House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.


Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

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.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is important to recognize that the Government of Canada is in fact aware of the situation. As was pointed out earlier, it is not the current government that ultimately created the problem. It was the former Conservative government which stood by and did nothing, and now we are being asked to look into it.

The government has a process which it needs to go through. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has been very clear on the issue of supply management. The Government of Canada supports supply management.

I find it interesting that this has been an issue now for a few years, and the NDP has chosen today, the day on which there is a protest, to bring the issue forward in the form of an opposition motion. That is fine, but I would to know why, when the NDP was the official opposition, it did not raise the issue back then and put on pressure. The issue was there and it was being embellished upon and became an even larger issue.

Maybe the member could provide some comment as to why the New Democrats, when they were the official opposition were so negligent on the issue back then. We in the Liberal caucus agree it is a very serious issue. It is an issue which we are attempting to deal with in government. Why were the New Democrats, while they were the official opposition, so negligent on this file?

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am so proud to stand with the member who moved this motion today knowing the hard work that she has done both in this parliamentary session and in the past.

I was very grateful to watch, as the questions were asked. I have heard numerous times from my community's dairy farmers that they are appreciative of the voice that has been coming out again and again to fight on this issue.

I want to point out again the reality that small dairy farmers around this country are losing up to $15,000 a year. They are hurting. They are asking for help. During the election, they were very clear. They asked for 100 days if they could have that change.

This is something that is simple. I am surprised that the hon. member is not interested in supporting this motion as he has reiterated again and again how passionate his government is to move forward with this. Therefore, I invite the Liberals to support us in this motion today, and we will all move forward in supporting the Canadian farmers who need it so desperately.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary Forest Lawn, AB

Mr. Speaker, first, may I say that today is the birthday of Queen Elizabeth. I would like to take this opportunity to wish her a happy birthday. I had the great honour and pleasure of meeting her when she was on a visit to Canada. To our Queen, happy birthday. I am sure everyone will join me in wishing her a happy birthday.

Second, I congratulate my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, the member for Winnipeg North, on his daughter's victory in the election.

As for the NDP members, my colleagues on the other side, in reference to trade, I have been here for 18 years and I have never seen them support any trade deal. Because they have never supported any trade deal, it is not possible for us to support this motion.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the acknowledgement that so often these trade agreements that are negotiated really undermine supply management and undermine the hard-working farmers and other people across this country.

I am sorry to hear that the Conservatives will not support the motion. We know what our job is over here in the NDP. Our job is to stand up for people in this country who do not have that voice, and make sure that it is heard in this House.

I am proud to stand today and say that we need to change something. We need to move forward, make sure we are protecting small farms, and make sure that dairy farmers can move forward. That is the reality. They are facing many challenges. They are here raising their voices today for a reason. It is important that this House listen.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.


Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

I am very concerned about the importation of diafiltered milk because it affects many people in my riding. I have the honour of representing the people of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, a large region with a vibrant and active agricultural industry.

My riding is home to over 300 dairy producers and two processing plants, one of which is a cheese factory that uses only Canadian milk. The only French agricultural college in Ontario is also located in my riding.

I am rising in the House for Jasmin Benoit and his family, for Ferme Dla Sept, and for the Lafrance and Bilodeau families. I am rising in the House to stand up for the interests of all dairy farmers in my region. Whether big or small, each of them contributes to the collective well-being of our communities. Electricians, mechanics, veterinarians, and people in other occupations are all called upon to work for dairy producers. They are a real economic driver in the rural regions of Canada.

However, we strongly disagree with the assertion of my hon. colleague that we have undermined the interests of Canada's supply-managed sectors, and in particular, the dairy sector. The issue of milk protein and diafiltered milk is not new. I know what the official opposition may say about this issue, but where were those members when the problem was less substantial than it is today?

Unfortunately, we saw the former Conservative finance minister's recent comments in the National Post, in which he railed against supply management. Now I believe I really understand the true agenda of the Conservative Party. I can assure all members that our government fought hard for and implemented supply management. We know that it provides Canadian consumers with a stable, affordable supply of dairy and poultry products, while assuring farmers of a good and predictable income.

