House of Commons Hansard #84 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nigeria.


The House resumed from March 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-539, An Act to promote local foods, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to talk about what I think is an important concept and idea. At the end of the day, Canadians would respond very positively to the concept of a pro-Canadian food strategy. I think it has a lot of appeal and is something we should be moving more towards.

There is a role for the Government of Canada to play, even at some of the very basic levels. I always find it interesting how much money the Government of Canada will spend on advertising. We spend literally tens of millions of tax dollars on useless advertising. A good example, which I have used before, is the economic action plan that the government tends to promote at a phenomenal cost in tax dollars. I would suggest it is an absolute waste. We could use some of those tax dollars in a more productive fashion, and this is a good example of where I believe the government could be spending smarter in terms of those advertising dollars.

Specifically, when we talk about developing a pro-Canadian food strategy, part of that no doubt has to incorporate advertising with respect to some basic information that would be wonderful to know. For example, how many Canadians know what types of vegetables are actually grown here in Canada? When is the season for strawberries? To what degree do we participate in promotion and educating our population about our agricultural communities, our farmers, and the incredible work they do in terms of providing food for our tables?

Once all is said and done, I believe the government will be found lacking and wanting in terms of being able to educate people and provide a higher sense of public awareness. The Conservatives have really done very little on that front, and we have relied on initiatives from the private sector or other levels of government.

For example, one of the huge success stories in my own province is the Peak of the Market, which is an organization that has done exceptionally well in the province of Manitoba. It has provided educational advertising and a much higher sense of public awareness because of its actions.

Peak of the Market contributes immensely to non-profit organizations and educates the population as a whole in terms of the types of vegetables that they receive. Most importantly, not only does it promote good, quality product for the table, but it always provides a wonderful opportunity for farmers in Manitoba to participate in a program, and working as a collective we are able to see that much more in terms of market share. This is critically important, because it helps preserve the family farm and at the same time provides a world-class product. I am a little biased, but I would suggest we produce some of the best agricultural products in the world.

I think of a product like Manitoba-grown potatoes. We have had recognition throughout North America as one of the better producers of potato. French fries are a big thing in our province, not to mention Old Dutch potato chips, which are manufactured in Winnipeg North. I think there would be a very healthy competition between the P.E.I. spud and the Manitoba spud.

At the end of the day, whether it is Peak of the Market or our farmers' direct sales, they have done a phenomenal job in ensuring that we are able to produce a quality product.

The Government of Canada could be playing a role in this area. I used the potato as just one example of where the Government of Canada could do more with respect to advertising. As opposed to advertising the economic action plan, why does the government not invest some of those dollars in promoting locally grown products, no matter what region the products come from?

I remember driving down a highway a number of years back and seeing signs inviting people to pick their own strawberries. Ice cream buckets could be filled with strawberries. At certain times of the year, some grocery stores advertise discounted prices for blueberries and so forth. We need to understand and appreciate the importance of healthy food. People's diets can be influenced by the products they purchase in different seasons of the year and how they can store certain products during the winter months. So much more could be done to educate people.

Canadians want to contribute in a more wholesome way toward what they are eating. They are trying to get a better understanding of the food industry. I myself have tried to get a better understanding of local industries beyond vegetables and fruits.

The chicken and pork industries are two important industries. A good percentage of the chickens processed in Manitoba stay in my province. The agriculture critic for the Liberal Party came to my province and we had a wonderful opportunity to tour hatcheries and egg producers and visited a processor. Thousands of chickens are processed on a daily basis. Even though the bulk of them are used for local consumption, some of them are exported.

The pork industry in Manitoba processes millions of pigs on an annual basis. The agriculture critic and I toured places like the Maple Leaf plant. We also had the opportunity to visit some pork farms. This is an incredible industry that provides a high-quality product. This industry could continue to grow if we did more in terms of diversification, education, and consumer awareness. Our high-quality product could continue to grow, and that growth would ultimately add more jobs and value to our economy. I would argue that the final product would be that much better as well.

I also want to comment on our dairy industry. This industry has done exceptionally well through supply management, something we are committed to maintaining. This industry provides quality milk, cheese, eggs, and so forth, the essential foods that Canadians need.

If we want to be fair, we need to recognize the importance of the role farmers play in our food industry. We should have a strategy in place that would not only recognize their important role but would also encourage and enhance the great potential for growth in that industry.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill to promote local foods, which was introduced by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry.

Before I begin, I would like to thank my colleague for introducing this bill. This bill introduces a pan-Canadian local foods strategy and a policy to encourage federal institutions to purchase those foods. It shows leadership by addressing an issue that is very important to the people in my riding.

To illustrate how important local foods are to my region, I would like to read from an email sent to me by Nicolas Villeneuve, a municipal councillor in Saint-Joseph-du-Lac. He is also an apple producer and president of the Deux-Montagnes UPA. When I contacted him to talk about my colleague's proposed strategy, this is what he told me:

The bill you sent me is of critical importance to producers in our region. Government support for local foods is essential to ensure ongoing economic progress in the regions and to safeguard the progress our agricultural undertakings have achieved. Buying local foods will ensure Canadian food sovereignty, which is critical for both current and future generations. This also represents a long-term effort to protect the environment, if only by reducing our food miles. By buying locally, we can optimize people's access to the highest quality foods because quality control on imported products is not subject to reciprocity requirements with respect to production standards. These are the basic elements that I want to bring to your attention in connection with this bill.

