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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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3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair has determined that the question must be put to all the members, because the hon. member for Central Nova asked for the unanimous consent of the House prior to moving his amendment. This was denied. Pursuant to the Standing Orders, the party that moved the motion may agree to move the amendment in the House, but that was not the request that the hon. member for Central Nova put to the Chair during his speech. Perhaps the parties would like to discuss this amongst themselves for a few minutes.

In the meantime, we will continue with questions and comments on the speech by the hon. member for Central Nova.

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3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

A point of order, Mr. Speaker.

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3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

Before the point of order, I wonder if we could deal with some questions or comments while some discussions take place to settle the issue. The hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

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3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Grey—Bruce—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, the comments of the hon. member for Central Nova certainly showed his knowledge of this issue.

I would like to acknowledge the work that the Conservative Party agriculture critic has done. The Conservative Party's support for supply management is common knowledge in the farming community. It is second to none.

Although it was reaffirmed as little as eight days ago by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and also the Minister for International Trade that everything is being protected and that the government is standing strong for everything that is in supply management, I have been getting vibes in recent days that that is not the case.

Does the hon. member for Central Nova think that supply management is being protected in the strongest form possible in looking after Canada's farmers?

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3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right, and he is on to something. I believe he would agree that over the last 12 years the government has started to whittle away Canadian government support for supply management. There are many telltale signs out there, including the government's ambivalence about its position going into the talks, which support that position. It is gradually retreating. Like water that has been evaporating, its support for supply management seems to be weakening by the day. That has caused a great deal of alarm in the supply managed sector.

The farmers who will be most directly affected, are extremely concerned. I know my colleagues on this side of the House have been getting nothing short of panicked calls from those who will be most affected because of the government's sowing of seeds of dissent and uncertainty and its withdrawal for an unequivocal, straightforward, forceful position that it will go to these negotiations and make Canada's case to support ongoing supply management for our country, and support and stand up for our agriculture sector.

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3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, my riding of Leeds--Grenville relies heavily on the supply managed sector in our agricultural community. We have many farmers who are dependent, whether it be dairy or others. We have one of the largest agriculture producers in Canada in our riding.

We often hear about the government's support. The government continues to say that it supports supply management, yet time and time again at these trade negotiations it lets our farmers down. This is why I get calls almost every day from farmers. In fact, this weekend I am to meet with many of our supply managed farmers.

While the government talks a good game, why is it is not standing up for our farmers?

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3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I could surmise all kinds of theories as to why the Liberal government would be so disingenuous. We have seen the Liberals on so many occasions say one thing publicly and then negotiate away the interests of Canadians on another. We have seen so many occasions where they have made outright bald-faced statements on the eve of elections, like cancelling helicopter contracts, promising to do away with GST and promising to rip up the free trade agreement. Then 12 years later we still have GST and we still have free trade, a Conservative cornerstone that has helped the Canadian economy thrive and be more competitive.

What we get from a Liberal on the eve of an election is a deathbed repentance on all kinds of public policy: promises to fight crime, to cut taxes, to help farmers, to put more emphasis on protecting the environment. It is all pre-election posturing. Perhaps one of the reasons is in the Liberals' shameless pursuit to cling to power, in their absolute obsession with keeping their hands on the level of power, they will say and do anything. They will promise anything. Liberals with power are a bit like puritans with sex. They claim to loathe it, but they absolutely cannot live without it.

When it comes to pre-election promises, we can expect to hear anything in the run-up to this campaign. The Liberals will say and do and commit to everything under the sun, but it is really all about perhaps a plan to have everybody move to the big cities where they will vote for Liberals and they will be able to cling on to power above everything else.

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3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup.

It gives me great pleasure to speak to the motion by my colleague from Richmond—Arthabaska. I am pleased to support it. I will—

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3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Have we moved on to debate or are we still on questions and answers? I have an amendment that I would like to put forward. There have been some discussions. You may have been absent from the chamber when the Speaker gave a ruling, but there is an amendment that the Conservative Party, in consultation with the Bloc, would like to put on the floor.

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3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that, if we have an opportunity to bring back the amendment that our colleague from the Conservative Party wanted to introduce, the Bloc will bring it back, unless another party does so. I wanted to mention that we were in favour of the amendment that the Conservative Party was going to introduce, and perhaps we will be able to bring it back ourselves.

I will repeat the Bloc motion, because its wording is extremely important:

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.

In the proposal, we are extremely precise concerning the conditions necessary for supply management to be maintained, to continue not only to be viable, but also to develop. In this sense, the first two lines are very important to us.

