Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé for tabling this very important motion. However, I would have much preferred not to be speaking to a motion that should not even have been necessary had the government not compromised supply management in its negotiations with the European Union on CETA.
It is no secret that there has been tremendous pressure by the corporate sector as well as our trading partners to dismantle, or at least modify, supply management. This attack is driven in our country in part by the Conference Board of Canada. As NFU President Jan Slomp outlined in a recent op-ed:
The CBoC claims to be an independent think tank, but is affiliated with the New York-based Conference Board, run by and for US-based multinational corporations. While pretending to serve the public it advocates for a suite of policies—including dismantling dairy supply management—that promote corporate interests at the expense of the values and aspirations of Canadian people.
Our supply management works well for Canadians and does not cost the taxpayer a penny. It was created in 1969 as a reaction to erratic milk-handling practices to depress farm-gate prices paid to farmers. Supply management is not a barrier to trade. Many other countries, including the EU and the U.S., enact policies that directly subsidize domestic production. We do not do this.
It is also important to note that Canada gives more access to imported products than many other countries give in any sector. We currently import over 6% of the market for dairy products and more than 7.5% for poultry. In contrast, the U.S. gives only 2.75% access to its market for dairy products and Europe offers a mere 0.5% for poultry.
There is absolutely no reason for Canada to sign a trade agreement that allows an additional 17,700 tonnes of cheese from the EU. In effect, our dairy farmers who receive no government subsidies would be competing with European farmers who receive state subsidies as high as 40% to 50% of their income. According to the Dairy Farmers of Canada, it is estimated that the new EU access of 17,700 tonnes of cheese would cost Canadian farmers some $150 million annually, with cumulative losses of $300 million industry wide.
It is also important for Canadians to be aware that our dairy prices are comparable to other countries'. In fact, in New Zealand, which has dismantled supply management, consumers pay among the highest prices for dairy in spite of their farmers' low costs of production.
A few years ago I criss-crossed Canada in my “Food for Thought” tour, and one of the recurring themes that came up during the community consultations was the simple need to take agriculture out of free trade agreements.
For example, it is absolutely ludicrous that, as a result of NAFTA, many vegetable and fruit growers went out of business. Had they been protected, as in the supply management sector, our horticulture industry would be thriving today. Instead, many farmers have been forced to go into grapes and scramble to plant new varieties of fruit. An Ontario broccoli producer once told me that he only makes money when there is a drought in Florida. This is completely unacceptable.
Many are fearful that the CETA concessions of cheese imports is the start of a slippery slope.
It is no secret that countries such as the U.S. and New Zealand would like to see supply management on the table during the negotiation of the proposed trans-Pacific partnership trade agreement. Canada must not, and I repeat, must not make any further concessions in regard to supply management.
For the reasons I just mentioned, it is extremely important that Parliament support Motion No. 496. The federal government must keep its promise to the Quebec and Canadian dairy and cheese producers who will be affected by the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement by revealing, without delay, details related to the compensation that will be paid and by providing for an implementation period for the agreement that is as long as possible.
I would like to take this opportunity to share some of my thoughts on trade, since everybody is listening to my speech. The first point is that Canada has always been and will always be a trading nation. To say that I, or members of my party, are anti-trade is simply ludicrous.
The bottom line is that any trade agreement we sign should not do harm to our country or its citizens.
As I have outlined, allowing 17,700 tonnes of European cheese into our market will harm our dairy industry.
CETA would also contain a clause that allows European multinational corporations to sue the federal government if there is a perception of unfair treatment, such as local sourcing of contracts. This provision, or chapter 11, already exists in NAFTA and has allowed U.S. corporations to collect over $157 million in compensation from the Canadian federal government since NAFTA was signed.
We need to take a hard look at this provision, as other countries have done. It is a total affront to our nation's sovereignty. Australia, for example, will not allow a similar provision to be included in any future trade agreements it signs. We should do the same. Canadian tax dollars should not be going as payment to foreign corporations.
Now I will go back to Motion No. 496.
This motion seeks to mitigate CETA's potential impact on the dairy and cheese sector and support Canada’s supply management system, which guarantees fair and stable prices. In other words, if our dairy and cheese producers are at risk of losing $300 million per year, then the Canadian government must commit to compensating them for that.
It is important to remember that our dairy and cheese industry also promotes the survival of farms and farm labour. Producers reinvest in their farms and support local suppliers and businesses, which contributes to the Canadian economy as a whole. The dairy industry's contribution to the GDP went from $15.2 billion in 2009 to $16.2 billion in 2011.
It should also be noted that it is Canadian dairy producers themselves who invested their own money to build up the Canadian market. It is simply unfair for the Conservative government to give market share away to European Union producers.
As the House is aware, the dairy industry is not the only fortunate industry to have supply management. The egg and poultry sectors do as well. Together, these three sectors are responsible for generating billions of dollars of revenue to our economy as they provide jobs and invest in our communities.
It is inconceivable that our federal government would even think about introducing any policies that have the potential of destroying the fine balance we have in our agriculture sector. As a matter of fact, as we have jumped from crisis to crisis in our grain, beef, and cattle sectors throughout the past decade, farmers in the supply managed sector continue to receive a stable, predictable income. Others were forced to deal with the shifting patterns of the open market or government protectionist policies, such as the U.S. country of origin labelling.
Make no mistake: the pressure and propaganda is out there for Canada to get rid of its farmer-driven supply management sectors. They are being attacked on a regular basis as ads appear in small community newspapers like those in my riding from organizations such as the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which consistently trash supply management. They forget, however, that supply management does not cost the government or the taxpayer any money, while it guarantees us good quality food and contributes significantly to the Canadian economy.
The fact that now our farmers are under threat because of the increase in cheese imports is a betrayal by the Conservative government. It is morally wrong to talk about supporting supply management while at the same time eroding its pillars. One has to wonder who the next victim will be when the terms of the trans-Pacific partnership are released.
I would like to once again thank my colleague, our hard-working deputy agriculture critic, for bringing this motion forward. It is my sincere hope that it will pass unanimously in the House and that the federal government will make known in short order how exactly it will assist farmers hit by the terms of our trade agreement with the European Union.