I would like to thank Mr. Villeneuve for providing such an excellent summary of why buying local foods is good for our regional economies, not to mention our agricultural sector, food sovereignty and the environment.

Mr. Villeneuve supports this bill, just like many other organizations. I would like to list just a few such organizations that people in my region think are very important: the Association des marchés publics du Québec, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Union des producteurs agricoles, Solidarité rurale du Québec and Equiterre. The list goes on and on.

These organizations represent the people in our communities who are out there, close to the land. They realize that this type of bill is necessary if we want to ensure that the buy local movement really takes root.

I would like to talk about the research conducted by Equiterre in 2011, which is laid out in a document titled “Eating at home”.

I would invite those interested in this topic to visit the organization's website, where the research is available in its entirety. This study highlights the fact that Canadians want to eat local. In fact, three out of four Canadians want to. It is also important to define what “eating local” means.

The survey reveals that in situations of choice, Canadian consumers prefer to buy a domestic product, even from a faraway province, rather than an American product that was grown nearer by. Not just a question of kilometres, buying local is an act that is motivated by political rather than environmental concerns. When respondents were questioned on ideas associated with local foods, 94%...of them emphasized that they encouraged the local economy.

I find that very interesting. When I see those statistics, I am proud that Canadians want to support our own producers so that our communities will be stronger and more successful. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between what we want to do and what we actually do.

That is why this study also looked at the barriers to buying local foods. One of the most common barriers is the fact that local products are not always clearly identified. The study demonstrates that:

The results of the survey suggest the need for a basket of strategies for easier identification of local products, beyond just a logo or a brand. Strategies could be adapted to the consumer, depending on the environment (rural/urban, province of residence) and the place of purchase. For example, a neighbourhood greengrocer that has the complete confidence of its consumers could rely exclusively on identification at the display or a procurement policy, whereas bigger chains may need to use a label. Employees could also be provided with better training to help them guide clients towards local products.

This is important. We really need to identify best practices in this area and look at the studies that civil society organizations are doing in order to develop a pan-Canadian strategy.

The study indicates that, in addition to product identification problems, the incentives with the greatest impact on consumers are availability, accessibility, price and information. These incentives must be discussed and included in any plans for a pan-Canadian strategy.

The conclusion of the report indicates that we cannot merely rely on the isolated efforts of individuals who are already convinced of the benefits of buying local. We need to do more. Consumers are willing to eat more locally grown fruits and vegetables, but all of the necessary conditions for this to happen have yet to be fully realized.

I would like to once again reiterate that this study is available on the Equiterre website, and I encourage anyone who is interested to read it. It is very interesting. However, I would really like to assure my colleagues opposite, who may not trust Equiterre, that buying local is not just a fad. It is a major policy decision that has a widely recognized positive economic impact, particularly for a region like mine.

The study was even picked up by the Quebec magazine Les affaires, which once again pointed out how important it is to the Quebec economy to promote buying local. This shows how important it is for governments, like the Government of Quebec, to get involved. The Government of Quebec is very supportive of buying local. The federal government must also take some leadership with the provinces, while respecting their jurisdictions, of course.

The business community, the agricultural industry and environmentalists all agree that a partnership between the federal and provincial governments will allow much more to be accomplished.

For example, the Centre local de développement de Mirabel in my riding published a really interesting article about buying local in its economic newsletter, MIRADEV. It answered two important questions in this regard. First, why is it important to encourage our local farm producers? Second, what are the advantages of buying local products?

The answer to the first question is very important and speaks to those who are community-minded. Throughout the entire Mirabel region we are lucky to have farmers who sell their products directly from their farms at a kiosk, a shop or a greenhouse. It is also possible to pick your own fruits and vegetables or have baskets of produce delivered to your home. If every consumer added $30 worth of Quebec-grown food to their grocery cart every year, sales would increase by $1 billion over five years and roughly 100,000 jobs would be created throughout Quebec. That is quite significant.

The benefits are clear. In addition to creating jobs and helping our local economy, we are getting fresh food that is often harvested very nearby. We are also reducing greenhouse gas emissions, again because there is less movement of goods. We are also directly supporting our farmers and promoting healthy eating. That is important because when we buy locally, farmers use as little pesticide as possible in order to protect the environment.

I will close by saying that this is very important for my region, where the economy survives truly because of the local farm community. That is why I stand by my colleague who is proposing this pan-Canadian strategy. I invite all members of the House to support this bill.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise to speak in strong support of Bill C-539, an act to promote local foods. I will begin by paying tribute to the energetic and thoughtful work undertaken by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry.

