House of Commons Hansard #63 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.


Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

I know Conservative members are getting a little wound up, Mr. Speaker, but maybe you could get them to quiet down a bit. Maybe they are surprised that I am supporting an NDP private member's bill, but when a bill is good, we have to support it. I am surprised at the members over there. I know they know it is a good bill. This must have come out of the PMO. I do not know where it came from, but let us not get into that.

What does the bill ask for? It asks for improving access to high-quality and fresh products and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. I do not know if the Conservatives are for that, but that is what is in it. The bill recommends a pan-Canadian local food strategy to constitute a local food program, and also wants local foods bought at institutions.

That being said, let us talk about the institutions. As a farmer, I have sold to them before, and if this bill is going to be successful, the government has to help farmers develop products with the right sized packaging, labelling, and distribution system. It would take quite a bit to pull this off and it is very important that the government work with the provinces to make this happen, especially if local products would be going into federal institutions of any sort.

Another great avenue that is taking off, not only in our country but in New Zealand and Australia, are farm markets. I have a brochure from Farmers' Markets Canada, which talks about $3 billion of revenue. It says:

Farmers' Markets Canada is a...national organization dedicated to furthering the viability, growth and prosperity for Canadian farmers' markets....

In 2008, FMC commissioned a national study with the help of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to take the pulse of the farmers' market industry in all 10 provinces and measure its importance to Canadians and the Canadian economy.

One of the most important findings was the value consumers place on being able to buy food directly from the farmer who produced it. While 92% of shoppers rated it as important, a full 62% rated it as “extremely important”.

As many know, it is hard for farmers markets to stay open year-round, and I would like to talk a bit about the one in Cape Breton.

The one in Cape Breton is called the Cape Breton Farmers' Market. It is a non-profit co-operative that has been in operation for almost 30 years. It started as an outdoor seasonal market and now it is indoors, a market that attracts thousands of visitors weekly from all over the island.

I am proud to say that my dad and I were some of the first vendors 30 years ago. We sold eggs and chicken and fresh produce there. Now look at it.

While I am bringing attention to our own farmers' market, there are thousands across this country. This private member's bill would help those farmers' markets. We need to have more resources for those small farmers if they are making jams or jellies. If they are making value-added products, they are going to need some sort of help. That could stem from Bill C-539.

We talk about oil security but food security is so important. Canada is a big country. We just need to look at this year alone and how the delivery of propane was disrupted by rail and how grain shipments were disrupted.

It is important to have more local food. We do not expect to have the same food year-round locally. We like to have berries this time of year, which might come from Chile or wherever. It is important that when we have local foods, farmers have the opportunity to sell them locally and stores have the opportunity to buy them.

Twenty-eight million shoppers visit farmers' markets. The average purchase price per shopper at a vendor's stall is $32. The average small farmer at these farm markets generates one to five jobs. The numbers are pretty big when we look at those farmers' markets.

I mentioned before that we also have to look at the grocery store business. Recently I visited a store called Bread & Circus Whole Foods Market in Boston. I picked up a bag of carrots and swiped it and the screen not only told me the price but it also told me exactly who the farmer was that grew them, the people working on the farm, and how the carrots were distributed. It was the same with cauliflower. We should be encouraging our own stores to do this. Young people like to know exactly where products are from. This provides them with an advantage, as it does the farmer and the grocery stores themselves.

Bill C-539 is only a start. We need a Canadian approach. The Conservatives get squirrelly when we talk about a national strategy about anything; they do not want national strategies. This is an issue that we should be looking at in the agriculture committee.

Every member in the House must have a local farmers' market in their own community. Think of all the products that are available. Think of being in the Okanagan Valley. It is not just fresh produce I am talking about. I am also talking about wine. I am talking about the new types of wines at the farmers' market in Annapolis Valley, which are available in liquor stores now. It is more than just food that is being sold. Think of the wine industry. Think of the potential if grocery stores and liquor stores have these labelled right.

This legislation is for more than about just farmers. It could also help people who sell fish. I am from the east coast and it has delicious fish. We have to look at how far away “local” means. We have people visiting us in Cape Breton from right across this country, many of them members, even some Conservatives, and they do not want to leave for various reasons. Whether it is at a restaurant or a farmers' market, people want to taste the local food, whether it is produce, fish, or so on.

