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?