I will first set the stage with some local context. My riding, Victoria, sits at the tip of an island that is home to nearly 3,000 farms and has a strong tourism sector. Almost one in five service sector jobs on Vancouver Island is connected directly or indirectly to food. However, over the last half century, the balance between locally grown and imported food has tilted dramatically. Once we grew 90% of our food locally; now, we import 90%. Partly for that reason, Victoria is at the leading edge of a trend that we are seeing in communities across the country, and indeed across the world, a growing interest in buying foods that are produced locally.

The majority of Canadians who choose to buy local do it to support farmers as well as their community economy, but they do it for other reasons too. Canadians know that by reducing the distance that our food travels means fresher produce in our kitchens, cleaner air in our communities, and fewer climate-changing emissions across Canada.

Late last year, I had the pleasure of attending the opening of Victoria public market. The market is the fruit of years of work by community activists like my friend Philippe Lucas, who wanted a downtown space to connect local farms with urban residents. It has been enormously successful.

My riding is also home to an innovative community organization called LifeCycles, headed up by the indefatigable and imaginative Jeanette Sheehy. LifeCycles partners with municipal governments and public institutions to give residents the tools and skills they need to grow, prepare, and preserve local foods.

In backyards across our city, hundreds of volunteers harvest up to 40,000 pounds of fruit each year, for example. That food is distributed through a network of some 40 agencies, such as food banks and community centres. They also have relationships with businesses supporting their work through social enterprise initiatives, such as selling apples to a local cidery, for example.

LifeCycles also works with eight elementary schools to integrate schoolyard vegetable gardens into their curriculum. Through these programs, more than 750 elementary school students each year learn how to grow their own nutritious food, right in their backyard. LifeCycles is a perfect example of the diverse range of benefits we can see in our economy and our communities when we support local agriculture.

Elsewhere in British Columbia, I would like to acknowledge the work of initiatives like Farm to Cafeteria, a not-for-profit agency, with a ten-year track record of creating and supporting local food projects in public and private institutions. A provincial program called “buy B.C.” works with industry to highlight local food products.

This past weekend, I visited Moss Street Market, one of the remarkable urban neighbourhood markets in Victoria. Like the amazing James Bay market, it is thriving. These neighbourhood markets not only provide an important outlet for local farmers, they serve to create something perhaps even more important: community. They create community. They bring neighbours and families together in an outdoor space to mingle and enjoy each other's company.

In Victoria, across British Columbia, and across Canada, the trend line is clear: the numbers of farmers markets have doubled over the past two decades. Even though we still buy the majority of our food from grocery chains, collaborative efforts by provinces and industries are promoting local foods that people want.

In response, other levels of government have taken action. Municipalities have introduced local procurement programs, and just last year, Ontario and Quebec introduced policies and legislation on local food. Yet, the federal government has no policy to encourage this positive trend. That is why Bill C-539 is so essential.

I am proud to support the bill, as a member of the only party in this House to demonstrate its commitment to supporting Canadian farmers by promoting local foods.

I would like to acknowledge the work of my colleagues, the member for London—Fanshawe and the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, who tabled bills in the last Parliament to give preference to Canadian products in government procurement and provincial transfers.

Canadians are making their preference for local foods known in the marketplace. Businesses are adapting. Community organizations, like those I mentioned in Victoria, are spreading the social and economic benefits of local agriculture around our communities. Governments at the municipal and provincial levels are waking up and noticing. The federal government must, too, and show some leadership. This bill would provide a road map for doing so.

What would the bill do exactly? First, very thoughtfully, it would enable federal and provincial ministers of agriculture to develop a pan-Canadian strategy to define “local food”, something that is not that easy to get our heads around.

In some cases it is easy, such as on Vancouver Island, where we have set definitions by geography. In other cases it is not so easy, such as in Ottawa and Gatineau. How do we define “local” when products cross provincial borders? How far should the distance be from the marketplace? Those are the sorts of things that need to be addressed as job one, and the bill would do just that.

Secondly, the bill would provide for the development of a local foods procurement policy for government institutions. It would task the Minister of Public Works and Government Services to develop such a policy and to implement it no later than one year after this legislation would come into force.

I also want to emphasize that the bill has shown great sensitivity to the division of powers in the Canadian federation. It would ask the federal government to first consult the provinces and stakeholders, such as producers, before it introduced this pan-Canadian local food strategy, and to develop a policy to encourage government institutions to purchase this food. In other words, the primary goal is to promote locally grown food and support Canadian producers, but always looking out for the division of powers in the Canadian federation so that we can work together, not at cross purposes.

Great care has been taken to confirm that such a local food procurement strategy would be consistent with both our internal trade and international trade obligations. That is very important.

Farmers in Canada are often facing a crisis. In my part of the world, the price of land is absolutely enormous, and it is very difficult to encourage young people to go into farming as a result. Not only that, there is a government at the provincial level that has introduced Bill 24, which appears to be trying to take away the preservation of the agricultural land reserve that was introduced by a former NDP administration to preserve the space and land on which agriculture can take place. That is something which is so vital. I would like to salute the efforts of my colleague, MLA Lana Popham, in trying to address this apparently wrong-headed initiative.

Creating a market for this product, even when agricultural land is so expensive, and when we have issues such as climate change that address what can be grown and where it can be grown, is very difficult. We need to provide as much support to our local farmers as we can. That is what this bill would be all about.

The bill reflects the NDP commitment to sustainable development. When we buy local foods, we reduce transportation distances and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to the climate crisis we are facing in Canada today.

By way of conclusion, this bill is sensitive to federal and provincial concerns. It would take into account consultations with the producers, the provinces, and the territories. It would develop a local procurement strategy that would be consistent with our trade agreements. Most of all, it would help sustain something that is so vital, which is local agriculture creating community in our country and giving consumers and farmers what we need as we face the future together.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to debate Bill C-539, An Act to promote local foods. I want to acknowledge the extraordinary work of my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry, the former deputy environment critic. She is well versed in the principles of sustainable development and reducing greenhouse gases. Her bill reflects that.

First, I must explain that Bill C-539, An Act to promote local foods, is split into two sections. The first requires the federal government to work with the provinces on developing a pan-Canadian strategy. Essentially, we want the federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to sit down with his provincial and territorial counterparts, with farmers and distributors and with representatives of civil society in order to develop a common definition of what constitutes local food, which is not yet defined in Canada.

The pan-Canadian strategy will also create a forum for sharing best practices, promoting buy local and co-ordinating the efforts of producers and distributors. II have talked to farmers in the Lower Laurentians over the past three years and realized that they are not necessarily aware of what they can do, what works and the tools that could be made available to them.

Today, farmers are facing considerable challenges including the increase in production costs, international competition, fluctuating prices and natural catastrophes that are increasingly affecting their returns.

By buying local, we are supporting our own producers and the next generation of farmers. As my colleagues have already mentioned, the agricultural and agri-food sector is very important to the Canadian economy and generates thousands of jobs. Buying local means cultivating our own economy. That is why we have to sit down together and develop a concerted strategy.

There is no federal policy to promote the purchase of local food. However, a number of provinces have already developed such policies. For example, Quebec developed the Proximité program to encourage buying local. The provinces have taken the lead in promoting local foods. A number of other provinces have worked with the industry to design programs that highlight local products, such as Foodland Ontario, the Buy Local BC program and, of course, Aliments du Québec.

Bill C-539 also calls on the federal government to set an example by developing a local foods procurement policy for federal institutions. There are 28,000 federal institutions across Canada, namely agencies, departments, prisons and hospitals. That is quite a few. The federal government can develop a local procurement strategy at these institutions.

What does buy local mean? It means buying products nearby that were cultivated and grown by local people.

During my term as an MP, I have met many farmers and participated in local events that promote local products, such as the Festival de la galette et des saveurs du terroir in Vieux-Saint-Eustache and the Fête Champêtre de la Société d'agriculture Mirabel—Deux-Montagnes to name just a couple.

I support the work being done by the Groupe conseil agricole Outaouais-Laurentide. This group focuses primarily on co-operative activities and on pooling development tools to benefit the community. I have spoken with these farmers and learned that they often work behind the scenes. However, they are passionate and make considerable contributions to our community.

What does buying local mean for consumers? Some Canadians will be surprised to learn that local food does not necessarily cost more than food from another province or food that is imported from elsewhere.

Seasonal food generally costs the same price or even less. A number of studies have proven this. In some cases, the food can cost more as a result of production or distribution costs, but even if the price of local food varies, 42% of consumers are prepared to pay a small supplement for local products if it benefits their region's economy.

Do my colleagues know that if every consumer added $30 of products from Quebec to their grocery cart every year, we would see an increase in sales of over $1 billion over five years and the creation of about 100,000 jobs in all regions of Quebec? That is a big deal. It shows how important buying local is to Quebec's economy.

I want to share some quotes from some people who support Bill C-539. This is from the Union des producteurs agricoles:

We believe that if this bill passes, it will create some attractive opportunities for agri-food products from Quebec and Canada by focusing on their quality and the economic, social and environmental benefits they represent.

I would also like to share a quote from Equiterre:

This bill will help Canadian farmers, create jobs and reduce the pollution associated with transportation. We think this bill is commendable.

I know that my colleague form Beauharnois—Salaberry did her homework in drafting this bill. She consulted farmers and other stakeholders. I am proud to support her bill.

In my role as MP for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, over the past three years, I have had the pleasure of working with farmers from the region on a number of federal files. For example, I intervened on behalf of Quebec's wine producers regarding the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's intention to develop an ice wine standard.

For those who may not be familiar with my riding, I would like to draw attention to the fact that the Rivière du chêne winery in Saint-Eustache is the second-largest winery in Quebec, the largest being the Orpailleur winery in the Eastern Townships. The winery has received many awards at prestigious international competitions, proving that our local products are high-quality products.

I would also like to point out that a group of MPs from the Montreal area submitted a brief before the Montreal metropolitan area adopted its metropolitan land use and development plan. They wanted to stress the importance of maintaining a greenbelt around the Island of Montreal.

I would also like to mention that the NDP has been working on the issue of buying local for some time now. Last year, the hon. member for Welland introduced a buy local bill, Bill C-449, An Act respecting a National Local Food Day. In the last Parliament, the members for Burnaby—New Westminster and London—Fanshawe introduced bills to give priority to Canadian products in the public sector procurement process and transfer payments to the provinces.