I am happy that we seem to have reached an understanding with the Conservatives and the NDP that it is essential to include in the motion these two elements, namely that tariff quotas will not be increased and that there will be no reduction in over-quota tariffs. Without that, indeed, the pious wishes of the Liberal government are no more than hot air. If we are unable during the World Trade Organization negotiations to maintain the conditions that permit supply management in our domestic market, and if we are unable to hold a very firm line in these negotiations, we will be saying one thing and doing the opposite.

That would be nothing new, people will tell me, for indeed, that often happens with the Liberal party and the Liberal government. One can cite the example of softwood lumber. Now, the Prime Minister is turning up the rhetoric and ministers are saying that they are shocked at the situation. The Americans must abide by the NAFTA decision. And yet the softwood industry in Quebec and in Canada is not being given the resources to make it through this crisis.

The program that is emerging is not encouraging. Yesterday, in fact, we saw the leaks in the press. This is one more signal to the Americans. Despite the fact that the rhetoric has increased, we are not serious in our strategy of support to the industry to achieve a settlement that is satisfactory to the Canadian and Quebec softwood lumber industries on the basis of the decisions of the NAFTA tribunal, and nothing less than that. Here, too, we are in exactly the same situation.

We know that there will be a meeting in Hong Kong in mid-December and that the Canadian government must renew its mandate to its negotiators. In the context of these mandates, we are starting to get a number of elements on the table. We have undoubtedly found that the Americans and the Europeans have tabled an offer and that the Group of 10 has made a proposal, which is perhaps of the greatest interest to Canada. There are also the developing countries, such as India and Brazil. As far as Brazil is concerned, that was expressed again at the most recent meeting of heads of state and government at the Summit of the Americas.

The proposals are on the table. We need an ironclad guarantee that the Canadian negotiators fully understand their mandate, namely that there should be no reduction in over-quota tariffs and no increase in tariff quotas. Overall—and this is important—we need to be able to maintain a supply management system in Quebec and in Canada that first and foremost ensures a reliable supply to processors and consumers. This ensures a high-quality supply at a competitive price. We can see this, for example, in the case of Canadian milk. On average over a lengthy period, it has been retailing at a much cheaper price than American milk. We also find that the system gives agricultural producers a fair and equitable return for their work, their families and their investments.

In that sense, it is extremely important to remind our WTO partners that supply management does not cause any trade distortion on the international market. It is designed exclusively for our domestic market, and there are hardly any exports. I know that federations under supply management are prepared not to export in order to maintain the conditions necessary for this system. This ensures not only fair and equitable income for producers, but also a human-scale agricultural model.

As long as producers know how much they should produce and how much processors will buy and at what price, it is possible to maintain human-scale farms. There is no need to move toward industrialization, like the United States and many other western industrialized countries are doing. This is a societal choice that has to be respected.

However, to do so, the mandate given to our negotiators at the WTO has to be very clear. There is no leeway. That is why it is important to be very specific in terms of the motion.

There have been discussions at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, as well as the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. I attended these committee meetings, and discussions will continue on Thursday. These discussions were on the Canadian position and on whether it would appear too uncompromising to our partners. That is not being uncompromising; it is the only mandate that is consistent with the will of this House as a whole. Hon. members will recall that a motion was put forward by the hon. member for Montcalm, saying that no compromises should be made where supply management is concerned. Everyone was unanimous.

If we want to be consistent, the motion that will hopefully be passed this evening has to include these two lines. That is the crux of the problem. If the government will not support that, it means that, essentially, in the negotiations in Hong Kong and post-Hong Kong negotiations, it is prepared to compromise on quotas and over-quota tariffs.

Tonight, if the Liberals and the Liberal government vote against the motion brought forward by the Bloc, especially as it will be amended by the Conservatives, their cards will be on the table for everyone to see. Farmers in supply managed sectors in Quebec, in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada will know that everything that was said by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Minister of International Trade was nothing but hot air, that they intended all along to negotiate in the current round of multilateral negotiations and that they were always willing to make concessions that will seriously jeopardize our ability to maintain this system which, may I remind my colleagues, is a societal choice.

I call upon the government and those ministers to follow up on what they said in the last election campaign as well as during the debates that were held in this House over the last few months with regard to supply management, and to support the Bloc Québécois motion as it will be amended later on.

We also want to include in this motion the fact that our exporters of agricultural products must be able to have a fair and equitable income. In this regard, the Bloc Québécois, unlike the Liberal government, never intended to rob Peter to pay Paul, or should I say to rob Paul to pay Peter. Therefore, I urge the government to be reasonable and to support this motion so that all our trading partners know that Canada and Quebec will maintain a firm position with regard to supply management in these WTO negotiations.

