Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Durham for his excellent speech, for the very strong position he has taken and for his motion to protect Canadian canola producers.
I now want to read out the motion. It was read out once before, but I think it is important for all Canadians to be aware of today's discussion.
My colleague from Durham moved:
That, given the Prime Minister has weakened Canada’s international reputation during his disastrous trip to India and his capitulation to Donald Trump during NAFTA negotiations;
and given he continues to do so with his handling of the canola trade crisis with China;
the House call on the government to cancel its investment in the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and immediately:
(a) appoint an ambassador to China;
(b) increase the cap and interest-free portion of the Advanced Payment Program; and
(c) launch a complaint at the World Trade Organization.
It is simple and easy. The government could have done something about the canola crisis a long time ago. Unfortunately this is just one more failure among many for the Liberal government when it comes to international trade and Canadian producers.
I would like to provide some context to explain why we are at this point today and why the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food today announced some initial measures to deal with the canola crisis.
It is very simple. For the past two months, the government has done absolutely nothing to help Canada's canola producers. There were three requests for an emergency debate. The first was rejected and the other two were accepted. The official opposition asked nine times for an emergency debate on the canola crisis. What happened every time? The Liberals refused to hold an emergency debate on a crisis that is affecting hundreds and thousands of Canadian producers.
The Liberal members for Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Quebec all refused to hold an emergency debate. They did not lift a finger to stand up for canola producers. We asked the House for the opportunity to debate this matter so that Canadian producers could have their voices heard in the House of Commons.
That is not all. Canadian canola producers, the Canola Council of Canada, provincial premiers and the Leader of the Opposition all had to intervene to identify measures that can be taken immediately to resolve the crisis. Members on the other side of the House apparently had no idea. The only thing they could do was wait for something to happen. That comes as no surprise from a party leader who thinks deficits disappear all by themselves. We all know the Prime Minister thinks deficits take care of themselves. A crisis involving China will not disappear on its own. If we do nothing, the crisis will go on.
On Monday, the Leader of the Opposition laid out a clear three-part plan. First, he urged the government to appoint a new ambassador to China without delay. Canadians need to know that Canada has been without an ambassador to China for three months now. Who can talk to Chinese authorities? Who has the moral authority? Who has the respect of Chinese authorities and can discuss the canola crisis? Nobody. The government fired the previous ambassador. Now we have no ambassador, and we want to resolve the crisis, but nobody is in a position to do that. This is scandalous.
The second request is to raise the cap for advance payments to $1 million and increase the interest-free portion of this program. This morning we learned that the government did that. The government decided to take action two months after the crisis began.
There is just one problem. Doing that without adopting other measures and improving trade is the equivalent of giving a credit card to someone who just lost their job without giving him the means to find a new job. That credit card bill will have to be paid one day. If the worker is not given employment, how is he supposed to pay off his credit card bill? If we do not find any alternative markets for Canadian canola, how are Canadian farmers going to repay these loans in 18 months?
This certainly needed to be done, but not without taking into account the other two aspects we discussed.
Thirdly, we are calling on the government to stand up to China by filing a complaint with the World Trade Organization, since China is violating international trade rules. It wants to be part of this great assembly of nations that hold discussions and have trading relationships, but there have to be rules.
China claimed that the canola sent by two Canadian companies, Richardson and Viterra, was substandard. However, the samples analyzed here in Canada show that that was not true. Canadian canola is the best in the world. Canadian companies that send canola to China are the best in the world. The quality is there.
If quality was not the problem, why were the exports blocked? There are all kinds of political reasons, but the Liberals do not want to talk about them. Above all, we cannot speak with China's ambassador to Canada. The Prime Minister cannot telephone his Chinese counterpart to discuss it. We are being told that we will wait for a technical solution.
Well, we have waited two months, and the drop in canola prices has cost producers $1 billion. Why? It is because the price of all Canadian canola, not just the canola exported to China, has dropped by 10%. Canola exports total $10 billion, so the loss is $1 billion. That is the reality. That is what the Liberals do not understand.
In addition, when the crisis started, farmers were getting ready to plant for the next season. The government does not care about planting. It is going to wait for the crisis to resolve itself. Farmers had to make a decision, and they had many questions. What would they plant? Would they have enough money? Would the crisis continue? Would they be able to continue exporting their canola? We also know that producers rotate their crops. If they are going to make changes, they have to make decisions well in advance. They want some guarantee of stability when the time comes to plant their fields. Unfortunately, the Liberals decided to wait, as they said the crisis would resolve itself. That is not true.
I would like to quote one of the farmers who testified in committee. Stephen Vandervalk, the vice-president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, said:
The timing of this issue and the timing of my being here could not be worse. I should be at home seeding.... The season is short, and this issue is weighing heavily on every grain farmer.
I had the opportunity to go to Winnipeg and speak with other farmers who all told me that what matters most right now is reopening markets in China. Canola farmers do not want a handout from the government. They want to be able to sell their products. They are proud of their lands and what they produce. They also want a government that will stand up for them, not an agriculture minister who sends a letter asking to send a delegation to solve a technical issue. Everyone agrees that we need to resolve this matter, but we have been waiting for an answer from China for a month now, and we are being told that all we can do is wait for its response.
This government is incapable of standing up for canola farmers. The only thing it knows how to do is get out the cheque book, because it has no other solutions. It is doing absolutely nothing to resolve this matter, and canola farmers will not stand for it. It is time we had a prime minister who will stand up for Canadians, for Canada's canola farmers and for all farmers across the country.
This is a serious crisis. We are losing thousands of dollars, and Canada's canola farmers need government support and someone who will stand up for them. If the Liberals will not do so, unfortunately for them, on October 21, we will take their place, and we will stand up for all of Canada's canola farmers.