Unlike the Conservatives who cut nearly $700 million out of Agriculture Canada, our government is committed to reinvesting, including over $70 million in the budget for research and infrastructure and $38.5 million for food safety.

We are also investing $500 million to extend high-speed Internet to hundreds of rural communities across the country, which is much needed for Canada's agricultural industry. Our farmers are moving from pitchforks to iPads, but they need access to the Internet to be able to use the application. That's how we create an innovative country.

Each and every day, Canada's innovative dairy and poultry farmers bring nutritious, wholesome food to our tables while creating jobs and adding value to our economy in rural and urban Canada. Combined, the sectors drive over $30 billion in farm cash receipts and processing sales. That translates into close to 300,000 jobs for Canadians. That is why the government continues to support the current supply management system.

At the same time, the Government of Canada continues to pursue an aggressive trade and export agenda. Agriculture and food exports hit a new record of over $60 billion last year, and there are more opportunities for growth to come.

The facts are clear. Supply management has not prevented Canada from signing any free trade agreements with any country in the world. From poultry to pulse crops, our government will continue to support a strong agricultural industry in Canada. The country's economy and the well-being of Canadians depend on it, and the demand for food is only going to go up in the future.

I want to take a moment to talk about the CETA, the comprehensive economic and trade agreement. The Government of Canada is committed to ratifying the Canada-EU CETA as soon as possible to open the world's largest market for food to our industry. This agreement, while not perfect, is the most comprehensive and ambitious trade agreement since the North American Free Trade Agreement.

With the CETA and NAFTA, Canada will be one of the few countries in the world to have preferential access to the world's two largest economies, some 800 million of the world's most affluent consumers. We understand the importance of compensation to the dairy sector in the context of the Canada-EU CETA. Let me repeat that we do understand the importance of compensation to the dairy sector. Engagement with the dairy sector is ongoing.

Our government is very clear with our international partners. We unequivocally support our supply management system and will defend it at all costs.

We will continue to do so while pursuing an aggressive trade agenda, because Canada's export sector depends on trade and creates economic growth across the country.

We are working in the best interests of Canadians. We are talking with industry stakeholders and listening to their views on compensation. We have heard how important compensation is to the supply-managed sector. We will protect the integrity of the supply management system and fully recognize the importance of import controls.

We are aware of the industry's concern regarding the use of diafiltered milk in the making of cheese and are committed to continuing to engage with the entire industry on the best way to achieve a long-term, sustainable, and agreed-upon agreement to fix this issue.

I am constantly talking to farmers in my riding about the issues that affect them. I created a local agriculture committee to ensure that I fully understand the issues and to give farmers a real voice in the House of Commons, and not just when this issue is in the headlines.

We want to keep farmers engaged in this conversation so that we can ensure that we work together on finding a sustainable solution. Our party fought hard for implementing supply management, and we will continue to work for what is in the best interests of Canadian farmers.

Finally, I just want to highlight that we are helping to grow this vibrant sector of our economy by supporting commercialization of innovative dairy products.

In February, at the Dairy Farmers of Canada annual meeting, the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced an investment of $1.75 million in the dairy research cluster under Growing Forward 2. This investment will support research by our scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in two key areas. The first is in increasing the quality of Canadian forages to help increase milk production, and the second is in understanding the role of dairy fat products, including their impact on type 2 diabetes. That brings the total federal investment in the dairy cluster to $13.75 million over five years.

In closing, my message today is that the government is committed to keeping the Canadian supply management sector strong and profitable. It will promote a balanced trade agenda for all sectors of our economy. Demand is growing around the world for the high-quality, sustainable food that our farmers and food processors can deliver.

As we all know, a strong agriculture industry means a strong economy. It is a simple equation, but it works. I can assure this House that the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, a dairy farmer himself, and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and I and all my colleagues, as well as the Prime Minister, are fighting hard in this chamber for all farmers.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech. I know that he speaks to producers; however, once again, I believe that this is just empty rhetoric. There is no concrete action.

This problem has been going on for years. It is not new. We raised this issue with the Conservatives when they were in power. The election campaign came along and all parties agreed to address the problem of diafiltered milk.