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3:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, while I was very impressed with the hon. member's speech, in terms of the international negotiating stage, Canada is sitting in its underwear at the strip poker game not having much left to put on the table without seriously embarrassing ourselves.

It seems perfectly clear now that the government is putting over-quota tariffs on the table and that this is being discussed. That is what we have heard. We are being told that to somehow protect supply management, the government will be taking our supply management marketing and putting it into this sensitive product regime. We estimate at least 11% of our market would need to be protected. The U.S. is saying that the maximum we could protect is 1%.

The question coming forward at the WTO is how much of our market are we willing to trade away? Is it 50%, or 75% or 80%? Once we lose over-quota tariffs, we will no longer be able to maintain supply management. What does the hon. member think about the feasibility of the government's proposal of stripping away over-quota tariffs, getting rid of our domestic quotas and putting our entire supply management system of dairy, poultry and eggs into this sensitive products regime?

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3:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question. He and I see things in exactly the same way.

We are obviously speaking about supply management. Since the beginning, there have not been any solid, satisfactory answers from the government, that is to say from the ministers involved or the Prime Minister, to the concerns voiced by farmers and members of the opposition parties.

In my view, the hour of truth is here. The more the negotiations continue, the greater the pressure will be. Our partners have to know how far we are prepared to make concessions and at what point we will stop.

In regard to the two things needed to save the foundations of supply management, we must be very clear and say to the world that there will be no concessions in these respects. We are prepared, however, to negotiate other things.

Unfortunately, the member is completely right: Canada is a pee wee when it comes to international negotiations. It is true at the WTO in the case of supply management, as in everything else, including bicycles.

The Canadian International Trade Tribunal recommended a tax on the import of bicycles, especially from southeast Asia, of about 30% this year, 20% the next year, and finally 10% to help this sector, which creates hundred of jobs, get through this difficult transition period.

The tribunal sent its recommendation to the Minister of Finance more than two months ago, but nothing has happened. Whom are they afraid of frightening? The Vietnamese? They are important partners of ours, but what kind of reprisals could they take?

If they are afraid of using the tools that the international rules make available to us in this case—because Vietnam is a large exporter of bicycles to Canada—imagine how they would react to the Americans. There is softwood lumber, but I spoke about it earlier and do not want to repeat myself.

In the case of milk, though, Australia, New Zealand and the Americans attack us constantly before the WTO tribunals, the WTO panels.

Canada has never used the means available to it to demonstrate that there are tremendous subsidies in the United States, as everyone knows. Why? They are afraid of offending the Americans. So what do we look like all this time?

Since everyone else challenges our supply management system and we never challenge the Americans' subsidies for their exports or just their internal supports for their farmers, we are considered the international “bad guys”. It is a losers' strategy, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs would say. Oh yes. The Liberal government has a losers' strategy in international trade, and I could talk about clothing and textiles or about furniture.

We manage to be afraid of being afraid. So what happens ultimately? There are job losses and doubt is cast on the social choices we make. It is totally unacceptable.

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3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak today in this debate. I have been a member here for 12 years now, and if there has ever been a debate on which there should be unanimity, this is it.

There are farmers of all political stripe: supporters of the Conservatives, the Liberals, the Bloc, or another party. There are farmers in every province. All of them have managed to get by because of a system that has provided them with a decent living, one that has consolidated the agricultural sector here and at the same time kept prices to the consumer at a reasonable level.

The motion proposed by the Bloc today is simply intended to ensure that, in future international negotiations, that situation will not be destabilized. This is the new reality as far as the economy is concerned, the agricultural economy in particular. A decision to be made in Hong Kong this December might destabilize every community in my riding. It is not only the interests of the farmers that are jeopardized, but also the best way we have to stabilize the rural economies of Quebec, Ontario and everywhere else the system applies.

One need only look at how the American farmers are faring to see how much security we have given ours while at the same time having prices that are acceptable to the consumers. It is therefore important that this motion be adopted today.

There has already been one motion adopted here in favour of supply management. Now, as the negotiations come closer, it is most disquieting to see that the majority of the Liberal members are not prepared to vote in favour of this one. They are refusing to ensure our farmers of the protection they are asking for. This protection is not a subsidy; it complies with the international agreements. All that would be necessary is for the Canadian government to take a firm position and to guarantee that this is the direction it will take in the negotiations. I will read part of the resolution:

—that the supply management sectors are subject to no reduction in over-quota tariffs and no increase in tariff quotas—

This wording may sound quite technical, but we essentially want the rules to be clear when foreign products in supply managed sectors are imported to Canada. We want to ensure that existing quotas are not exceeded. If some of these products are imported along with those that are accepted, the tariffs currently in effect would be paid, and there would be no reduction.