We have to do more than just have this legislation. We need to have resources for farmers to be able to produce the right type of products for the grocery stores.

Safety is also important. A lot of small farms cannot afford all the tools needed for biosecurity and food safety. We have to help these farmers, because they will in turn expand and produce more food.

I commend the member for her bill. I wish the Conservatives would come to their senses. When the time comes to vote, I urge them to vote for this legislation. It is important for farmers.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House in support of my colleague's bill. I sincerely congratulate her on her work, her dedication and her passion. It is very important for us to have this debate today because Canada lacks a long-term vision for agriculture and buying local.

This bill asks the federal government to implement a pan-Canadian local foods strategy following consultation with the provinces and experts and to develop a policy to encourage government institutions to purchase those foods.

The main goal is to promote local foods and support Canadian farmers. During the summer, when I meet people in the community and in farmers' markets, they tell me about their growing interest in local products. When I go grocery shopping, I look for local products because I want to support what people are doing locally.

When I consume local products, I feel like I know where that food comes from and I am supporting local farmers. I find that very satisfying. I am trying to pass that kind of thinking on to people around me and especially to my son.

Here in Canada, local food initiatives include Farm to Cafeteria, a not-for-profit agency in British Columbia that has a 10-year track record of creating and supporting local food projects in public- and private-sector institutions.

Most major grocery stores have introduced policies to buy or promote local products. In addition, more and more farmers’ markets are opening, and their presence in urban areas plays a critical role in promoting local foods.

In my riding, the Yamachiche farmer's market is very popular. In the summer, I organized an event at the market that was a great success. Some 400 people attended a demonstration put on by a local chef, Chef Justine, on how to make vegetarian chili.

In my riding we also have Goûtez Lanaudière!, which brings together products from the Lanaudière region under a common label to make it easier for consumers to discover and recognize those products. It is a great idea.

To me, buying locally is not just about supporting local farmers. It is also about reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, consuming fresh products that have not been shuffled around—from trucks to refrigerators—supporting the local economy, keeping direct and indirect jobs for Canadians, and discovering the variety of products that are grown or processed where we live.

Those are good reasons why I strongly believe that the federal government must work with the municipalities, provinces and territories to help farmers offer fresh seasonal products, and help consumers find the products they are looking for not far from their doorstep.

The provinces have taken the lead in promoting local foods. Several have developed programs in co-operation with the industry to highlight local products. Foodland Ontario, Aliments du Québec and Buy B.C. are the most well established and best known. Unfortunately, the federal government has no policy to promote the purchase of local foods. However, the federal strategic framework, growing forward 2, provides for various cost-shared agriculture programs.

In 2013, Quebec developed the Proximité program, which is funded in part by the federal government and encourages buying local. This buy local policy, followed by institutions such as hospitals and shelters, allows the farm sector and local processors to get more of their products on Quebec dinner tables.

I think federal institutions have a role to play in local food production. For instance, I would love to eat local in our cafeteria. Eating local goes hand in hand with good health.

Canada should lead by example and be a world leader when it comes to healthy eating habits. Two examples come to mind. Last summer, the Quebec National Assembly decided to start growing vegetables. It replaced its flowerbeds with corn, a mini orchard, root vegetables and herbs. Two beehives were even set up on the roof to produce honey.

It is an ambitious urban farming project unlike any other around the world. With a growing area of 2,000 square feet and 130 crop varieties, the gardens will be used to feed customers at the National Assembly restaurant. Any surplus will be donated to a local charity.

According to the research done by the National Assembly, it will be the first parliament to become so involved in the urban gardening movement. Many years ago in the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt launched a similar project in the White House gardens during the Second World War.

Ms. Roosevelt's initiative fell by the wayside, but Michelle Obama revived it in 2009, during the economic crisis, to encourage people to eat healthier.

I find these two examples very inspiring for Canadians. It seems to me that a country like Canada has the means to support such initiatives, to be on the forefront and to lead by example. I believe in the importance of building networks of farmers and retailers, so that Canadian products can reach our grocery store shelves, particularly by creating direct links between farmers and major food chains.

