Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion moved by my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé because food waste is an issue that is very important to me.
Every summer for the past four years I have been touring the farmers' markets in my riding. I take the opportunity to have people sample the regional products and I talk to them about various themes related to agriculture and food.
This year, my theme was in fact food waste. Having spent the better part of my summer talking about food waste and raising awareness about it, I think this is quite relevant. My colleague's bill is truly important to me and my constituents. I know from the discussions we had at these farmers' markets how important this is to people.
We talked about a phenomenon that makes no ecological or economic sense to me, specifically the fact that far too often at our grocery stores we find products that travelled thousands of kilometres, when we produce those very same products in our own backyards.
When I go to the grocery store, I do not understand why they are selling ground beef from New Zealand. Just a few houses down from where I live, I have neighbours who produce beef. Nevertheless, the beef being sold at my local grocery store is from New Zealand. The reason I mention this is that transport is one of the reasons why food goes to waste.
The more food is transported from one area to another, the greater the chances that some of it will no longer be fit for consumption when it arrives at its destination. As a result, one of the battles we need to fight is to reduce the transportation of food. Obviously, ensuring that food is consumed as close as possible to the location where it was produced is the simplest way to reduce food transportation. This seems like a completely logical solution to me. What is more, this also prevents significant quantities of greenhouse gases from being emitted during transport. However, these simple solutions are not necessarily included in the policies.
Having a strategy to reduce food waste and establishing a day to raise awareness are excellent initiatives proposed by my colleague. Any general discussion on food and agriculture should include a set of policies, but we must also act on the individual issues. We cannot wait an eternity to do so. If we want tangible measures, we must act now. The bill before us would let us do that. It seems that members do not want to pass the bill, which I find absolutely unfortunate for producers and, generally speaking, for the environment.
Today, food waste amounts to $771 a year in groceries per consumer. My Liberal colleagues probably do not realize that $771 is the monthly income of some people. Every year, the amount of food wasted is equivalent to their income for an entire month. That is a lot, and it is not acceptable in a society like ours.
Our grandmothers came up with strategies to waste virtually nothing; they reused everything. Today, we live in a society with huge technological capabilities that let us better manage everything. We have gone from one extreme, where almost nothing was wasted, to the other, where waste is rampant.
Agriculture is very important in my region. Abitibi-Témiscamingue's bio-food sector is worth $280 million per year and accounts for 8,100 direct jobs, or 11% of all the jobs in my riding. That is why I will not stand for the government dragging its feet on food waste. I think our farmers deserve to be compensated for the work they do every day. We deserve to be able to eat our products.
Every year, when I visit farmers' markets, I talk about the Guyenne tomato incident, which was ridiculous. All of the tomatoes produced locally in Guyenne were being sent to Montreal and then brought back to Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Those tomatoes travelled 1,300 kilometres before ending up on our plates. That was absurd. That kind of thing should not happen. Shipping tomatoes 1,300 kilometres only to have them end up back on our plates is nonsense. Of course some of the tomatoes were damaged and wasted during that 1,300-kilometre trek. If the tomatoes had travelled a mere 15 kilometres before ending up on our plates, they would not have been damaged. They would not have been wasted.
We can reduce food waste considerably through simple measures. One simple measure we should introduce is ensuring that products are consumed as quickly and efficiently as possible after they are produced. That is why we need to reflect on how we can manage our food more effectively, and how we can ensure that this food makes it to our plates instead of being wasted.
Farmers' markets have become more popular than ever. When I was travelling around Palmarolle, I saw a long lineup of people waiting to purchase fresh vegetables from a local producer. People care more and more about buying fresh, local products. They want to help reduce food waste. We need to give them the tools, since they rely on what is provided to them. If they are offered only products that have come from far away, of course, people are forced to buy whatever they can access. Many people do not have access to several different grocery stores, and therefore have limited choices.
If, unfortunately, the local grocery store only carries carrots from Mexico or the United States, when it could perhaps carry carrots grown in Canada, we do not really have a choice. These products either spoil in transit, or we have to use chemical preservatives to help preserve them, which is also not a good environmental choice.
I am asking members to support my colleague's motion so that we can eat better and make smarter food choices. Not only will this ensure that people eat better, but it will also improve their health. These choices will also have an impact on the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transportation, as well as reducing the use of various chemicals used to grow the vegetables and to prolong their shelf life. In the end, if we could make it easier to get products from farm to fork, we would not need all these measures.
I also want to point out that the Conseil régional en environnement en Abitibi-Témiscamingue, or CREAT, has been working hard to reduce food waste by using existing networks. Businesses and groups in my riding are putting a lot of effort into reducing food waste. These groups are already very familiar with the issue. Many of our food stores have also gone to great lengths to ensure that local products are accessible. In Ville-Marie, for example, sales of regional products increased from about $200,000 per year to over $1 million annually over the past four years. This shows that we can have accessible products when people make an effort.
We must support the efforts of these people and stakeholders and continue to support the consumption of our local products if we want to reduce food waste.