Why did the Bloc Québécois table today's motion? It is because a Canadian government negotiator publicly said, during an interview, that some concessions will have to be made. This is like opening the door.

I am particularly calling on Liberal and Conservative members from Ontario, whose producers are also governed by this system, and on all Liberal members from Quebec. It is absolutely critical that all elected members of this House set aside their political differences and support this motion to send a message directly to the federal government's senior bureaucracy. For the past several years, the government has had a tendency to say that letting the rules of the marketplace come into play was the best way to go, and that if we have to make concessions in one sector, this would allow us to be better in others.

However, there are areas for which we cannot accept such concessions. As we saw, the cultural sector raised its voice and got a specific agreement. The food sector deserves the same kind of support. We must provide adequate protection to our producers.

I want to illustrate my point with the situation that exists where I come from. In my riding, there are some 60 municipalities with a very large number of milk producers, but also chicken, turkey, hatching egg and table egg producers. All these people have developed strong family operations in which generations succeed one another, and which also help the regional economy.

Back home, as everywhere in Quebec or Ontario where the system is in place, hardware stores have a financial base thanks to agricultural producers. If we remove that security, if we remove that type of support, we will revert back to the system that existed 50 years ago. Producers will have no security as to how their market will operate. So, we must not take risks.

The House of Commons absolutely needs to send a clear message to the government, the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of International Trade because during the negotiations in Hong Kong there will be some exchanges. The Minister of Agriculture will need to feel like he has clear support behind him. This support must come from the House of Commons so that when he has to deal with the Minister of International Trade or the Prime Minister himself, no concessions will be made since we have voted in favour of a motion to protect supply management.

If the Liberals still want to sit on the fence and not pass today's motion, they will only cause the farmers to be even more concerned. That is why the motion absolutely must be passed. If we can find a way to have the Conservative amendment adopted, we are prepared to accept it because we find it is an improvement to our motion and makes it clearer. We think that we do indeed need the unanimity of the House on this position.

In the work that we do as MPs, we have the responsibility to pass the best legislation possible. However, today, we also have the responsibility to ensure that the international agreements reached between countries do not harm our market. That is something quite new in the time that I have been here. We have learned our lesson. We saw it with the opening of the textile, clothing and furniture markets and now we have the opportunity to be proactive, to go ahead and adopt a measure to guarantee that the government, if it respects the will of the House of Commons, cannot make concessions that would undermine the system we have developed.

I am not just talking about money and budgets, but people I know personally, families who have spent their lives in farming and continue to do so. We are sending a message to our young people in agricultural schools, in La Pocatière at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire, by saying that yes, there is a future for you in farming. You and your family will be able to earn a living from farming. We cannot send them the wrong message.

We must ensure that the message we are sending corresponds to reality, that we will be able to provide services so that these people will want to keep farming, if they have sufficient guarantees. Supply management is not a subsidy program nor an undue aid program. In the current negotiations between the major international agricultural players, the United States and Europe keep putting the ball back in the other's court, with each side saying that the other is providing substantial subsidies.

In my opinion, the Prime Minister of Canada was a bit out of line when he said that the Americans are not so bad and that the Europeans are behaving badly and should make further concessions. We need to be careful that this kind of statement does not draw the ire of people who, with one fell swoop, will eliminate our supply management program when it is not a subsidy program. Because of statements like that, the House of Commons needs to take a firm stand and tell all the negotiators, be they politicians or senior bureaucrats, that the House of Commons has adopted a motion to that end.

We all know that there is a very good chance that there will be an election soon, that these negotiations will take place in early December and that, if the Government of Canada ever fails to support supply management by agreeing to unacceptable conditions, it will pay the political price. Its commitment starts today. The Liberals and the government must pass our motion, because this is what we need to ensure sufficient protection for this tried and true system developed in Quebec and Canada. The agricultural community is listening and it hopes to see unanimous support for the Bloc Québécois motion.

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4:05 p.m.

Sydney—Victoria Nova Scotia

Liberal

Mark Eyking LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade (Emerging Markets)

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Bloc member. How can we negotiate a better deal for our Canadian farmers at the WTO when the opposition parties are shutting down the House? It diminishes our political presence in Hong Kong and, with the motion they put forward in the agriculture committee yesterday, it really ties the hands of our negotiator to make a better deal for our farmers.

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4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat surprised by the question because those who prevented the election from being called in January and allowing us to work here until December are the Liberals.

Yesterday, we passed a motion in this House asking that an election be called on January 5 and only one party opposed: the Liberal Party of Canada.