This bill is part of the NDP's commitment to sustainable development. Buying locally means reducing transportation of food and therefore greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. It is vital that we work with producers in order to foster a better understanding of food miles and to increase transparency when it comes to the origin of the food on our table.

I would like to talk about something that is important to consumers: price. We know that food costs in Canada are not high. On February 7, we celebrated food freedom day. By that day, the average Canadian had earned enough income to pay his or her grocery bill for the entire year.

There is a myth that the price of local food is higher than imported food. A study was conducted to determine whether this is true. Researchers found that seasonal food costs the same and sometimes even less. That means that buying locally benefits consumers in the short and the long term. Not only do consumers purchase local food at affordable prices, but they also invest in their communities. In some cases, it is true that local products can be a little more expensive because of production and distribution factors.

As the deputy agriculture critic, I often talk about finding means of supporting and promoting strategies that will increase farmers' profits through direct sales. This benefits both the consumer and the producer. We often talk about community supported agriculture, or CSA, and other social enterprises. The entire agriculture sector could benefit from initiatives that would reduce barriers to farm gate sales.

Today, I met with a number of agriculture stakeholders. They told me that they would like to see more measures like this bill. They want more leadership and vision from the federal government.

I believe that my colleague's bill is a step in that direction and that is why I congratulate her and support her bill. We have already heard positive comments from the Liberals. Only the members opposite are left. Therefore, I encourage the Conservatives to learn about this bill and perhaps listen a little more closely.

I would like to congratulate my colleague once again.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today for the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to underline our government's commitment to a number of things; first, to protect the livelihood of farmers who depend on international markets to sell their crops, and second, to share our support for the purchasing of locally grown food by citizens and residents of this great country of Canada.

Buying local is an excellent way for consumers to enjoy the safe, delicious, high-quality food that Canadian farmers produce. It is a great way to support our hard-working family farmers. The closer to home, the better.

However, it is also important to note that there are clear roles for federal, provincial, and territorial governments in this respect, and that is the primary reason why our government cannot support this bill. Provincial governments, for example, have a key role to play in defining what local food is. Federally, our government's approach to locally grown food focuses on national efforts to increase consumer awareness and knowledge of Canadian agriculture and agri-food, not unlike what my colleague from across the way was talking about.

We are also mindful of Canada's growing ethnic diversity and consumer interest in specialty foods imported from countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe. Equally important are Canada's commitments under various multilateral trade agreements. Canada is obliged not to discriminate against food imports from our international trading partners.

This is critical when we consider that almost 50% of Canada's agriculture production is exported. Canadians farmers and processors depend on trade, and they benefit directly from increased access to international markets. Our government understands this. Our Prime Minister, our Minister of International Trade, and our government are pursuing the most aggressive trade agenda in Canadian history. That is to help the agricultural industry continue to grow and to prosper.

Canadian farmers are among the best in the world, and the impact of agriculture on our economy cannot be overstated. As a whole, the sector employs one in eight Canadians, and represents 8% of our gross domestic product. In 2012, Canadian agriculture and agri-food export sales totalled nearly $44 billion.

Our government's goal has always been to set the right conditions for farmers and processors to compete and succeed.

One important way we are doing that is through Growing Forward 2. No one seems to mention that, but it is a significant tool that was agreed to by all the provinces and territories. It is Canada's new agricultural policy framework. GF2, as it is called, is driving innovation and long-term growth for Canada's farmers and processors.

In addition to a generous suite of business risk management programs, federal, provincial, and territorial governments are investing more than $3 billion over five years to support innovation, competitiveness, and market development. This includes a 50% increase to those provinces and territories for program delivery.

GF2 gives provinces and territories the flexibility they need to invest to meet local needs. It gives them the tools to ensure that farmers can remain competitive and capture new and existing markets, which include, of course, markets for local food.

For instance, in Quebec, $5 million in GF2 funding has been targeted to developing local markets. The initiative called “Programme Proximité” encourages farmers to take advantage of the business opportunities that local markets provide.