It is obvious that this bill is consistent with the NDP's vision of promoting the local economy and sustainable development.

While I was doing research for my speech, I was interested to learn that the number of farmers markets in Canada has doubled since 1990. Between 2004 and 2007, the number of producers who sell directly to consumers increased by 2%. In 2009, there were 2,314 buy local initiatives in Canada. Clearly, consumers want to buy local products. Municipalities and provinces have taken action to promote the idea of buying local.

I believe that the federal government must take a leadership role and sit down with the provinces, stakeholders and experts to help our farmers and develop a buy local strategy.

I invite all of my colleagues in the House to support this bill.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to support Bill C-539, An Act to promote local foods, which was introduced by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry. This bill is very important to me.

In my time today, I would like to inject some local flavour into the debate and talk about producers in our regions, who will be the main beneficiaries of this bill. I live in Laval, the suburb north of Montreal. When you talk about Laval, people picture a pretty typical suburb. However, one-third of the land in Laval is agricultural. It includes the very best Saint Lawrence River valley farmland in Quebec. That might come as a surprise to people who do not know my riding. Over 80% of the land in Alfred-Pellan is agricultural. That is a lot of farmland.

People in Laval are extremely proud of our local producers. I am speaking on their behalf today. I have spoken to a number of producers in Alfred-Pellan about Bill C-539. People in Laval are very enthusiastic about the bill introduced by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry.

If we take a close look at this bill, we see that its main purpose is to promote local foods and support Canadian producers. Its primary goal is to support local producers all across the country. That is because producers are grappling with major challenges such as rising production costs, pressure due to global competition, which is being felt more and more keenly in our ridings, fluctuating prices and natural disasters, which are having an increasingly significant impact on agricultural yields.

By buying locally, we are supporting our own producers and the next generation of producers. That is the key element of this bill. Anyone familiar with the challenges facing farmers knows how important it is to find the next generation. Since I was raised in Laval, where I was surrounded by producers, I have a lot of friends who farm and acquaintances who are the next agricultural generation. I have observed that our young people cannot make a go of it in the existing agricultural system.

I would like to give the House a few examples. I am thinking, for example, of my friend Pierre-Luc, of Cultures Chouinard, who does not live in Laval but is from Rivière-du-Loup. He grows squash and potatoes. It was very difficult for him to take over the farm. It is a very large farm that covers a huge area in the St. Lawrence Valley. He did not have the means to take over the family farm and so his family had to give him a large part of the farm.

My neighbours in Auteuil, the Ouimet family, have been growing cabbage for three generations on the Rang des Perron. They have discouraged their three children from farming and have suggested that they study and do something else because agriculture is too difficult for today's youth. They wanted their children to have a better future.

I am also thinking of a friend of my brother's who owns Fromagerie du Vieux Saint-François and who has been raising goats for many years. His family has worked hard to raise goats in order to make good local goat cheese. He has always loved this work. The only problem is that there is no future in it because he cannot make a living from the trade that he loves so much. Unfortunately, he is thinking of selling Fromagerie du Vieux Saint-François, which is a jewel in eastern Laval.

These are very sad cases. The Conservative government has shown very little initiative when it comes to helping the next and the current generation of farmers. A pan-Canadian strategy that would have the federal government sit down with the provinces, discuss different solutions and establish a platform for best practices by region is a very smart choice.

This situation must not be taken lightly. Farmers from across Canada could tell us what is happening today. Land is being bought by multinationals and local farmers are struggling to survive. They have to keep restructuring and it takes a lot of money and resources to do that. Unfortunately, they are often saddled with debt.

Supporting them with Bill C-539 would be a step in the right direction. It would send the message that the federal government is concerned about our farmers and buying locally and that it is going to invest in this and sit down with the provinces to see what could be done and to establish a pan-Canadian strategy. It would show that we are taking this problem seriously and addressing it as quickly as possible.

Back home in eastern Laval, we are extremely proud to buy locally. We have a number of magnificent farms that are still locally owned and operated and passed down from generation to generation. There are a number of community initiatives organized every year to support these various farmers and provide the locals with easy access to this local food.

There are the neighbourhood farmer's markets in eastern Laval, Saint-Vincent-de-Paul and Saint-François. This way, a number of local producers can have a stand at these outlets. These pocket markets alternate between two neighbourhoods that, let's face it, are not as well served when it comes to food security.

For example, we have the Aux vieux chênes farm, which is the only sugar shack in eastern Laval. There is also the Vaillancourt farm. Agathe makes delicious jams and has a number of local products to offer. These farms are often represented at the neighbourhood farmer's market in eastern Laval. This wonderful and popular initiative to support our local farmers is starting its third consecutive year this year. This would be a good practice to share with various other players. I am sure there are others across the country. It would be interesting for people to share their experiences.