If there is diminished Canadian presence in Hong Kong it is because of the Liberal Party of Canada, not the opposition parties. I did not make this up. We voted on this yesterday. The motion was debated in this House and passed.

The Liberals still have a choice. Today, during question period, they were again asked to accept this deadline that will allow for better representation. Without this commitment, this gesture by the Liberal government, let us at least minimize the chances that the negotiators representing us in Hong Kong will have their hands tied and let us make sure the system is well protected.

We are getting the same message as yesterday. Yesterday the Liberals refused the January election call and today they are refusing to protect the supply management system.

That is a heavy burden to bear in the coming weeks and months. That is my message for the members of this government.

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4:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from the Bloc for choosing this topic for today's opposition day. I think it is very fitting that in these twilight days of the 38th Parliament we are seized with the issue of trying to protect our Canadian farmers and producers.

I want to register one point of fact that I think we should be aware of and concerned with. Last year, 11,000 farmers on the three prairie provinces abandoned their farms and gave up farming. That is partly because of the lack of support that our producers get from the federal government in its international relations with the WTO and in the deals it signs.

I want my colleague to comment on one point that he raised. One of our chief negotiators confided in members of Parliament at a briefing that the sensitive products basket really needs a duty protection of about 11%. The Americans want that reduced to 1%. He advised our colleagues that the negotiators would probably settle somewhere in the middle. In other words, even before they have gone to the negotiating table, he has already conceded that he is going to cut the level of support by about 50%. What kind of negotiator is that?

If I were in a trade union bargaining relationship and had to tell the membership of my union that the employer wanted a $2 wage cut and we probably would be able to reduce it to only half of that and thus take a $1 cut in pay, the membership would hang me from the highest tree. I would be dragged into the streets and shot.

Who is representing us if our negotiators have given up before they have even started?

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4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Rivière-Du-Loup—Montmagny, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is a very interesting question because, six months ago, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food sent a letter to all the members of the House, admitting that he had had to compromise more than he had expected. That was already an admission, one which the negotiator has repeated.

That is why, today, the Bloc Québécois motion states, “that the supply management sectors are subject to no reduction in over-quotas and no increase in tariff quotas”.

Rumour has it that a change in that respect is already being negotiated. I think this is not the place today, and neither was it last week. This is a practice of this government, which seems to have been established by the Prime Minister himself. It consists in taking a relatively weak position in front of the Americans, basically telling them before even getting to the negotiating table that we are prepared to give in.

The real negotiations will be starting in a few days in Hong Kong. Canada's negotiators have to get there with a strong and firm position, ideally a position unanimously voted by the House of Commons and put forward by the government. That is the contribution the BLoc Québécois is hoping to make with this opposition day motion.

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4:10 p.m.

Sydney—Victoria Nova Scotia

Liberal

Mark Eyking LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade (Emerging Markets)

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, who is a true champion for the whole agriculture industry. We are proud to have her in our caucus. She stands up for farmers every day.

It is an honour to rise in the House this afternoon to contribute to this very important debate about Canada's supply management system and to outline Canada's negotiating position as we move closer to the WTO conference in Hong Kong.

As many members have stated previously, supply management is a critical part of Canada's agrifood industry. Since the 1970s, it has helped producers and processors alike achieve stability and prosperity and ensure that their customers, domestic and international, have had access to high quality, value added Canadian food products.

The government strongly supports supply management and will continue to defend the ability of our producers to choose how they market their products, including through orderly marketing structures such as supply management.

At the same time, these negotiations offer the promise of fundamental world agriculture reform. They are our best opportunity to address foreign subsidies and tariff barriers that hinder our ability to compete in foreign markets.

More broadly, the WTO and this round of multilateral trade negotiations are critical to Canadian prosperity. Across all sectors, Canadian producers, importers, exporters and consumers stand to gain enormously from a successful Doha outcome.

I think all members recognize the importance of these negotiations. The WTO is essential to Canada because international trade, equivalent to more than 70% of Canada's GDP and linked to one in five jobs, is essential to our country's prosperity.

We need to be at the table because our interests are very much at stake. Protectionism, especially in major economies like those of the United States and the EU, costs Canadians dearly. That is why, from the start, Canada has been actively working with our partners to push these negotiations forward.

I applaud the efforts of the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of Agriculture and their officials, who have worked tirelessly to defend Canada's interests and toward securing a positive outcome in global trade. The member opposite should be ashamed of degrading our negotiator.

I should also point out that from the start Canada's negotiations have been a cooperative effort, one that is built on strong and continuing input from the five supply managed industries, provincial and territorial governments, and a wide range of agrifood stakeholders.