In Ontario, the province is funding a new initiative to support the expansion of the Eat Local Sudbury Co-op. The co-op aims to deliver locally grown food throughout North Eastern Ontario, which is great news for farmers and consumers across the region.

Also under GF2, Yukon—and we do not often think about Yukon as having locally grown foods and agriculture—is using funds to get a wider variety of farm products into farmers' markets and restaurants, and onto store shelves.

An example is in New Brunswick, where market development, product enhancement, and diversification programs, again under the GF2, support farmers' efforts to capture new markets, be they local, national, or global.

These are just some of the examples of how Growing Forward 2 investments are helping to grow local markets for farmers across this great country.

The provinces and territories are getting local food initiatives off the ground. The wheels are in motion, and imposing a pan-Canadian strategy for local food could very well bring any progress we have been making just about to a screeching halt.

Growing Forward 2 is an exciting step forward, and it is serving the agricultural industry well. Its strong focus on innovation, market development, and competitiveness will position Canadian farmers and food processors for growth and prosperity in the years to come. With its built-in flexibility, Growing Forward 2 supports the diversity of markets available to farmers today.

The world's population is on the rise. There is an increasing demand globally for a high-quality and sustainable food supply. Our global customers appreciate the quality and consistency of Canada's food and agri-based products.

Opportunities for our farmers and processors are continuing to grow, and we need to be ready to seize those opportunities. We must keep expanding our customer base, ensuring that more of our great Canadian foods reach more consumers across Canada, those included in local markets, but also around the world. In short, we must produce locally and think globally.

At the federal level, our job is to look at the big picture and the longer term. We are committed to ensuring that farmers, and the entire sector, have the tools and resources they need to stay ahead of the ever-changing demands of consumers. That is why we are making strategic investments through Growing Forward 2, in the new AgriInnovation, AgriMarketing, and AgriCompetitiveness programs.

For instance, through AgriInnovation, we are investing to help turn traditional crops, such as mushrooms, grapes, flax, and buckwheat, into new revenue streams for farmers. Through AgriMarketing, we are helping to develop and enhance new markets for Canadian-grown oats, livestock, and grains.

These are just a few of the examples of the great things happening to support our farmers, thanks to the flexibility of the Growing Forward 2 program.

Again, our government recognizes the value of local markets. They are an important part of the big picture.

Federally, our goal and our role is to ensure our farmers, processors, and exporters are strong today and that they remain ahead of the competition well into the future. This has been our focus from day one, and it is not negotiable.

Therefore, I invite my hon. colleagues to continue to acknowledge the roles that governments play in supporting farmers' participation in all markets, whether they are local, national, or global.

Let us also continue to support the great local initiatives taking place in the provinces and territories thanks to the flexibility afforded by the Growing Forward 2 program.

Let us continue on the path we have in place, one that is based on consultations with farmers themselves. That is what Growing Forward 2 is about, respecting the voice of farmers and processors, and promoting our great Canadian agricultural industry here at home and around the world.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, on November 28, 2013, I asked a question regarding our correctional system, which is having a very hard time rehabilitating Canadian prisoners.

The question had to do with the report by the Correctional Investigator, Howard Sapers, who revealed that a large number of prisoners who are members of minority groups, for example aboriginal offenders, leave prison without having accessed programs or having received the rehabilitation they absolutely need. The minister claimed that there was nothing to worry about and that the existing programs were quite adequate. I disagree.

This Conservative government continues to ignore the negative impact of its Safe Streets and Communities Act. By bringing in mandatory minimum penalties and harsher punishments for young people, the Conservatives have plunged us into a real crisis. The prison population is drastically increasing.

It has been established and documented that aboriginal people and visible minorities are over-represented in Canadian prisons. The number of aboriginal prisoners has increased by 46%. They now represent one-quarter of all inmates, but only 4% of the Canadian population.

The numbers are even worse for aboriginal women, who have seen an 80% rise. Nearly one-third of women in jail are aboriginal, although they represent just 5% of the women in this country.

Things are just as bad for visible minorities. The population of black, Hispanic, Asian and Indian inmates has grown by nearly 75%. Specifically, the number of Afro-Canadians in federal institutions has grown by 90% since 2003.

