Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in this House on a subject that is particularly dear to me, and one I have doggedly defended since I was first elected in June 1997: supply management.
When I first arrived in the House of Commons in the fall of 1997, the creation of the WTO was under discussion. This new trade organization was going to settle every issue. Supply management was a matter of months only. Here we are now in 2005, and still waiting for the federal government 's response on that.
The motion I am defending here today, which comes from my party, is particularly apt at this time. Agriculture is the focus of the current round of WTO negotiations. What is more, a number of the proposals being discussed at this time place supply management in a dangerous position, since some of the WTO members want to see Canada put an end to it and open up its borders.
Over the years, our party has always staunchly defended the supply management system, which has a double advantage. It makes it possible for our milk, egg and poultry producers to have a decent income, while also providing border measures against subsidized farm products from other countries.
If we constantly bring this issue up in this House, it is because the Liberal government will not make a firm commitment to our farm producers to support supply management. The current Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is serving up loads of rhetoric about Canada playing a leadership role in this round of negotiations and wanting to eliminate export subsidies, among other things. But at the same time, in spite of a motion unanimously passed in this House last April, he continues to refuse to state that, as far as Canada is concerned, supply management is not negotiable and will not be compromised on in this round of negotiations. That is the reality.
If the minister does not grasp the importance of maintaining the supply management system for our farm producers in Quebec, I will give him the example of my riding to show him that this system is vitally important to the economy and development of our region.
In the Lotbinière component of my riding, where dairy production is very important, the total farm income is $233 million, or nearly 20% of the total farm income for the entire Chaudière-Appalaches region. Some 818 farms make up 45% of the total area and 46% of the agricultural zone, which accounts for 98% of the territory. In addition, according to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, more than one-third, or 36%, of goods-producing jobs in my riding are actually agrifood jobs, and the GDP generated by the agrifood industry in my riding totals $173 million. These figures speak loudly and show how important it is to maintain the supply management system.
Statistics like these ought to open the eyes of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. As has been said, he needs to not only defend the supply management system at the WTO, but also to consider it a non-negotiable item. I would, moreover, like to refresh his memory on the Bloc Québécois motion passed unanimously last April in this House. It read 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 would weaken collective marketing strategies or the supply management system and should also seek an agreement establishing fair and equitable rules that foster the international competitiveness of agricultural exporters in Quebec and Canada.
Obviously, given this government's lack of a firm position on supply management, our agricultural producers are getting more and more worried. Moreover, in October I was with a dozen or so producers from my region. These included Bernard Fortier, mayor of my home town of Joly. He inherited the family farm and now is getting ready to pass it on to his two sons. This demands a great deal of sacrifice from a farmer as all the measures we have been calling for for intergenerational transfers have been turned down.
Now to give you some information on GO5, this is a coalition of close to 30,000 members, not only farmers but also business, financial institutions, consumer associations, unions and municipal, provincial and federal politicians, as well as private individuals. In short, this is a coalition of all people and organizations with a belief in a strong agricultural sector and a prosperous food sector in Quebec.
The Liberals need to understand that all parties in this House must support our motion today. It is vital for all regions of Quebec, including the riding I represent, Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.
In order to demonstrate its importance, I would like to propose an amendment, reading as follows:
That the motion be amended by replacing all the words after “quotas” with “and also ensure an agreement that strengthens the imarket access of Canada's agricultural exporters so that all sectors can continue to provide producers with a fair and equitable income”.
This amendment is seconded by the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord with the consent of my colleague, the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska.