready to sell out and gut what is an essential part of rural Canada and an essential part of the Canadian economy.

Our supply management industries, as well, sustain more than 214,000 jobs: 75,000 on the farms, almost 48,000 in farm supplies, and over 91,000 in the processing sector. A total of over 214,000 jobs dependent on our supply managed industry. We are talking about one out of every five jobs in Canada's food industry.

When we are talking about something that plays an essential role in the Canadian economy why would the government be prepared to sell off a huge chunk and gut our supply managed sector?

It is important to note that it is not just Canadians who have jobs and rural communities from coast to coast that benefit from the supply managed sector. It is also consumers who benefit. One of the recent surveys done by the Dairy Farmers of Canada reveals that Canadian consumers pay 6.5% less for a nutritional basket of dairy products in Canada than for the same basket in the United States. It is a very important point. Consumers in Canada benefit from our supply managed sector as well.

We are not just talking about the hundreds of thousands of jobs that depend on it, the thousands of farms and communities from coast to coast that depend on the supply managed sector, we are also talking about the benefit to Canadian consumers, this distinct structure that Canadians have which other countries would like to emulate, which I will come back to later in my presentation. This distinct sector benefits consumers as well as farmers and it helps supply hundreds of thousands of jobs to the Canadian economy.

We are talking about something that is fundamental to rural Canada. It is extremely important for the Canadian economy. I am absolutely flabbergasted by the fact that the government is prepared to auction off this critical and vital sector of the Canadian economy.

Last month, Jean-Robert Sansfaçon wrote an article in Le Devoir , in which he mentioned the benefits of the supply management system. He said:

Because of the higher costs generated by maintaining reasonable size farms in a rigorous climate such as ours—

Such as the climate with which we are very familiar in Canada.

—the supply management system adequately meets our needs, while ensuring decent revenues to producers. To accept to abolish this system and replace it with a free trade initiative would result in thousands of farms being abandoned, and in thousands of others being consolidated under large size operations, and we would all lose. Nothing justifies such a dismantlement of the agricultural sector, which is already very affected by anarchic modernism, and the hog industry is a sad example of that.

We are talking about something that benefits rural Canada, all of Quebec, western Canada, northern Ontario, Atlantic Canada and the whole country. Our communities all depend on this vital and critical sector.

Why would the government be ready to sell out? The chief negotiator has clearly signalled that the government is ready to sell out most, if not all. It has certainly drawn the line at 1% or 1.5%, so it would be conserving some sort of symbolic presence in supply management.

This has been the tendency of the government over the last 10 years. We have seen this with softwood lumber. In August the dispute settlement mechanism was arbitrarily ripped up by George Bush. Since then, the government has done nothing, albeit, make one phone call.

We have heard lots of speeches about getting tough and doing something, but that has been for domestic consumption only. We have not seen one concrete action by the government to bring resolution to this and to bring back the now $5.5 billion that is sitting partially in Washington because of the Byrd amendment, but as we know, millions of dollars have been paid out under the Byrd amendment that we have lost forever.

The government did not recall Parliament early, even though we called very clearly for that action to occur. The government continues to negotiate concessions under NAFTA-plus in such key areas as food safety and air safety. The government is negotiating right now with the Bush administration to lower our standards to American ones. We wonder why the Bush administration does not take the government seriously when it is negotiating other concessions.

The government continues to give proportional and privileged access to our energy resources. We are the only country in the world that provides a foreign country a supply of energy before Canadians have the right to access that and, as we know, in the event of a national shortage, a national emergency, we still have to ship most of our energy supplies across the border to the United States in the framework of NAFTA.

We have proportional and privileged access on energy continued to be granted to the Bush administration at the same time as the reason we granted that proportional and privileged access, which was to have a dispute settlement mechanism that would actually be binding, no longer exists. The dispute settlement mechanism has been arbitrarily ripped up by the Bush administration. The government has done nothing about that and continues to provide proportional and privileged access to energy resources that are the birthright of Canadians but they are sent abroad to the United States.

As we saw last week, the government allowed a Bush bagman, Richard Kinder, to purchase Terasen Inc., the most important utility in Canada and in British Columbia. We allowed him to rubber stamp approval on Terasen, despite the fact that thousands upon thousands of British Columbians had said no to that sellout. This is one of 11,000 takeovers that have happened under the Liberal watch. Ninety-seven per cent of foreign direct investment coming into Canada now takes over and guts Canadian companies with the corresponding loss of jobs and loss of benefits to the Canadian economy.

