That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize that the ongoing contribution of ranchers and farmers as stewards of the land and conservationists is part of our history, proudly shared by all Canadians, and should consider establishing policies which would support and encourage the development of private farm and ranch land conservation and restoration projects.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour and privilege for me to rise today in the House of Commons to give the first speech on my Motion No. 108. I am looking forward to working with all my colleagues from across Canada, from every party present in the House, to pass what I believe is this important motion.
Canada has a long and storied agricultural history. Because of technology advances in Canadian agricultural practice, this country has become one of the biggest food producers in the world. That is one of the reasons that Canada has always played a very important role in the world, and why we will play an even bigger role in the future. There is a need for healthy, affordable, nutritious food. Having access to such things, along with clean drinking water, assures that the human body can meet its very basic physiological needs. Canada is a major contributor to ensuring that the world is fed. With the world population expected to grow by billions in the coming decades, the issue of meeting the global demand for nutritious food is going to become an even more pressing concern. Canada's farmers will be playing a critical role to ensuring that we can rise up to this challenge and meet the demands of a hungry world.
Canada's story would not be complete without talking about its agricultural history. Indigenous peoples have had a long history of agricultural practices in Canada. The first French settlers started agricultural practices in the Maritimes and in Quebec. With the British contribution, as their empire grew, so did their need for food. Wheat production ramped up in what was New France, and continued to grow after the British settled North America. Upper Canada had a significant wheat economy. Lower Canada even began to import wheat from Upper Canada. There was discussion of a wheat standard, which would link the amount of money printed to the wheat holdings of the colony. It was a novel and unique idea at the time. Early settlers were efficient and able to produce more than they needed for their own needs.
The western part of Canada was populated in the late 19th century and early 20th century. It soon became a major producer of food. Palliser's Triangle, or the area of the Prairies in southeastern Alberta and southern Saskatchewan today, was named after the British captain, John Palliser. He explored the prairie region in the 1840s for the British government, and he was not impressed with the potential of the Prairies for settlement and agricultural practices. In fact, his report stated that no one should settle here. The Canadian government later built the railroad across the Prairies, and settlement expanded significantly. In one year alone after the turn of the century, 1.4 million immigrants arrived in Canada, and for decades many people homesteaded across the Prairies. If only Palliser could see what kind of society we have developed there now. The Prairies are often referred to as the breadbasket of Canada.
Today, we have significant agricultural sectors in many parts of the country. Many farms in southwestern and eastern Ontario are some of the lushest farmland in Canada. There are many crops grown there, like soybeans and corn, and there are many other farms, like dairy and poultry. Quebec is similar, with dairy farms being prominent. The Atlantic provinces were also very active in agriculture, both then and today. For example, we know very well that P.E.I. potatoes are among the best in the world, and Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick are well known for their cranberry and blueberry farms. British Columbia has an incredible variety of agricultural sectors. It is well known for its fruit orchards, as is Nova Scotia. The wine industry of Ontario and British Columbia have now expanded to other provinces. The industry is now coast to coast.
With all of this in mind, I am presenting this motion today to my colleagues here in the House, and to all Canadians. It is important to recognize that our Canadian ranch and farm families are among the most environmentally minded people in any sector of the Canadian economy. Farmers will always have the environment as their number one concern. Some of the best conservationists are ranchers. Their ranches form a major part of the backbone of the economy of much of Alberta. They are also a major part of the Bow River riding, the constituents I am so humbled to represent here in Ottawa.
I would like to speak about some of the technology used by farmers in the area I represent. For example, one of the environmentally friendly technologies and practices used is called no-till agriculture. No-till agriculture means avoiding the old-fashioned way of disturbing the soil through annual tillage. This has numerous environmental benefits, and it can also greatly improve the sustainability of farming operations at limited cost to the farmer. Not only is it better for the soil, it saves the amount of water needed for farming, because soil that has been used through no-till farming has better water-retention qualities. This means less runoff and wasted water.
When it comes to wetlands on farm property, our Canadian farmers have been innovative and smart in dealing with the challenges of protecting these critical riparian habitats while at the same time continuing to farm their land. There is also the use of cover crops, which sole purpose is to enrich and rejuvenate the soil so that it can be used for years and years to come. These are just a couple of examples where our innovative Canadian farmers are leading the world in protecting our environment while ensuring that the Canadian agriculture and agrifood sector is sustainable, environmentally friendly, and economical.
Another technological advance over the last number of decades has been with the use of chemicals by farmers. They have become safer and they are used less. This means that everyone, from the farmer to the business to the consumer, and throughout the supply chain, is benefiting from these new technologies. Our ranch families are expert conservationists. They survive and thrive by ensuring that the land they use on a regular basis for their livelihoods is sustainable and healthy so that it may be passed on to future generations. This means that they are good stewards of the land that they tend to. Often on these pastures and ranch areas, there are significant varieties of wildlife and vegetation. Ranchers and farmers understand the biospheres of their land base and the surrounding land base. These are some of the challenges that are faced, often on a daily basis by our ranchers, which they handle so well.
One of the great tools that ranchers use in their land management plans is that of grazing. Grazing is an incredible conservation tool when used properly, and can ensure that grassland is environmentally sound and able to be used for generations to come. The Prairies were historically grazed by millions of migrating buffalo. The grasslands are kept as a healthy biosphere by the grazing animals of ranchers, as once was done by the free-ranging buffalo. These grazed grasslands provide habitat for native plants and animals.