The Liberals have already been in power for six months, and they have still done nothing about diafiltered milk. They only have nice words. They say that they will do something and that they are talking to producers, but everyone knows what the solution is, including farmers and processors: the government must take action.

Will the Liberal government address the problem of diafiltered milk today and really stand up for Canadian producers?

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé.

That is what we are doing here. This motion is nothing but empty rhetoric. It will not help dairy producers. Yesterday, we had the opportunity to hear from the Dairy Farmers of Canada at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, but my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé did not stop talking in order to keep us from hearing them.

I can appreciate that she is suddenly taking a strong stand on the issue because it is in the headlines, but where was she between 2011 and 2014? The NDP was silent.

As well, during the election campaign, her leader promised to balance the budget. How does the NDP plan to balance the budget by paying out compensation? The math does not add up.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately I have heard only words from my Liberal colleague.

I would have liked to hear that they are dealing with the problem, that they have come up with solutions and are planning to introduce a regulatory process so that diafiltered milk is no longer considered milk, but an ingredient, which would allow its use in Canadian cheese production to be controlled.

Had my Liberal colleague said those kinds of things, I would have applauded him. Unfortunately, he did not.

Will the solutions we brought forward this morning be implemented by the Liberals, or will they say nothing until the cows come home?

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

When the house is destroyed, it takes a lot more time to renovate it. This is exactly the situation we are in. We have been caught with our pants down, as they say.

This has been a longstanding issue. However, I did not hear my colleague speak as strongly, when he was in government, to defend the interests of dairy farmers with respect to diafiltered milk.

In 2013, 10,000 tonnes of diafiltered milk was imported into Canada. In 2014, it was 13,000 tonnes, and then 27,000 tonnes in 2015. Where was my colleague to defend the interest of Canada’s dairy farmers then?

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell for his speech, as well as for his knowledgeable input on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Could the hon. member please comment on the progress of the agricultural policy framework and how this relates to today's debate?

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Guelph for his question.

Yesterday I was truly saddened by the state of our politics. I have only been in politics for six months. Prior to that, I was in the private sector, and in the private sector this would never have happened.

In front of witnesses, both the official opposition and my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé kept talking and talking, rather than hearing about the dairy producers of Canada. We could have heard about their issues at committee, but opposition members decided to speak.

Speaking of the agricultural policy framework, why did they refuse to study this issue? What is wrong with the official opposition and the NDP? This is a five-year program. It is important for the agricultural sector.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec


David Lametti LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to address the House on this very important issue.

I would first like to underline the work that is being done by both the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

I want to thank all the members of the Liberal caucus, and rural members. They are working very hard. I want to assure the members that the parliamentary secretary, especially, is working so hard that he has done much more than was done by the other government over the last five years.

Canada has always depended heavily on international trade and investment for its economic well-being. We live in a vast country with a relatively small population, and we enjoy a high standard of living. We produce more goods and services than Canadians consume. As a result, we sell our products and services abroad, which helps maintain a strong economy.

We strive to maintain and expand access to foreign markets, since an open trade and investment environment allows companies to prosper and provide better middle-class jobs. The government is committed to developing trade in Canada and attracting investment that creates jobs in our country.

In Canada, one in five jobs is generated by trade. In 2014, Canadian exports of goods and services represented just under one third of our GDP. More than 40,000 Canadian companies, mostly small and medium-sized companies, are exporters. Canadian consumers also reap the benefits of international trade, which gives them a greater variety of goods at better prices. Furthermore, we know that companies that participate in international trade are more innovative and have higher productivity.

Against a backdrop of slowing global economic growth, it is important for Canada to continue to strengthen our competitive position and extend our reach, including to new markets. The competitiveness of Canadian businesses in the international marketplace will be enhanced by breaking down barriers to trade, both internal and abroad, and providing the appropriate tools and policy framework that allow Canadian exporters to take advantage of new trade opportunities.

Canada employs a variety of trade policy tools to do this. These trade tools improve operating conditions for our firms by committing countries to transparent, rules-based systems. This helps establish a more predictable environment for trade and investment.