For three years before the agriculture negotiations began in 2000, the government consulted extensively with provincial governments and the entire agrifood sector to develop Canada's initial negotiating position on agriculture. Because of this close partnership, Canada has been able to put forward strong, credible ideas and approaches throughout the agriculture negotiations.

Likewise, the government has also strongly supported the efforts of agrifood industry representatives, including those from supply managed industries, to meet with foreign governments and their industry counterparts around the world to present their views on the agriculture negotiations.

We are putting forward a united front. Together, we are making very clear Canada's priorities for the upcoming WTO conference in Hong Kong next month.

Canada is committed to a truly open and competitive trade environment, one with a level playing field where the deciding factor is not the size of nations' treasuries but the quality, price and availability of their products. In agriculture, this means eliminating all forms of export subsidies as quickly as possible. It means substantial reductions in trade-distorting domestic support. It means making substantial improvements in market access for our agriculture and food products.

We are also fighting for real improvements in market access for non-agricultural goods and services, enhanced trade rules and stronger disciplines for trade facilitation to reduce red tape at borders.

Throughout, we cannot lose sight of the fact that from its inception the Doha round has been a development round. Canada is committed to keeping it on track.

The gains we make will benefit the world, especially the developing countries. The hardships suffered by African cotton producers are a case in point. Cotton subsidies alone cost African producers between $100 million and $400 million a year in exports. That is why Canada is a firm supporter of the call made by African members in the WTO to phase out domestic support and export subsidies to cotton as quickly as possible.

The best way to help African farmers is to create a level playing field that allows them to compete fairly for global market share.

As the negotiations have progressed, agriculture has become something of a linchpin in the negotiations. It can no longer be negotiated in isolation. Especially over the last few weeks, we have seen greater linkages between agriculture and other negotiating areas, such as market access for non-agricultural goods and services.

For instance, the EU has recently stated that it will not make further concessions on agriculture until it sees progress in other areas such as non-agricultural market access and services, so we can see that some of the directives the opposition members are offering to our negotiators are not that simple.

Similarly, Brazil and India have indicated that without increased movement on agriculture, especially from the EU and the United States, they will not make significant concessions of their own in these core areas. This means that Canada's position, especially as it pertains to supply management, is coming under renewed scrutiny.

Nevertheless, we will continue to argue for flexibility in how market access improvements are made, to reflect different domestic policy approaches around the world. Like Canada, most countries in the negotiations have some sensitive products, so the WTO members need to work out approaches that recognize those sensitivities while still providing for real, equitable market access improvements.

That is why Canada will continue to defend the ability of Canadian producers to choose how they market their products, including supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board. From Canada's perspective, the pressure remains focused squarely on the EU to move further in agricultural market access to maintain momentum in these negotiations. Without this movement, the chances for an ambitious outcome at Hong Kong are very uncertain.

Despite the challenge, I am encouraged by the commitment expressed at the APEC leaders' summit in Korea this week to keep up the pressure to ensure an ambitious outcome to the WTO round of talks. I am also encouraged by the assurances by Minister of International Trade and the Minister of Agriculture that Canadian negotiators are working around the clock to build the solutions for success and achieve as much as possible in the remaining crucial weeks.

The world has much to gain from an ambitious outcome at these negotiations. In these last critical weeks, our government will continue to strongly promote our national priorities and defend our national interests as we cooperate with the world to secure an ambitious outcome for all trading nations.

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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade is an egg farmer who has been involved in the supply management industry for quite some time. We are hearing here today that supply managed industries do not feel that the government has done enough in protecting their interests.

You sit in the Liberal caucus, so I am just wondering if you--

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4:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I will just remind the hon. member to address his comments through the Chair. Thank you.

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4:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I know you are not involved in egg production, coming from B.C., but I know that the parliamentary secretary has been involved in egg production. I just want to know if he feels that the Liberal government has addressed the issue of protecting supply management in the WTO talks.

Why does he feel that there is so much concern being raised here today? The Bloc motion is addressing the considered shortfall that is going to occur because supply management access to market here in Canada is being given away. I want to make sure that the parliamentary understands this. He has a vested interest in the supply management industry. I would ask whether or not the government has defended his family's interests on the family farm.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member asked that question because it gives me a little opening here.

Yes, my family is in the agriculture business and we have supply management. My father was one of the founding farmers who started supply management in the early 1970s, so I know how important it is for farmers. I know what it was like for farmers before we had supply management.