The Jeunes au Travail farm has undertaken a wonderful initiative. This organization helps troubled youth between the ages of 16 and 25 reintegrate into the labour market through activities such as Ecocert-certified organic farming. The young people grow organic fruits and vegetables on the farm and also cook meals with local products and the products they grow. The organization also provides training and job skills, as well as psychological and social support to these young people who really need it. The organization is training a new generation of people who are aware of local foods, food safety and high-quality products, which is amazing. When the stand is open, I often drop by to commend these young people who are doing an incredible job. I tip my hat to them, because without them, we would have to wonder about the future. This is a wonderful example of what Quebec's next generation can do.

I must also point out that the big supermarket chains are getting increasingly involved in buying local, doing business with farmers and featuring them in their stores, especially in the summer. This is of course easier to do at this time of year. There are great examples from Laval to Mont-Laurier. We are seeing an interest from the public, community organizations, farmers who are trying to make a go of it, and even big chains at the local level.

In conclusion I want to say that I support the bill introduced by my colleague from Beauharnois—Salaberry. I hope that my colleagues, regardless of where they sit in the House, will support this bill that is extremely important to all the people I mentioned.

Promotion of Local Foods ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to rise in the House today to defend my bill and to try to convince other members to vote in favour of it. Farmers deserve nothing less.

We tend to forget that farmers do the work needed to meet a vital need, the need to eat. They allow human beings to feed themselves. We often consider farmers from a purely economic standpoint, but they also play a role when it comes to health and basic needs. It is therefore very important that we support all of our farmers, as my colleague from Alfred-Pellan said, as well as any members of the next generation who want to get involved in agriculture, in order to improve the image of our farmers, who work hard day and night to deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at them. Here in Canada, that is a rather uncertain undertaking. We have seen proof of this recently. Spring is dragging on and farmers are having to deal with unpredictable weather.

What I am asking the government is very simple. It involves being innovative and showing leadership. It is quite feasible since there are already a number of pan-Canadian strategies out there. All of the stakeholders that I consulted over the past two years, whether it be farmers, people working on agri-food policies, consumers or distributors, want the federal government to sit down with them and with the provincial and territorial ministers of agriculture and agri-food in order to discuss a common definition of buying local. That is no easy task since every region of every province has a different definition and a consensus must be reached.

We must also continue to raise the public's awareness of the importance of buying local and its benefits. As it has been mentioned, foods that are grown locally are fresher and taste better than those coming from other places; moreover, buying local reduces the need for transportation, thereby reducing our ecological footprint. Farming is a sustainable and profitable occupation.

In terms of profits, we need to keep in mind that farmers create more than one in eight jobs in Canada. Each year, they account for 8% of Canada's GDP, contributing more than $100 billion to the Canadian economy. Farming is a vital part of our economy, and we need to support our farmers. To those who are concerned about international free trade agreements, I would simply say that every agreement Canada has signed includes procurement thresholds that allow Canada to buy locally. Many European Union countries and the United States do it. Why not Canada? Why not lead by example and ensure that we are supporting our own farmers?

There are 28,000 federal institutions across Canada. During the summer months, our farmers grow their vegetables and other crops, and it is much easier for us to support them. Why not do it? It is easy enough. Our land is full of riches. We need to put this policy into practice. There is plenty of support for it.

I would like to thank all of those who participated in the consultations, including my colleagues and the people in my riding of Beauharnois—Salaberry. In particular, I would like to thank Sylvain Gascon from the Huntingdon farmers market, who welcomed me with open arms. He gave me plenty of advice and guidance and put me in contact with many people. Denys Van Winden helped me discover the rich land of Jardins-de-Napierville. He also talked to me about the difficulties that farmers are facing and the optimal level of funding from the federal government for research, young farmers and farming practices. I cannot mention everyone who helped, but a number of economic stakeholders supported me as well, including the local development centres in Haut-Saint-Laurent and Beauharnois-Salaberry, the Vallée-du-Haut-Saint-Laurent conference of regional elected officials, and the Beauharnois–Valleyfield chamber of commerce and industry, which was the first chamber of commerce that decided to support this project. I would also like to say a special thanks to my team members who, for the past two years, have supported me and done everything they could to promote this bill.

I am so grateful to Isabelle Bourassa, Glen, Julie and Jean-Marc. I would also like to thank everyone, NDP and otherwise, who supported the bill. It is heartwarming.

I hope that the federal government will finally step up and sit down with the provinces, municipalities, producers and distributors so that this sector of our economy, which feeds the planet, can succeed and so that our producers can be proud of the work they do.

We need leadership and political will, and we also need common sense because this sector is struggling. Since 2006, 8,000 farm families have had to leave their farms because of the federal government's lack of support and vision. That has had an impact on all regions of Canada.

It is important for everyone here and around the world to be able to eat healthy, local food. I hope that all members will vote in favour of my bill.

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11:55 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members



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The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members


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The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 14, 2014, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House resumed from May 7 consideration of Bill C-23, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

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The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

When this matter was last before the House, the hon. member for Winnipeg North had completed his remarks but had not yet begun his questions and comments, so we will do those five minutes of questions and comments now.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Malpeque.

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Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, great remarks they were by the member for Winnipeg North outlining fairly strong criticism of Bill C-23, misnamed the fair elections act. It is the foundation, really, of how we elect people in our country. It is a bill that really should be opposed.