Free trade agreements open markets to new opportunities but also give rise to concerns, sometimes about the concessions that have to be made. It is important to remember that Canada has always been a trading nation, and the government will continue to pursue opportunities while protecting Canada's interests. This government has not wavered in its commitment to supply management or the people who earn their livelihoods in these sectors—far from it.

The three pillars of our domestic system of supply management—namely, production controls, import controls, and price controls—have been maintained in all our free trade agreements. In addition, the Minister of International Trade has been tasked by the Prime Minister himself to continue to promote Canadian agricultural interests during future trade negotiations.

We are very aware of the issues with enforcement of our rules surrounding supply management. As my colleague, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, has repeated numerous times in the House and elsewhere, this government supports supply management, and we are working hard with the industry to find a long-term solution to this question.

Let me say a few words about CETA.

The European Union is Canada' second largest trade and investment partner and its relationship with our country is of fundamental importance. The European Union is the largest market in the world with 500 million people in 28 countries and a combined GDP of about $20 trillion.

The Canada–Europe Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement is a benchmark model. We also addressed Canadians' concerns regarding investment protection and dispute resolution by establishing in the agreement stronger provisions on the right to regulate of all levels of government and creating a dispute resolution system that is fairer, more transparent, and more objective. We are pleased that this progressive agreement is now moving towards implementation next year.

Canada will be a leader that respects the guiding principles of international investment in the 21st century, and the comprehensive economic trade agreement has laid a solid foundation to that end.

The government believes that the agreement will have many positive spinoffs for the Canadian economy, including the agricultural sector, and for all Canadians.

When the agreement takes effect, 98% of EU tariff lines on Canadian goods will be duty-free. Once the tariffs have been phased out, seven years after the agreement comes into effect, this percentage will be 99%, including more than 95% of the tariff lines on agricultural products. Eliminating duties will increase export opportunities in the European Union for Canadian producers, including exporters of agricultural and agri-food products.

Furthermore, as mentioned by the Prime Minister in the mandate letter for the Minister of International Trade, this government understands that it is important to work with departments as well as the provinces and territories in order to support necessary adjustments in sectors such as agriculture, which is supply-managed.

This issue is very important to the minister and the government as a whole. The minister has already met with the representatives of the five supply-managed groups, and she will continue to work closely with this sector.

We will ensure that the implementation of the agreement provides maximum benefits to Canadians across the country.

On the trans-Pacific partnership, our focus is to ensure that Canadians can have a good look at the TPP and that they can ask questions and express their views on whether the outcomes of this agreement are in the best interests of Canadians.

The government has made a commitment to consult Canadians before taking a decision on ratification, and that is exactly what we have been doing since we have taken office.

The Minister of International Trade has undertaken an extensive consultation process to offer Canadians the opportunity to provide their views on the agreement, and Canada's participation in it, before the government makes a decision on whether or not to ratify it.

The minister is also working closely with colleagues whose portfolios are implicated by the TPP to engage Canadian stakeholders and hear what they have to say. Since the Minister of International Trade was sworn in last November, the government has been part of more than 250 interactions with over 400 stakeholders to discuss the TPP, including all the provinces and territories, industry, civil society organizations, think tanks, academics, and the general public.

Parliament now has a sense of the consultations the minister has undertaken thus far. The engagement with Canadians will continue in weeks and months to come.

The government's TPP engagement has already touched many areas of Canada. Consultations are a good vehicle not only to learn about views on the TPP but also to have a constructive conversation on broader issues of importance to Canadians.

The government understands the fundamental nature of the agricultural and agri-food sector to our economy. That is why, as I mentioned already, the Minister of International Trade has wasted no time in meeting with representatives of all the supply-managed groups after taking office.

This government fully supports supply management, and we know that if a decision is made to ratify the TPP, we will need to work with sectors affected in the transition.

We are also pleased, as members know, that the House Standing Committee on International Trade is currently studying the TPP and in fact is beginning to consult Canadians in its own way.

As mentioned, this government is committed to being fully transparent and hearing the views of Canadians on the merits of the TPP before deciding whether to ratify the agreement.

On this motion, in conclusion, trade agreements are good for Canada, provided they provide benefits to Canadians. We think CETA is a good one; we are studying the TPP to see whether it is or not.