All of these scenarios speak to the heart of my motion. Farmers and ranchers are conservationists and environmentalists. No farmer or rancher wakes up in the morning dreaming of ways to wreck their land. They get up thinking of new ways that they can improve it. They do this because otherwise their land quality declines. It is in their best interest to consider how they can improve soil quality, improve the quality of the product they produce, and how they can do it while minimizing their impacts on the environment.
When it comes to conservation, I would like to speak about my experience serving as a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. The committee does a lot of great work and has thus far produced two reports in Parliament. I am pleased to say that both of these reports were unanimous, meaning that they carry more weight with stakeholders and the government.
The last report that it had the honour of releasing in March was the report on protected areas and conservation within Canada. One of the opportunities that this study afforded committee members was the opportunity to travel to many communities, including some in southern Alberta. We met on the land with a rancher and farmer. He was able to discuss with us the extensive conservation projects they are working on. The ranch we visited is just outside of Cochrane and is called the Quarter Circle X Ranch. The owners and operators are John and Tracey Buckley. They, as many ranchers and farmers, have made a firm commitment to sustainability in how they deliver their product to the marketplace. They are a testament to how ranchers operate in communities across Canada. An important fact to remember is that over 98% of Canadian farms are family owned and operated, even today. These small-business owners are often the backbone of the economy, in countless rural economies across the country.
Canadians want access to affordable, nutritious food, and their preference will no doubt always be food that comes from Canadian farm operations. Ranchers play a major part in this work. They take care of the ever-important rangeland. Having healthy rangeland leads to a number of very positive outcomes and impacts on the natural environment. Our ranchers are able to manage the land, especially by the use of cattle, to ensure they are conserving this important land. One of the major benefits of having healthy ranchland is that they act as carbon sinks. I know there is some research that tells us Canada as a whole is a net carbon sink, and I hope we can capitalize and improve upon this research in the future.
Ranchers and farmers play a big part in this piece. This is one of the reasons this motion recognizes that ranchers and farmers are environmentalists and conservationists. This motion supports the fact that we have to tap into this valuable resource in the future. We need to protect this incredibly valuable rangeland, which delivers so many net benefits to our environment and well-being.
One of the things that modern farmers realize is the growing consumer demand for information on where and how their food is grown, and whether it is grown or raised in the most sustainable manner possible. Thanks to many modern technological advances, Canadian farmers have ways to track this data. Many of the large food companies are following the lead of producers by being as transparent as possible with their clients.
This motion is one that I believe will resonate with Canadians from coast to coast, as well as from different age groups, backgrounds, and demographic groups. I also hope it will foster an important discussion on the rural-urban divide in Canada, whether real or imagined. Canada is a large geographic expanse with many different regions and ecosystems, and a vast area that is used for ranching and farming activities.
One of the issues of the past 150 years or so has been the rural exodus to cities. The vast majority of Canadians now live in urban areas as opposed to rural areas. I think this may lead to a certain divide in attitudes, ideals, and opinions. However, recognizing where our food comes from, who is growing it, or, in the case of live animals like cattle, raising it, we can help to show our friends and relatives in urban areas that our ranchers and farmers are sustainability focused and conservationists.
One of the great advancements that helps Canadian ranchers and farmers practice efficient and sustainable practices on their land is the advent of sound plant science. There are some innovative companies across Canada that contribute to this technological wisdom. There is an excellent company in my constituency for example, called Stamp Seeds. It is an expert in seed management for the agricultural sector.
A lot of this technology has had a major impact on how our farmers grow their product. It has led to a savings in water. The irrigation sector has become highly technologically advanced, which has created water savings, but has also created a tremendous environment for an incredibly varied biosphere.
Advanced agricultural practises have decreased soil erosion. It has meant that we can grow more food on the same land. It means we can use less fuel in the agriculture and agrifood sector. The advent of safe nutritious foods with increased production has meant that Canada can produce food for a hungry world without having to sacrifice our important land base.
When it comes to the conservation side of the equation, our ranchers and farmers are at the forefront of sustainability. In Canada, for example, we have a number of organizations that work with landowners to help them preserve important land. For our crucial wetlands, for instance, we have Ducks Unlimited, which is an organization that I am proud to support. Ducks Unlimited plays an important role in the preservation of wetlands. The Canadian wing of this international organization has projects throughout Canada. Ducks Unlimited is currently working with a number of organizations, both in industry and with ranchers and farmers across Canada, to create a plan to make Canada a world leader in sustainable agriculture.
Organizations that are participating are Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Croplife Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, Fertilizer Canada, Grain Growers of Canada, Soil Conservation Council of Canada, and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. This is a broad range of organizations which have come together with the goal of increasing our agricultural output while ensuring we do not need to use more land as one of the main objectives.
This is an excellent project, which will require a lot of know-how from our Canadian ranchers and farmers. They will be the ones doing all the work on the ground. Thanks to the support of the aforementioned organizations, it is my hope that this will become a reality. The study is being spearheaded by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Crops.
I believe that Motion No. 108 is a necessary display of support for our ranch and farm business industry, those who work in conservation every day. This motion is truly worthy of the support of dear hon. members, because I believe it is worded in a way that makes it universal. It applies to a variety of cereal crops and dairy businesses, to the woodlot stewards maintained as part of agricultural properties, to those who grow fruit and potatoes, and to those who work in wetland conservation and restoration within their agricultural operations.
This is an important way for us as Parliamentarians to recognize the people in our agriculture sector who play an important daily role in the work of conservation. I thank hon. members for listening to me, and I hope they will support me in this important motion here today.