In his damning report, Mr. Sapers gave a detailed description of the cultural transformation occurring within our prison system and suggested that the federal government create a clearer, more culturally appropriate corrections policy to support the rehabilitation of people belonging to these groups. He recommended introducing culturally appropriate programs, hiring multilingual staff and establishing ethnicity liaison officer positions in Canadian institutions.

Despite the urgency of the situation, the minister brushed off the recommendations. Obviously, he needs a little reminder. Rehabilitation is one of the two main objectives of incarceration. If the government is truly committed to making our streets and communities safer, it has to reduce the risk of people reoffending.

Our priority should be to ensure that our correctional system can deliver effective rehabilitation programs. Aboriginal people and visible minorities have the right to culturally appropriate programs that take their identity and their community realities into account. We will not help them reintegrate into society by isolating them even more.

On the contrary, more often than not, because of the Conservative government's failure to act, they do not reintegrate successfully and end up reoffending. So many individuals left to their own devices continue to grapple with the same problems as before and end up back in court. By not breaking that vicious cycle, we end up wasting public funds.

Now that the minister has had several months to digest the numbers in Howard Sapers' report, does he understand the magnitude of the crisis?

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

Scarborough Centre Ontario


Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, unlike the New Democrats, who time after time raise the issue of increasing rights for prisoners, our Conservative government is primarily concerned with the rights of victims. The NDP has in fact voted against giving victims more information about criminals convicted of victimizing them and ending early parole for white-collar fraudsters such as Earl Jones. The New Democrats even opposed and voted against my own private member's bill that stopped prisoners from making frivolous complaints. I would add, despite the objections and the adamant opposition of the NDP, that I am proud to say that my bill received royal assent in 2013.

Since the member for Alfred-Pellan has asked what our government does to ensure the correctional system actually corrects criminal behaviour, I am more than happy to tell her.

The Correctional Service of Canada offers a wide range of interventions to convicted criminals sentenced to federal time and has long been recognized as an international leader in the development and delivery of correctional programs. Indeed, evidence consistently demonstrates that our programs contribute in a very significant way to ensuring that when criminals are released from prison, they do not go back. This is shown by a lower likelihood of recidivism.

Our correctional programs enhance public safety results for Canadians by making criminals accountable for their behaviour and by teaching skills that can be used to help them become contributing members to Canadian society, in some cases for the very first time in their lives. Additionally, those criminals who have been identified as requiring specific correctional programs, such as mental health and drug services, will be afforded access to these programs throughout their sentences.

To this end, the Correctional Service of Canada began piloting the integrated correctional program model in January 2010. It was designed to enhance program efficiencies, program effectiveness, and public safety results by combining the most effective aspects of existing interventions with the most promising innovations in the area of correctional programming.

Members of our government are very pleased that our measures to combat crime are working. Recidivism is down. Crime rates are also down.

I call on that member to stop opposing us on all of these measures and to get on board with making our communities safer.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to answer the parliamentary secretary.

She spoke of victims' rights. Victims rights are addressed by rehabilitating inmates. If we want to have fewer and fewer victims, then we must respect what the correctional system is meant to do. One of its two main functions is to rehabilitate inmates in order to enhance public safety. Experts agree on this. In fact, one of those experts is the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Sue O'Sullivan. By cutting inmate reintegration programs, the Conservative government is undermining the safety of our communities and hindering the correctional system. It is not by cutting reintegration programs that we are going to make our communities safer.

I am sure that the parliamentary secretary agrees with me on that.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

March 27th, 2014 / 6:35 p.m.


Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the member opposite missed what I said in my first remarks, but recidivism is down and the crime rate is down. Apparently something is working.

Again, I can go on and talk about all of the common sense measures to tackle crime that the NDP has voted against. New Democrats voted against repealing the so-called faint hope clause, which gave early parole to convicted killers. They voted against ending house arrest for serious and violent crimes. They even voted against cracking down on drug dealers who target our children. Time after time when they have had the opportunity to choose between the rights of victims and the rights of criminals, sadly, they have chosen the latter.

Despite the objections from the New Democrats, Canadians know and can trust that our Conservative government will continue to work to combat crime and continue to support the victims of crime in order to keep our streets and communities safe.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:38 p.m.)