With respect to diafiltered milk, we are working with other members of the government and with farmers in the sector, knowing the complexity of the issue, in order to find a just and equitable solution for Canadian farmers.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech.

I did not hear much about the motion before us or diafiltered milk. I heard a lot about the trans-Pacific partnership and the importance of trade agreements. I get that.

However, do I need to explain to the hon. Liberal government member that we requested a study on the trans-Pacific partnership, but that, unfortunately, our request was denied?

The Liberal Party voted against a motion that I put to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food to study the trans-Pacific partnership.

The Liberals talk about transparency, but they will not even allow the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food to study the trans-Pacific partnership.

Can the member tell me what he plans to do to keep putting pressure on his own government to resolve the diafiltered milk issue once and for all?

We all know that the solution is simple. Producers and processors know it too. Everyone knows the solution: the government needs to enforce the existing regulations.

What is the government going to do about this?

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé for her question.

The first line of today's motion is about the negative impact of trade agreements. My goal was to emphasize that international free trade agreements also have very positive impacts, and that is part of the motion.

With respect to diafiltered milk, we are working hard to find solutions. If it were as simple as our friends across the way suggest, the previous government would have resolved the issue. However, it is not that simple.

There are different interpretations, and that is why we are working hard to find a fair and equitable solution.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on his excellent speech on free trade agreements.

Our government is the one that concluded the most free trade agreements and did the most to grow Canada's economy, and we are very proud of our record. Unfortunately, in his speech, the member forgot the subject of the motion, namely, importing diafiltered milk.

I do not really understand this government. On the one hand, this government is capable of solving a problem that does not exist by moving a time allocation motion right here in the House of Commons and immediately preventing people from speaking, and no one knows why. On the other hand, it cannot even tell us that it is working on a solution or why it cannot come up with a solution to a problem that has existed for quite some time.

The question is simple: why is it that the government can quickly solve a problem that does not exist, but is incapable of solving a problem that has existed for some time?

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


David Lametti Liberal LaSalle—Émard—Verdun, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a great question, and I thank the hon. member for his question and for his passion.

The speeches made by the government members need to be taken as a whole.

Since the resolution centres on the basic presumption that free trade agreements are bad, my role was to clarify the fact that free trade agreements can actually be very positive for Canada's economy, and I hope I succeeded in doing so.

The issue of diafiltered milk is quite complex. It is not as simple as the opposition claims. Plus, we inherited a very bad situation from the previous government, which did nothing for five years.

We are trying to resolve the issue. We are working very hard on it, in collaboration with the industry and, of course, with all stakeholders involved.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Sherbrooke.

It makes perfect sense that the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot is rising in the House to talk about diafiltered milk. I represent a riding where there are close to 500 companies and nearly 1,500 agriculture and agri-food companies directly affected by this issue.

I just want to point out that every member of the House is affected when supply management is on the line. Supply management also affects consumers. Whether we are in a rural and agricultural riding or a fully urban riding, people in every one of our ridings consume milk, eggs, chicken. This affects us all.

Supply management was put in place for our farmers. We say “supply”, but really, the system manages supply and demand. That means that here in Canada, we know that we will always have enough milk, eggs, and chicken. We have known that for decades. That is not so across the border. In the past few years there was an egg shortage and consumers saw the price of eggs skyrocket.

In Canada, we are also assured of quality. Consumers know that when they see “Canadian milk”, it means that the milk came from producers who comply with animal welfare, safety, and environmental standards. We have no guarantees when the milk comes from the United States. A number of young producers told me that they have visited farms there, that they saw how things worked, and that there is no guarantee of quality.

Under Canada's supply management system, consumers have assurances about quality, quantity, and reasonable prices.

We often hear people say that they went to the United States and that prices were lower there. Prices may have been low that week, but if those people returned the following month, that might no longer have been the case. However, when you buy milk here, you know that the price will always be reasonable and fair for consumers. It is important for the House to understand that this affects us all.