It is no surprise that 15 years later we are seeing that over 60% of Canadian families are earning significantly less in real terms than they were 15 years ago. Could there be a clearer indication of the massive Liberal failure on the trade policy and with the economy than the fact that most Canadian families are now earning less than they were 15 years ago?

Most jobs created in this economy, as we know, are now temporary or part time in nature. Statistics Canada told us in January that most jobs come without pensions now.

What we have seen over the last 15 years of Liberal failure and Liberal sellouts is that for most Canadians the quality of life is continuing to fall. For the lowest income, 20% of Canadians, their incomes have collapsed by 10%. Working class and middle class Canadians have lost the equivalent of three weeks salary a year on the Liberal watch.

Liberals can stand up in the House and say that everything is fine but, except for corporate lawyers and CEOs, the reality is that Canadians are having a tougher time of it than they were 15 years ago. It is because of the complete failure of the Liberal government on not producing a job strategy and on its complete failure on trade policy.

We have seen the Liberals' complete failure on softwood lumber and, with Terasan Inc. and 11,000 other sell outs, a fire sale of Canadian resources and Canadian companies. Now we are seeing in Hong Kong that the government is getting ready to sell out a significant proportion, if not a majority, of our supply management sector.

We also, and this will be the subject of another debate, see the government preparing to sign a general agreement on trades and services to sell out our public services as well. There does not seem to be any limit to the Liberal government's capacity to sell out the country and to not think of the consequences that it will have on Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

I am proud to support the motion, not only for Canadian farmers and Canadian rural communities from coast to coast and not only for Canadian consumers, but for those elsewhere in the world, particularly in developing nations, who are looking for supply management to change and improve their quality of life. It is not just for Canadians. It is for people around the world that we have to stand up for our supply management sector.

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12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I commend my hon. colleague for his remarks and I agree with the important points he made.

I come from Berthier—Maskinongé, a rural area. In that rural area, agriculture is very important of course. Our rural areas have been affected by this problem. The furniture industry is currently ailing. And there have been plant closures in the textile industry.

Negotiating for supply management entails a bargaining relationship. One enters negotiations to gain something and prepared to give something in return. We consider that supply management in this case is not negotiable because, without it, our regions are likely to shut down.

The government of the day will have to be very sensitive to this situation where regions are having their lifeblood drained away. Indeed, rural areas are shutting down. Agriculture is one of the ways to ensure the vitality of our rural areas. So, the concern raised by the hon. member very much strikes a chord with the Bloc Québécois.

That is why hon. members have to support the motion we have put forward. It is important for our region, for Quebec and for many other regions across Canada.

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12:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé for his words and his question. I had only 20 minutes, but I could have continued and spoken about the lack of a government policy on the textile industry too, as the member very well knows.

This is not simply about the softwood lumber industry, or the textile industry, or Canada's rural and agricultural sectors. This government is prepared to sell off our heritage and the very foundations of our Canadian economy. That worries me very much.

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food just said that he is not prepared to sign an agreement at the WTO that will result in supply management being reduced by half, by three quarters, by 80%. But we do not know what limit he will set because he did not tell us today. We questioned him, but he did not tell us what his limit is.

We know that he is prepared to sell off supply management, sell off the communities that depend on it, and sell off the farmers who rely on it. He is ready to sell off jobs. He is ready to do all that. But we do not know whether it will be one third—if we are lucky—or 50%, three quarters or more. That is what is so disturbing. This government and its ministers are prepared to sell out rural Canada, its communities and its jobs. Ultimately, as the member well knows, Canadian consumers will also suffer. To the extent that prices are better in Canada, it is consumers who will pay.

Our concern is obviously all the greater today since we just heard the minister refuse to say categorically that he would not sign an agreement that negatively affects supply management. I know that the hon. member will continue to work very hard at this in order to protect the communities that would be affected. We will do the same, and we hope to make this government, which is prepared to sell everything at a low price, listen to reason.

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12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, after listening to the hon. member's remarks, I prefer to make a comment. I am among those who espouse the theory that not only does Canada's supply management system allow us to provide extremely high quality products to our consumers at reasonable prices but it does so almost entirely without subsidies. The only subsidies that enter the picture might be for some inputs, if the feed eaten by animals under the supply management program was subsidized. This is not a subsidy. So we can say that there are virtually none.

