Mr. Speaker, I will be speaking today to the motion presented by the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. The motion reads:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that production management tools available to Canadian farmers are similar to those of other national jurisdictions by considering equivalent scientific research and agricultural regulatory approval processes by Health Canada, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
I support the motion in the hope that its adoption by the House will encourage the government to diligently and meaningfully take substantive action to move toward greater equivalency of scientific research and agricultural regulatory approvals, particularly in relation to the United States.
Having spent the last year engaged in investigating the competitiveness of the Canadian agricultural industry, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, which includes the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, has heard repeated and compelling expressions of concern from farmers, processors, food marketers, farm input retailers and other key Canadian agricultural stakeholders, that very often the disparity between accepted research in many foreign countries as compared to Canada, and the disparity between the regulatory approval process times between Canada and many foreign countries, are some of the most debilitating factors injurious to the competitiveness of our agricultural industry.
This becomes a particularly egregious situation when one recognizes that many farmers in other foreign countries, that are Canada's trading partners, are often able to use commercial agricultural products, like feed and fertilizers for example, that are not available or allowed for use in Canada due to regulatory restrictions, and are allowed to export their eventual production into Canada to be sold in the Canadian market on our grocery store shelves; thereby, creating an unfair competitive advantage against our own Canadian farmers who do not have available to them the same use of these inputs.
The evidence and testimony from Canadian agricultural stakeholders is compelling, and if we are to assist our food and agricultural industry at every level, their calls must evoke a favourable response on the part of the government to address this issue.
It is the government's responsibility to ensure that our Canadian agricultural industry meets its international competition on equal footing in the marketplace. This motion is a very clear call for the Canadian government to meet that responsibility on this pressing issue.
It goes without saying that when considering such an effort toward greater regulatory harmonization, we know that it is imperative that it not in any way diminish or compromise the integrity of Canadian health and safety standards, standards that protect our health and our environment.
The key is that we work toward reducing the costly repetition and replication of scientific research and data developed in other countries in order for it to be made accessible here in Canada, and consequently move to hasten the licensing of production management tools, processes and inputs for Canadian farmers.
I believe that this motion strikes an appropriate balance in taking into account considerations of Canadian sovereignty, while advocating for a common sense approach to harmonization in scientific, research and agricultural regulatory approval processes that would allow Canadian producers to be more competitive.
It is essential that the government send a clear signal to Canadian farmers that this Parliament stands with them and that we want to take every reasonable and responsible measure, and opportunity within our power as parliamentarians to enable them to compete on more equal footing in the global market.
I would like to commend the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex for taking leadership on this issue from the backbenches of the government side of the House because admittedly, as has been said in this House by the Liberal critic for agriculture and agri-food, the member for Malpeque, the Minister of Agriculture has been missing in action on this critical issue for some time.
The primary goal of the motion, as has been detailed, is to permit Canadian authorities to more quickly approve products in Canada, that have already been approved for use in other countries, for use in Canada, should those countries' regulatory processes, and their science and research methods employed toward producing the data, be considered equivalent to those of the Canadian system.
As our shared experiences listening to the testimony on the standing at the committee for agriculture and agri-food have shown, this is an absolutely sensible, practical solution for the Canadian agricultural industry. I trust that the House will endorse this worthwhile goal.
The member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex has suggested at committee, and is urging the government though this motion, that the relevant Canadian agricultural regulatory institutions, such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency and Health Canada accept or apply the equivalent scientific research and agriculture regulatory approval processes of other countries with whom we engage in reciprocal trade and whose processes themselves, as a condition, have recognized satisfactory and acceptable regulatory and research institutions worthy of our confidence.
The one proviso of course, as I described, is that the processes and products do not in any way compromise or diminish Canadian health standards, but we must recognize that the duplication of similar processes costs our agricultural industry hundreds of millions through inefficiencies and the government must address this through substantive action.
The motion, if approved, as has been said in the House previously, would be an expression that this House considers foreign science to be equivalent to Canadian science. Regulatory agencies and other departments engaged in the agriculture and agri-food industries of Canada would be encouraged to accept scientific research from foreign countries as part of their regulatory submissions, thereby expediting the approval process.
Another consequence of this is that it would encourage the emergence of applications for approval in Canada by foreign agricultural suppliers for their products. The point here is, let us be clear, and I am quoting the Liberal agriculture critic who could not have said it more clearly:
One of the problems that is not allowing our producers to be competitive is that the products that come in from all over the world do not meet the same requirements that Canadian producers must meet but it ends up on our grocery store shelves.
As the member noted, it is incredibly ironic that Canadians are not aware that the food that they purchase on the shelves of Canadian grocery stores for their consumption has been treated with products, while outside of Canada, not licensed for use inside of Canada; thereby, depriving our own producers the ability to compete with such products.
There are many other areas as well in which we can enhance the competitiveness of the Canadian agriculture industry. I raised another example of the government's failure to address competitiveness issues in the Canadian agricultural industry just a few weeks ago during question period.
I noted the example that American fertilizer and chemical supplier industries are supported by the American government in their implementation of comprehensive security measures to keep fertilizer and chemicals out of the hands of terrorists, narcotic producers and dealers, and other criminal elements.
The Canadian government, however, continues to decline the invitation by Canadian fertilizer and chemical supplier industry associations to introduce tax incentives similar to those of the U.S. for the application of similar comprehensive security measures here in Canada. This not only places the Canadian fertilizer and chemical industries at a severe and growing competitive disadvantage, but also places Canada at an increased risk of such dangerous materials being stolen and used for illicit or malicious purposes.
This motion is one step forward to correct this absurd and unfair predicament in which our Canadian farmers find themselves. It does not suggest that we are moving toward the lowest common denominator in terms of regulatory standards, but would rather encourage reasonable, collaborative efforts to be undertaken among participating trading countries to satisfy each other that the science, research and approval processes of one country are compatible with the standards of the next, while simultaneously ending the unfair burden that the differences place on Canadian agricultural producers.
I again reiterate my full support for the motion and hope that once passed by the House, it motivates the Government of Canada—