Members need to understand what is meant by diafiltered milk. It is important that all members understand that, because I hope that they will support the motion moved by my colleague today. Diafiltered milk is a way of circumventing the regulations. Importers claim that the milk is not really milk, but that it is “milk protein concentrate”. They give it that fancy name to get it across the border. Since the product is not milk, the Canada Border Services Agency does not charge the importers customs fees. That makes it a competitive product. However, when the product gets to the processing plant, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency considers it to be milk. That means that, as a consumer, when I read the word “milk” on a product, I have no guarantee that the milk came from Canada. I have no guarantee that environmental, animal welfare, and food safety standards were upheld. That is what diafiltered milk is.

The parliamentary secretary just said that we do not understand, that the issue is too complicated. We are saying that that is not true. It is very simple. Milk usually contains 3% protein. The milk in question is being processed in such as way that it contains 15% protein so that the rules can be circumvented and the milk can get across the border.

Supply management is a system that ensures that dairy producers do not need any subsidies. By letting this milk across the border, the government is telling dairy farmers that it is not going to give them any subsidies and on top of that it is also going to penalize them. On average, farms are losing $15,000. In my riding, farmers are telling me that they are losing up to $25,000. Today, farmers are protesting in front of the Parliament Buildings. Young farmers are saying that the money they are losing this year is their salary. Do we expect our dairy farmers to continue to give us a high-quality product without even earning an income? Are we going to make it impossible for the next generation to take over? This is a land use issue.

We represent regions all over Canada. Farms are going out of business all the time. In Quebec last year, 257 farms ceased to be. Every week, I meet dairy producers who tell me that they are sick of seeing the farms around them close up shop. They want their farms to be family farms, and they want them to be viable. They want to stay on their land.

Do we want to see our family farms in Canada disappear? Would we rather have mega-farms like those in the United States? Do we want our towns to cease to be?

My riding is 50 kilometres from Montreal, but some of the towns no longer have a credit union, a grocery store, or a convenience store. In some towns, even the school is barely surviving. In other regions, schools are being converted into seniors' homes. Our supply management system made it possible for dairy producers to operate in all of our regions: north of La Tuque, in Gaspé, in Abitibi. Our supply management system makes it possible for them to stay in business. Do we want to jeopardize the supply management system by allowing diafiltered milk into the country? The government says it believes in supply management, but saying so is not enough. The government has to take action to safeguard it.

For my region, this is about economic development. Millions of dollars are at stake. Last year alone, dairy producers lost $220 million. Last summer, a press conference on supply management was organized in my riding. There were representatives of municipalities, chambers of commerce, and economic development organizations because they know very well that if agricultural producers go out of business, companies that sell goods and services will shut their doors because the economic activity of these producers is the lifeblood of the region.

It is important to bear this in mind, and that is why this concerns all of us. We cannot say that this only concerns the producers who came to see us on the Hill today. Today, when we reflect on this issue and when we vote, we really have to tell ourselves that this concerns every one of us and that it is important to support my colleague's motion.

The Liberals are telling us that this is complicated, but really, it is quite simple. The government simply needs to enforce the regulations that already exist. The House of Commons does not even need to pass any new legislation. The regulations exist; they just need to be applied. We are being told today that the discussions are ongoing, but farmers are coming to us and saying that the discussions have gone on long enough and it is time for action. The action to be taken is very clear: the existing regulations simply need to be enforced. The cheese compositional standards need to be enforced.

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food decided not to block products at the border, which is something he could have done. It has been done in the past. An agriculture minister did that a number of years ago, when mozzarella was crossing our borders in cheese kits. This time, although we have no idea why, the minister decided not to block diafiltered milk at the border, but he could still do something about cheese compositional standards, and there is no reason to wait to enforce regulations that already exist.

I do not know what they are waiting for. Last week, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously adopted a second motion calling on the federal government to resolve this issue. To me it is clear. When farmers tell us it is time to take action, when two unanimous motions from the Quebec National Assembly tell us it is time to take action, then it is hard to understand why the government still wants to discuss the matter and collaborate. It is time to take action, period.

This is also important because the trans-Pacific partnership threatens supply management. The Canada-Europe free trade agreement threatens supply management. The message I want to get across today is that we need to stop including agriculture in our international agreements. We took culture out of our international agreements because it was a sensitive topic, and now we need to take out agriculture. We simply cannot put agriculture in the same agreements with the automotive industry and the pharmaceutical industry. We are talking about land use.