I have two questions for the member. Would he explain the importance of having a free vote on Bill C-23? That has been talked about by quite a number of players, and I wonder if he could expand on that. Could he also expand on the government's decision not to compel witnesses? That will certainly impact the ability of Elections Canada to do its job.

If he could answer those two questions, it would be helpful.

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Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I like the way the member said that it is misnamed. It is not the fair elections act. Bill C-23 is far from that. One has only to look at the process by which the bill has come before us, whether it was the conception of the idea; no consultation with the many different stakeholders; the manner in which it was introduced in the House, where there was again no consultation; time allocation at second reading; or committee stage, where there were numerous amendments made that were never addressed in full because of time allocation or restrictions that saw many of the amendments voted on but never commented on. Here we are today, where again, time allocation has been brought forward.

We change one of the pillars of our democracy when we change laws. The government did not work with opposition parties or with Elections Canada, a true independent organization. Rather, it has forced the bill through.

We are calling for the Prime Minister, at the very least, to allow a free vote in the House on this issue, believing that parliamentarians will put democracy ahead of their own party's interests on this issue. It is an appeal to have a free vote.

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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it certainly is a significant moment in the House of Commons when the Conservative majority has accepted and proposed its own amendments in the face of massive opposition from quarters that usually support it, like serial editorials in the Globe and Mail and Conservative senators. Even the former auditor general, Sheila Fraser, weighed in on bill at first reading, saying the bill was “attack on...democracy”.

In the member's view, with the amendments the Conservatives have now put forward, does he agree with me that while it is a less awful bill, it is still not a good bill?

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Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, absolutely. That was well put. It is important we recognize that there was an incredible amount of opposition to the legislation and the manner in which the government brought it forward and attempted to pass it through the system. The way in which the government has treated our elections law is incredible.

As has been pointed out, I would suggest that even with the changes that have made, the legislation still has fundamental flaws. The most significant one is that it has not brought forward the ability to allow Elections Canada or the Commissioner of Elections to compel witnesses. That is a serious flaw. Without that change, how can we possibly support the legislation?

The reason the public wanted to see the election law changed in the first place was to deal with issues that came from the last federal election. Without the ability to compel witnesses, even if we pass the bill as it is today, the election law will be weaker than what it was prior to its introduction. Elections Canada and the commissioner have recognized that point.

Therefore, I would plead with the Prime Minister to have a free vote and then I ask all Conservative members to balance it and vote against the legislation.

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12:05 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in report stage to speak, initially, to my two amendments. I had hoped to have substantive amendments at report stage, but members will recall that the committee was allowed to violate its own rules by rejecting my right to speak to my amendments as they were all gavelled through, all being rejected.

I want to express thanks to the minister for being willing to listen to the extraordinary course of denunciation for Bill C-23 at first reading. Unfortunately, even with the number of government amendments that were accepted at committee, the bill falls far short of being what is required to go by the name of a “fair elections act”.

Briefly speaking to the amendments I put forward at committee, which were defeated, it is a shame that we missed the opportunity to open a discussion on getting rid of first past the post and moving to proportional representation. I think most Canadians would be shocked to find that the leaders' debates are not controlled by anybody, and that the opportunity to create a fair system, as presented at committee by Democracy Watch, was not supported by any party other than the Green Party.

On the requirements for people to bring so many different kinds of ID, we still do not have the kind of system that is as reliable as the election system before the Conservatives' first round of amendments back in 2006. I wish we had ensured non-partisan poll workers.

There were numerous amendments from the Liberals, the New Democrats and the Greens on many of these points, for fairer financing and to take steps to increase voter turnout. I also put forward an amendment in the committee to shift the day of advanced polling from a Sunday. I will try again with the amendments I have before you, Mr. Speaker.

All the amendments from any opposition party were defeated at committee, with one exception, which was one when the Conservative leader on the committee pointed out that the Conservatives had been prepared to do that themselves had they had the chance.

My two amendments would do one thing, which would be fantastic, and that would be to remove the name of the political party from the ballot next to the name of the candidate. This would do a lot to reduce the excessive control of political parties over the electoral process. We used to have elections with just the name of the candidate, right up until about 1970.

I want to devote the rest of my time this morning to why we had the demand for a fair elections act, and how this bill falls far short. The initial attempt, and this was mentioned by other members in this place, the initial cry for reform of our electoral process, was in response to efforts at electoral fraud.

The amendments I put forward at committee, among those of Liberals and the New Democrats as well, called for giving Elections Canada the investigative tools it needed, such as subpoena powers, the ability to look into efforts, or deliberate efforts or actually successful efforts, at voter fraud and electoral interference that changed the course of elections. These amendments were defeated.

People have been very quick to assume that the so-called robocalls affair is now settled and nothing untoward took place there. Because the bill remains inadequate to the task of investigating electoral fraud, we can continue to have events like the 2011 robocall scandal without the tools of Elections Canada to respond.

In the time I have remaining, I want to ensure that it is understood we have not once, not twice, but three times seen quite scandalous interference in our electoral process, that if we had heard of these stories from some third world country, with some kind of tinpot dictatorship that ran fake elections, we would just shake our heads and say, “I guess that is how it happens in other countries”.