However let us talk about how we are working with the industry and the stakeholders. This government meets with members of the SM5 on a continuous basis. We were in Geneva with them. They are involved in the negotiations and in the talks. The comments made here today were that the SM5 was totally disappointed with the way we were dealing with this, which is far from the truth. They never said that publicly. They are as concerned about what is happening in Hong Kong as we are and we are working closely with them and with our negotiators to ensure we have a good deal for our farmers right across this country.

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4:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two questions arising out of the hon. member's speech.

First, he praised the fact that agricultural trade has never been higher. However the fact is that farm gate revenues in Canada have never been lower and farm debt has never been higher. It seems that no matter what we put on the table there is no indication that the EU or the U.S. will substantially reduce the massive trade distorting subsidies. Therefore, at the end of the day, for all the international trade we have managed to develop in agriculture, our farmers are worse off than ever.

I would like to follow up on something else he said. He talked about Africa, about the developing world and about the need to work with them. We have a government that has basically written agriculture off. The Liberals do not know how to spell it. It is not in any of the mini-budgets they have brought forward. They have come forward with no substantive action in terms of agriculture with one exception. The government has approved the terminator gene patent that has made Canada an international pariah. We know there is great concern in the third world among domestic farmers about the World Bank and IMF pushing terminator technology. While the Canadian government has basically been the terminator of farm revenue across the country, it is going after the very seeds in the ground.

Could the member tell me why the only thing the government has to stand on in terms of international trade and agriculture is its recent decision to adopt this very destructive technology?

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, calling people terminators in the House is very unparliamentary language. I sometimes call the governor of California the terminator but we just cannot throw that term around loosely. It is very disrespectful.

This government is behind farmers. Last year we put $5 billion into the agriculture industry. At the end of December it will be up to $6 billion, $1 billion more. That is not chicken feed.

These guys are saying that we are writing agriculture off. We meet with the stakeholders on a continuous basis. They know who set up this supply system. It was the Liberals, not the NDP. The Bloc was not even around then, and we know where the Conservatives stood.

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November 22nd, 2005 / 4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Liberal Middlesex—Kent—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate today on the opposition motion on the topic of supply management.

Canada's supply management system matches production to Canadian demand and allows farmers to receive a fair price from the marketplace without relying on taxpayer dollars. Supply management eliminates major fluctuations in prices at the farm processing or distribution level and ensures an efficient and secure food supply that respects Canadian safety and health standards.

The dairy, poultry and egg industries are important to Canada as together they contribute a net $12.3 billion to the GDP, generate $6.8 billion in farm cash receipts, sustain more than $39 billion of economic activity and employ more than 215,000 Canadians throughout the country.

Supply management empowers farmers while benefiting processors, consumers, government and taxpayers. It exchanges the boom and bust cycles with a stable and orderly market without costing the government or taxpayers a dime.

Supply management is a valuable system that not only benefits Canadian farmers but also consumers throughout Canada. That is why the Government of Canada and the Liberal Party remains committed to defending the supply management framework and defending the ability of Canadians to choose how to market their products.

In Canada, pricing mechanisms are based on farmers collectively negotiating minimum farm gate prices for milk, poultry and eggs. By acting together, farmers can negotiate a fair price for their food based on what it costs to produce that food. In other countries without similar pricing mechanisms, an even smaller portion of the price paid by consumers is received by farmers.

The multilateral trading system embodied in the WTO has contributed significantly to economic growth, development and employment throughout the past 50 years. We are determined to maintain the process of reform of trade policies to ensure that the system plays its full part in promoting recovery, growth and development.

With the upcoming WTO meeting being held in Hong Kong, I am particularly concerned about the agriculture negotiations. Canada must reinstate our position in regard to global trade and demonstrate that Canadian farmers have lived up to their obligations and insist others do the same.

As a major agricultural exporter and importer, Canada has a fundamental interest in further strengthening the international rules governing agriculture trade, eliminating trade subsidies and significantly improving market access opportunities. Further, agricultural trade reform will provide Canadian producers and processors with a more level international playing field and encourage a more rules based, stable, predictable and secure environment within which they can compete.

Canada needs to continue to fight for the elimination of all export subsidies as quickly as possible, maximum possible reduction or elimination in domestic support that distorts trade or production, real and substantial improvements in market access for all agriculture and food products, and securing new disciplines on export taxes and export restrictions.

We need to level the playing field. International subsidies are preventing this from happening. There are major differences between countries and between commodities in the provision of market access opportunities, the level and type of domestic support and the use and magnitude of export assistance. Global trade distortions have had and continue to have a major impact on Canadian farm incomes.

Whereas Canada in 1993 converted its article XI protections to declining tariff rate quotas, other countries with simple quotas saw theirs remain static. This must be addressed in this round. Those with simple tariffs should be required to provide the same 5% minimum access as does Canadian agriculture and access should be a zero tariff as is ours.