The government has to act now.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her intervention describing supply management. We are in agreement about supply management and our support for that very critical system for our farming communities.

As our parliamentary secretaries have both said, our government is working on the issue of diafiltered milk, which is something we have discussed at the agriculture committee as well.

Would the hon. member comment on the need to discuss the complex issue of our comprehensive agriculture policy, something that our agriculture committee has been blocked from doing, which could help us with this discussion today?

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about enforcing a regulation on diafiltered milk. The discussions have taken place. As far as broader agricultural policies are concerned, Canada's farmers have done their part by agreeing on standards in terms of safety, animal welfare, and the environment. In fact, I look forward to talking about agricultural policies so that we can discuss what we are going to do in the years to come.

However, that is not the issue today. The questions are the following. What are we going to do to enforce the cheese compositional standards? What are we going to do to make sure our food is safe? What are we going to do to keep our farms in our regions? That is what we are talking about today.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend my colleague on her speech.

As you know, she comes from a region where agriculture is very important. Many of our farmers are trained in her riding. When she talks about what dairy farmers have to say, we should listen to her because she is in close contact with them.

From what I understand from the speeches that were given here this morning, at least the ones given on this side of the House, our dairy producers have been working hard to make us aware of the issue. They have told us about their financial problems, the difficulty they are having paying their bills at the end of the month, and the problems related to the next generation of farmers. They simply do not understand why the government is not taking immediate action.

I assume that the members opposite have also had visits from dairy farmers. How do they not understand what this issue is all about? I cannot understand it.

Can the member, who comes from a region that is very proud of its milk production, tell us whether she agrees with me that the members opposite do not understand anything?

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, we understand that there is no political will to fix this problem.

The Quebec National Assembly understands this complex issue, since Quebec's agriculture department is very familiar with the reality facing agricultural producers and food processors. Its representatives understood this is a complex issue and understood that it was very simple to resolve it: two unanimous motions called on the federal government to enforce a regulation. It is very simple. It is important not only to the region I represent, but also to agricultural and dairy producers across Canada.

My colleague who just asked a question comes from a region that is also affected. Earlier, I met with young producers who surely trained at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire in Saint-Hyacinthe. They are ready to take over, but they cannot do their jobs when the government does not enforce the regulations.

When the new generation of producers experiences economic losses, it means that they will not earn an income that year. Young agricultural producers who are passionate about their career choose to work for nothing so that we can have milk on our tables. It must be said, and the government must address this situation.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.


Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to thank my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé for her initiative today in the House.

Before I begin my speech, I would like to read into Hansard what the current minister of International Development and La Francophonie said on August 26, 2015, during the election campaign.

She gave a press conference with the current minister of Foreign Affairs, and many farmers were invited. She gave this press conference to defend supply management. She gave a fine press conference with great fanfare to say that she was going to defend supply management if she were elected. With respect to supply management, she said:

[Supply management] also maintains our family farms. If we opened up the gates and abandoned supply management, our farms would be in danger...

I could not agree more. Today, the big problem is that the importation of diafiltered milk is undermining supply management because producers in the United States are circumventing the rules and ending up exporting what could be called processed milk. They are getting around the supply management rules.

I could not agree more with my government colleague, who during the campaign proudly stood up to defend supply management. Today, she and her government are dragging their feet. It is extremely unfortunate, because the situation is very serious.

I am delighted to rise today on behalf of all of Canada’s dairy farmers, especially the many farmers in the Eastern Townships, where there are about 535 farms and 2,144 owners/producers. These 2,144 dairy farmers have families. We are talking about 5,157 direct and indirect jobs in this sector and an annual production of $253.5 million. This is a major issue in the Eastern Townships.

It is extremely important for me to take part in this debate and especially to thank my colleague for her initiative. We need to ensure that the Liberals follow through on what they said during and after the election campaign. They said that they were going to address the problem and, today, six months later, nothing has changed. However, the situation is extremely serious. Several of my colleagues have pointed out that the losses are enormous. Each day that the government does not address the problem means losses for dairy farmers in Canada and the Eastern Townships.