The first example was the 2005-06 election, when we had the deliberate interference in the election by our state police, the RCMP. We never got to the bottom of why Commissioner Zaccardelli broke all RCMP protocol and issued a press release during that election. According to a finding of fact by the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP, Paul Kennedy, the interference of the RCMP both violated its normal procedures and changed the course of the 2006 election. We had no investigation because there were no subpoena powers to call Mr. Zaccardelli to explain himself.

Second, we had an event that took place in Saanich—Gulf Islands in the 2008 election. I was not personally involved, but it was very clear, and there were multiple complaints to Elections Canada and the RCMP, that a robocall effort targeting NDP voters changed the course of that election and allowed a Conservative to be re-elected when all evidence suggested that he would not have been.

The Liberal candidate was neck in neck with the Conservatives. There was no NDP candidate on the ballot as he had withdrawn. An election eve round of phone calls went out spoofed as though they were from the NDP. The spoofing term is one I have learned. It is the technical term for using the home fax number, as it turned out, of an NDP volunteer to make it appear the calls originated from the NDP, urging people to get out and vote for a candidate who was no longer capable of election because he had withdrawn from the race. That changed the course of the election. Elections Canada was asked to investigate, but basically threw its hands up and said that it could not find anything, that there was nothing to see, so we should move on.

If members detect in my presentation that I am critical of the failure of Elections Canada and the RCMP to get to the bottom of that, everyone can bet I am critical. They utterly failed to defend the integrity of the election process in Saanich—Gulf Islands in 2008, and they did it again in 2011 with the robocall scandal. Thank goodness, The Council of Canadians took the matter to court. Other than Federal Court judge Mr. Justice Mosley, we would not have somebody as a finder of fact going over all the evidence and giving us clear foundational information of what occurred. Right now, the Commissioner of Canada Elections, Mr. Yves Côté, in his report of last month, once again told us that there was nothing to see, so we should move on.

Let me review what Mr. Justice Mosley found, because it is important to put it on the record to understand why this bill is so inadequate and why it should have the powers of investigation to ensure that crimes like this are properly investigated. Mr. Justice Mosley found as fact that “...there was a deliberate attempt at voter suppression during the 2011 election”. That was at paragraph 177.

At paragraph 224, he wrote:

I am satisfied that it has been established that misleading calls about the locations of polling stations were made to electors in ridings across the country, including the subject ridings, and that the purpose of those calls was to suppress the votes of electors who had indicated their voting preference in response to earlier voter identification calls.

At paragraph 246, he stated, “I find that the threshold to establish that fraud occurred has been met...”.

At paragraph 253, he said:

...I don’t doubt that the confidence rightfully held by Canadians has been shaken by the disclosures of widespread fraudulent activities that have resulted from the Commissioner’s investigations and the complaints to Elections Canada.

As well, he stated at paragraph 256:

...[the...] calls appear to have been targeted towards voters who had previously expressed a preference for an opposition party (or anyone other than the government party)...

On the matter of a smoking gun and who is responsible, essentially in this case we have a smoking gun. We know that thousands of calls were made, including in my own riding and across the country. I wrote Elections Canada with my concerns about these widespread attempts at voter suppression immediately following the May 2011 election. Who was responsible? I have made no accusations as to who I believe is responsible, but Mr. Justice Mosley found as fact the following, at paragraph 245:

I am satisfied...that the most likely source of the information used to make the misleading calls was the CIMS database maintained and controlled by the Conservative Party of Canada, accessed for that purpose by a person or persons currently unknown to this Court....the evidence points to elaborate efforts to conceal the identity of those accessing the database and arranging for the calls to be made...

What kind of democracy is this? We have the evidence of a Federal Court judge, thousands of complaints from Canadians across the country, a Commissioner of Canada Elections who says that there is nothing to look at here and everyone should move on, and we have a bill before us that would do absolutely nothing to prevent the illegitimate use of robocalls in future elections.

I concede to the minister and support the part of the bill that sets up a robocalls registry within the CRTC, but it is not sufficient to deal with the illegitimate use of robocalls and to protect Canadians, Canadian democracy and the integrity of our electoral process. This bill falls far short. This is a dark day for democracy.

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12:15 p.m.


Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, would the member care to comment on the happenings in the committee that was reviewing the bill?

The member proposed that we have a study on proportional representation, but the Liberals voted against it in committee in a recorded vote. We, of course, supported the motion that we should include a study of proportional representation in the bill. Would she comment on the Liberal rejection of this notion?

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Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, yes, I was disappointed. It was a very modest proposal that we open discussion toward proportional representation, which was not supported by the Liberals. I have to say that I was also very disappointed—although the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth did put forward an explanation that was somewhat persuasive as to why his party would not support my amendment—that no one supported my amendment to have some rules to ensure fairness in the leaders debate. I was not without my disappointments throughout the committee process.

I think we need to continue to work to get rid of the perverse first past the post voting system. I commend the NDP for its strong position on that, but I think we need to persuade more Liberal and Conservative members. Within both of those parties, I know there are many members who find the current system quite perverse and would like to see real reform.