The Canadian government needs to go to the negotiations with the strongest negotiating mandate possible. We support the objectives of the Doha round, but we cannot put Canadian agriculture on the table when no other country is willing to do the same.

At the beginning of the current round, Canada developed a balanced negotiating position that included a proposal to achieve an equitable clean-up of market access. Canada proposed that all WTO member countries offer market access levels of 5% of current domestic consumption on their agricultural tariff rate quotas. The 1994 modalities suggested this but. as it was only a guideline. most countries ignored it and offered significantly lower levels of access.

In July 2004, a framework was agreed to by the WTO negotiating group. This framework brought about the creation of a category called sensitive products that would permit selective products to be treated separately from products subject to the general reduction in overall tariffs.

A reasonable number of products would be eligible for sensitive treatment. Their treatment would have to result in significant market access improvement. It would be achieved through a combination of tariff reduction and market access expansion.

Canada was instrumental in ensuring that the access improvement would occur on a product basis rather than on a tariff line basis, as originally proposed. This was an important achievement for Canada as it afforded an opportunity to advance the Canadian position on supply management.

The wording of products made it possible to bring both in-quota and over-quota tariff lines under sensitive products treatment. Canada could maintain having met the obligation of access improvement by the elimination of all in-quota tariff, bringing in-quota to zero, and not be required to reduce over-quota tariffs or increase access beyond a common minimum access of 5% of domestic consumption. Canada will still pursue the goal of requiring all countries to increase the minimum required market access for all agricultural products under TRQ.

Unfortunately, the possibility for Canada to pursue such a strategy has been significantly eroded since July 2004. Since then, the U.S. and the EU have been able to negotiate sufficient flexibility within the general tariff reduction to make the sensitive product category less important for them. The U.S. and the EU can accommodate significant reductions in most over-quota tariffs by reducing domestic support prices and supplementing farmers' incomes through direct government payments, considered green by WTO.

The U.S. and the EU have retained the ability to offer no new access into their markets. At the same time, they have sought to limit the use of the sensitive products category for other countries and force new access for these products. In other words, only products in the sensitive product category will have to increase the guaranteed level of access under in-quota tariffs. We cannot accept this smoke and mirrors when farmers' lives, rural communities' existence and countries' abilities to feed their people are at stake.

The Canadian concept of having a rule requiring all countries to offer a required minimum access has been abandoned. Supply managed commodities were willing to give a required minimum access of 5% as long as this minimum would be required of all countries. The level playing field being sought is no longer possible.

Export subsidies must go. It is not good enough to agree to a formula reduction. They must disappear entirely if we are to make it a fair trading environment. For too long, the EU and the United States have bought market share with their export subsidies at the cost of Canadian producers. We can no longer afford to put our producers at risk to the benefit of their competitors.

The current state of agriculture in Canada is dismal. As a result, Canada needs to maintain a strong position and not commit to any trade-offs with other countries at the upcoming WTO meeting. We need to protect our farmers and in order to do that we must ensure that the rules apply equally to all countries.

The beauty of rules is that the countries must follow them. Guidelines, on the other hand, permit individual interpretation, and this is what has happened. The creative interpretation of the guidelines by both the U.S. and the European Union introduced a new concept, now known as “dirty tariffications” and “dirty access offers”. What countries actually agreed to was what they respectively submitted in their schedules whether or not it reflected the application of the guidelines.

The issue, therefore, is not that countries do not meet their commitments. They do. The real issue is that the commitments of the various countries are unequal, inequitable and unfair. Therefore we must insist that rules are in place which require all countries to meet the same commitments to eliminate the possibility of further misinterpretation.

A uniform methodology, one set of rules to be followed by all countries, is necessary for future considerations. This should be Canada's goal at this year's WTO meeting and we should not downgrade this position.

Also, we are supporting this motion because no one supports supply management and the benefits it provides to Canadian farmers more than the Liberals. However we need to be aware of some of the implications of this approach. It will be very difficult to attain this at the end at the day. It goes against the commitments taken by all WTO members in the framework agreed to in July 2004. It goes against the official position held by supply managed commodities, which is to provide improved access through expansion of tariff quotas to a common minimum end point of 5% of domestic consumption. This is part of the platform and can be found on the website as well.

It has implications for Canada's efforts to gain meaningful improvements in market access for other commodities provided by the 90% of Canadian producers that are tied to foreign markets. Beef, for example, is the most sensitive product for most other countries in the world. The possibility of an outcome that includes no improvements in market access for the products of one country will not likely be acceptable to other members of the WTO.