This is affecting a lot of producers. Some have decided to add their voices to the discussion. For example, Christian Bouffard of Ferme du Cabouron made a video a few weeks ago that garnered 900,000 views. In it, he spoke out against the situation in Saint-Romain, which is in my colleague's riding, Mégantic—L'Érable. He began by talking about his own situation. He has been in the business for 30 years, and all of this is really destabilizing his farm and others all over the Eastern Townships. In his video, he asked processors to show some respect for the producers who supply their raw materials. He believes that some processors do not care. I will not paint them all with the same brush because some processors are talking about this. They are raising the issue and offering solutions.

Other people in the Eastern Townships have spoken out about this problem too. Lynne Martel Bégin of Ferme Rivière Verte in Bury has spoken out. Some of my colleagues may know Marcel Blais, the vice-president of the Eastern Townships dairy producers' association, who has a farm in La Patrie. In Magog, Ferme Magolait's David Beauvais said that if the situation persists, he will lose about $30,000 per year.

Benoît Simard, from Ferme M. Grenier et fils in Stanstead, also denounces the situation.

Many farmers in the Eastern Townships have taken part in demonstrations to protest the untenable situation they find themselves in because of the government's inaction and failure to enforce the rules. The rules could be changed or simply enforced if the government had the political will to do so.

Dozens of farmers went to Stanstead with their tractors and their placards to take part in the demonstration near the U.S. border in order to protest imports of diafiltered milk.

Ms. Walker said, “Medium-sized farms are losing on average roughly $1,000 a week because of this problem.” These family farms do not have huge revenues. Farmers are having a hard time making ends meet and making the necessary investments in their farms. They are losing piles of money every week, every year.

These farms are the economic drivers of the regions and are essential to their vitality. A number of hon. members are in a good position to talk about this, including my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who knows the importance of family farms to the regional economies. They support communities and create direct jobs. When the farmers are doing well financially, they keep the regional economy going. It is therefore extremely important for the government to support them.

The government is dragging its feet, and I strongly object to that. Since he was appointed, the minister has been all talk. He is obviously familiar with the file. Everyone agrees that this is a well-known issue. However, the problem existed before the Liberal government was elected. It could have been solved a long time ago, but now producers have had to come to Parliament Hill to demand action because this government and the previous government have not done anything.

There is a fairly easy solution. We are being told that the issue is too complicated, that there are a lot of factors to consider, and that the problem cannot be solved overnight, but that is completely untrue. A Conservative member proposed solutions as though this were something new. He could have implemented those solutions when he was in power. This problem has been around for two years. Lately, it has gotten worse, and it is high time something was done about it.

It is unfortunate that the Conservatives did not do anything, but we need to focus on the Liberal government that is currently in office. If the minister had the political will to act, the problem would likely already be solved.

The Liberals are saying that we need to consult with producers to truly understand the problem, but if they had real political will, the problem would have been solved a long time ago. It is unfortunate that we have to talk about it here to force them to take action.

Finally, the Liberals did not hear the message sent by producers, even though they came to Parliament Hill recently to raise this issue.

Today, we are seeing the real face of the Liberal government, which seems to be listening very attentively to what certain processors have to say. Perhaps that is why it is slow to make a decision. This is a very sensitive issue.

The producers who have assembled on Parliament Hill deserve answers from the government, if not immediate action. This issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

I implore the government to take action once and for all and finally give producers the means to be able to sustain the regions.

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, supporting farmers is very important. I think we all love farmers. Who does not love a farmer?

As someone who represents one of the poorest ridings in the country, the price of milk and cheese affects the health of many of my fellow citizens. I have been working with dairy farmers in Manitoba, trying to come up with some of the issues surrounding the accessibility of food in Winnipeg Centre. When people have the choice of buying a large jug of pop for $1, or buying milk at double that price, this affects the health of children and adults, particularly in northern communities.

I am trying not to be partisan, but do you have any practical solutions to deal with this? What could we be doing? How could farmers be working to ensure greater accessibility to high-quality foods for more of our fellow citizens?

Opposition Motion—Canadian Dairy IndustryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I would remind hon. members to speak directly to the Speaker and not to members across the floor.

The hon. member for Sherbrooke.