Mr. Speaker, first I would like to thank my colleague for bringing this motion forward. From all the questions raised in the House and to the agriculture committee, I want to acknowledge and thank the member for the great work she has done since the election to bring this issue front and centre.
It is an important issue, because across Canada and in my riding, these are real jobs for people. It is about good jobs for members of all of communities, and I am honoured to stand in this House today to speak on behalf of the wonderful dairy farmers in my riding.
In a world where jobs are at a premium, keeping a thriving domestic industry may be more valuable than cheap milk or imported diafiltered milk. For this reason, I am very happy to speak in support of this motion today.
Dairy farmers are speaking out in B.C. The dairy sector contributes many millions of dollars to the provincial GDP and is responsible for more than 15,000 jobs, which is 21% of B.C.'s agriculture jobs.
The NDP stands proudly next to our dairy producers. They are the pillar of our economy and our food sovereignty.
In my riding of North Island—Powell River, we have farmers losing out simply because the Canadian government cannot do its job.
Let me explain.
The problem of diafiltered milk has been going on and has been a battle for our dairy farmers for at least the last two years. The diafiltered milk is a U.S. product, part of the great family of milk protein concentrates. These are ingredients mostly used for cheese, which are less costly and are made from heavily subsidized U.S. milk. They are designed exclusively to get around Canadian rules. Diafiltered milk is imported and is used instead of milk from our farmers, which results in financial losses for them.
Currently, the Canada Border Services Agency considers diafiltered milk as a milk protein concentrate. It is, therefore, not subject to the dairy chapter of the customs tariff schedule, so enters the country tariff free.
For its part, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency considers the diafiltered milk as milk in its inspection work of these cheese standards.
We have two departments, under one disorganized government, considering the same product in two different ways.
Under the cheese compositional standards for Canada, it is required that a minimum percentage of the protein used in cheese-making be sourced from milk. Some processors have taken to using milk protein substances as part of their required minimum percentage of milk when making cheese, instead of using it as a part of their allowable percentage of added ingredients.
This is how U.S. producers and large-scale Canadian transformers are getting around the rules.
Consequently, this is a considerable financial advantage for some processors. However, but not all processors can use or have access to diafiltered milk, which causes unfair competition, specifically for small cheese processors.
The solution is quite simple. We need the diafiltered milk to cease to have a dual identity, and we need the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to enforce its non-dairy character so that processors do not use it instead of Canadian milk.
On Vancouver Island alone, where I reside, the dairy sector is responsible for more than 1,300 jobs. It is estimated that the financial loss caused by diafiltered milk is $220 million across Canada a year. That is an average loss of $15,000 per year, per producer.
Why is this problem persisting?
The issue was raised during the election campaign. The dairy farmers were persistent and continue to advocate. As Liberals do, they pledged to solve the problem. However, we now see the Liberal government continuing to drag its feet. It is starting to look like a broken promise.
Yet the solution is simple: enforce the cheese compositional standards.
If the Liberals genuinely care about supply management, our family farms, and our regions, they will support our motion and solve this problem once and for all.
The Liberals have said repeatedly that they will protect supply management. With our motion, they have an opportunity to put their words into action and make this pass.
Let me quote Ms. Caroline Emond, the executive director of Dairy Farmers of Canada:
The government is responsible for the enforcement of Canada's border measures and must act quickly to limit damages caused to Canadian industry. This role will be even more important when service imports enter into Canada as a result of CETA and TPP.
Let's be clear. All we're asking is that the government enforce existing rules and allow only the amount that has been agreed to in trade agreements to enter the country.
The Quebec National Assembly voted unanimously in favour of a motion asking the federal government to apply its standards and protect the integrity of our supply management. When will the Liberals keep their promises and stand up for Canadian dairy farmers, like those who live in my riding and those who live in many ridings of members in this House?
Our producers are worried. To add insult to injury, Canada signed a trade agreement that opened a breach in supply management. The sum of access granted to the dairy industry projects to be 3.25% of Canada's 2016 milk production. The milk displaced by this agreement will never be produced in Canada and will result in a perpetual loss of revenue for our farmers and for the Canadian economy.
This month, Joe Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, sounded the alarm for workers. Why are the Liberals determined to move forward with this agreement? Then there is the Canada-Europe trade agreement. These concessions will cost the dairy industry an additional $300 million in market losses. The 2016 Liberal budget's lack of compensation for cheese producers for concessions made as part of CETA has angered Canada's dairy industry.
It is clear that whether the Conservative Party or the Liberal Party is in power, they are doing the same thing. We have seen this happen again and again, and we are not protecting the jobs in Canada that make this country strong.
Let me conclude by quoting Mr. Wally Smith, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada:
...all of Canada's dairy farmers speak with one voice on diafiltered milk. We are collectively disappointed with the lack of action on enforcement of the cheese standards. The Government does not need to pass a new law or new regulation and the solution is simple. The Government needs to enforce the existing standards.
I hope in this House that we can make sure today that this job is done. We need to enforce these standards to move forward in a positive way for our country and protect dairy farmers.