Some consumer groups have sometimes propagated a myth. It is heard less often today than it was a few years ago. Nevertheless, it was said that supply management increased product prices. This is not true.

I want to ask my colleague if he recognizes, as I do, that, under supply management, we often end up with almost identical prices. I have checked this myself. For example, I compared the price of a litre of milk, or rather a pint of American milk in Florida to the price of milk sold here in an Ottawa suburb. If there is any price difference, I cannot see it. The same goes for a dozen eggs. We have even seen on several occasions that the same products cost more in various American cities than they do here in Canada.

So it is important for us to state not only that there are no subsidies involved and that the system is self-sufficient, but also that it ensures good products at good prices for Canadian consumers. It is important that consumers support us in this. I invite my colleague to respond.

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12:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell for his comments.

I know that he will be retiring from this House, perhaps in a few days, if an election is called next week. His experience, and he has a wealth of it, will be missed in this place.

We may have disagreed on certain subjects from time to time, but no one can question his long experience and his past contributions to the House of Commons, especially since he has given every member of the House a copy of his new book. I will look through it with interest, if I have time during the election campaign; otherwise, I will read it immediately after the campaign, on the plane, while going back and forth between Vancouver and Ottawa.

The hon. member raised an extremely important point for consumers. As I said, according to the Dairy Farmers of Canada, compared to the U.S. market, Canadian consumers of dairy products enjoy lower prices, thanks to this supply management system. We can see, therefore, that it is not just farmers and rural communities that benefit. Consumers across the country also benefit, by having access to a better quality product at a lower price here than in the United States, where such a system does not exist. That is the Americans' loss. One day perhaps, they will be fortunate enough to elect a government that will set up this kind of system.

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12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his very kind remarks. This may be one of my last days in this chamber, but I hope it will be a bit longer. Like the man at the garage said, “Them's the breaks”.

The Dairy Farmers of Canada sent a communiqué to many of us in which it expressed its concern and invited our support. Perhaps my colleague has had the opportunity to see it. The Dairy Farmers of Canada have had a particular bone to pick over the last little while. It is not just the issue of supply management for dairy farmers, but it is the fact that there seems to be no limit to the devious imagination of some in trying to bypass the supply management system to allow products to come into Canada that normally could not. The butter-oil-sugar blend issue is an example. Items are artificially sweetened to make them cross the border and then the product is removed. The sugar is more or less a container in that regard to make some product cross the border.

Would my colleague agree that is an abuse of the system, which is being perpetrated on Canadian dairy farmers? It clearly was not part of the deal when supply management was established or in the subsequent rounds of the GATT, subsequently the WTO.

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12:15 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell. It is the death of a thousand cuts.

We are discussing a more serious issue right now, which is the potential for the government to sell out supply management in Hong Kong. The death of a thousand cuts is taking place with these loopholes, which very clearly contravene the supply management sector and undermine it.

I would agree completely with the member that we have to reinforce in Hong Kong. We have to ensure that no agreement is signed that would negatively affect supply management. We also have to deal with the loopholes and the undermining of the supply management foundation that is taking place through these imports.

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12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Lapierre Bloc Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Jonquière—Alma.

This is a turbulent period, in many respects. Tsunamis, tornadoes and hurricanes have swept through 2005. The planet has mobilized to face these challenges. On the other side of the Atlantic, the rejection of the European constitution by a number of countries has had the effect of a cannon ball. Civil war is devastating Iraq; Afghanistan is collapsing beneath nearly a half-century of bullets, bombs and mines; the Middle East is ablaze with rage, aggression and hatred. Terrorism is plaguing the world.

The mad cow crisis has wreaked havoc that would have been unthinkable only four or five years ago. We are facing a probable flu pandemic which, for now, is targeting flocks of birds. All these problems are having a serious impact on a world of crucial importance to humanity: the world of agriculture, the world that helps preserve life.

The agricultural sector is suffering the adverse effects of natural and political storms.

Globalization has created a wider gap between rich and poor. It is also responsible for an extraordinary mood of solidarity which is gradually taking hold.

We now have the opportunity to show solidarity in helping the very persons who permit the world to feed itself and survive. That is the foundation. If we do not support the fragile balance that farmers have established to ensure the survival of their threatened world, all the riches of the planet will not be able to buy the wheat, milk or meat needed for health. There will be no more food.

Am I an alarmist? I am a realist. Every day brings us new examples of our obligation to share, at the national, continental and international levels. However, in order to share, one must have something to share. Will it always be enough to provide money and blankets? I believe that global trends indicate that it will soon be necessary to ensure that all human beings have access to water and food. Therefore it is imperative to do our very best to preserve the agricultural sector, which is the true basis of our well-being and our ability to participate in globalization.

As a rich nation on a rich continent, it is our duty to guarantee the sustainability of food sources, for who knows whether tomorrow, literally tomorrow, we may not be confronted with a pandemic famine. We are forced to consider this by the natural cataclysms shaking Asia and South America, and by the wars raging in the Middle East and Africa. We are forced to believe this by the environmental problems arising all over the world.

We have a fine opportunity for prevention, as opposed to cure. We can accept this opportunity by supporting the principle and implementation of supply management. This clever mechanism has been devised and established by the dairy, egg, turkey and chicken producers to bring about the greatest possible balance between supply and demand in their products. This is a system which avoids overproduction, which would inevitably lead to selling at a loss and thus diminishing market prices. For it to work, the system has to be combined with import controls, or else the market is flooded with products, forcing prices down beneath production costs, and the round of demand for subsidies begins.

That is understandable, which is why it is so sad. While Quebeckers and Canadians are ensuring the quality and quantity of their production and market supply, many countries skirt around the standard and subsidize their farmers in an unfair manner.

The United States, France and the Netherlands prop up prices by intervening in the domestic dairy market. We know that our sector of this market is particularly fragile.

The 2005 evaluation of the agricultural policies of the OECD countries states that Canada brought farm support back down from 1.8% to 0.8% of GDP between 2002 and 2004. According to the same source, farm support is 1.3% in the European Union, 1.2% in Mexico and 0.9% in the United States. Meanwhile, farm income there has increased by over 4% a year, while here the market is on the brink of collapsing, agricultural succession is decreasing at a catastrophic rate and the income crisis in this sector of the economy is disastrously complicating the situation.

Supply management is not a threat to globalization. On the contrary, it is a logical and effective way to apply it, since globalization must occur according to clear rules in this world where everyone has a hand to play.

By promoting supply management, which is a fair model, we are allowing local economies to expand without risk and to ensure the sustainability of their production. Every country should follow this model, since national self-sufficiency helps provide a significant contribution to the international market with a minimum number of fair rules.

Imagine a world in which eggs or dairy products could only be had through foreign markets because our domestic industry was ruined by a lack of interest among producers who no longer saw the potential for profit. Who would be able to have an omelette for breakfast? How many children would have a birthday cake? I believe I speak for my colleagues; perhaps they think I am kidding. The number of producers is decreasing right before our eyes. Yes, some farms are growing, but nowhere near enough to offset the decline.

Canada absolutely must support supply management in the upcoming WTO negotiations, and why not seize the opportunity to promote this principle? Canada must maintain its current customs tariffs on goods subject to supply management and not give up any of its ability to manage pricing policies.

It could propose that all WTO signatory states allow imports to make up 5% of their market. That measure alone would make it possible to increase the flow of goods on the international market by almost 80% with no customs tariffs. This would constitute a real improvement in market conditions and at the same time would restore balance in the rules and conditions of international competition.

If we look at the dairy industry alone, we see clearly that the norm is to regulate economies in developed countries. The problem lies in the way systems are regulated.

The United States, for example, is a long way from full deregulation, which is the trend we are seeing in Australia. Dairy producers in that country receive assistance in the form of a direct production subsidy program, while the policy of reducing the domestic support price is showcased.

In New Zealand, full liberalization of the dairy industry has been suggested, while a cooperative with state authority to maintain market capacity on the international market manages the system.

Should this conclusion not influence us and encourage us to promote supply management? I think it should.

Factoring in that the revenue of Quebec and other Canadian producers enjoys the best protection, while Canada’s financial contribution to dairy production is the lowest, we can clearly evaluate the positive effects of supply management as it is applied here.

We have a winning formula. It would therefore be irresponsible not to support it, not to develop it, not to promote it. It is not really wise to consider siding with requests that conflict with the well-being of our agricultural producers and consumers in Quebec and the rest of Canada on the pretext of a desire to make a mark on the international stage. We have a great opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with those who are the foundation of our well-being.

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12:30 p.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Bloc Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened carefully to the hon. member and have a question for him on supply management.

After the mad cow crisis in 2002, and the resulting income losses for farmers, I would like him to explain why supply management is very important for those same farmers and for the survival of the farms of Quebec and of Canada.