Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be sharing my time with my colleague from Pontiac.
We would have liked the government to introduce a bill, but perhaps it will in the near future or a bit later, before the House rises in June, or maybe even on December 12.
During the study in committee, we heard from dozens of witnesses and we agreed on a few recommendations. Free trade is the cornerstone of economic development in the agriculture sector and will certainly provide exciting opportunities for many stakeholders in the sector. Technology now allows us to produce more, and faster. Nonetheless, we have to be able to deliver the goods. The more demand there is, the more we have to provide top-quality merchandise. Many provincial and federal sectors have welcomed this agreement with open arms. I sincerely hope it will help our farmers deliver the goods.
However, I cannot say that the government's response to our report is totally satisfactory. There are some contradictions in its responses with regard to what the report called for. I would like to clarify a small detail. The recommendations that we see here are the ones the committee adopted, but partisanship is commonplace in the committees and, as they do in Parliament, the Conservatives have a majority there. There were other recommendations that we wanted to adopt following the testimony we heard. Unfortunately, those requests by the NDP were rejected. That being said, I will come back to these recommendations.
My goal here is to show that the recommendations in the report arose from a Conservative consensus. I am surprised that the government is responding so weakly to its own recommendations. For example, on supply management, the government's response clearly indicates that it will continue to defend that system. However, I was expecting the government to do more than that.
The committee's report clearly states that the removal of tariff barriers could upset this management system, particularly for dairy products. I had many conversations with representatives of the Union des producteurs agricoles, egg producers, poultry producers and dairy producers. In the summer of 2013, I went on an agricultural tour of my riding, Joliette.
All of these people told me that the supply management system, which was chosen by the industry, is valid and effective and that the government must maintain it. The president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, Mr. Smith, said that the three pillars of supply management are still in place. These three pillars are production management, import controls and farm pricing based on production costs. I am concerned that CETA will weaken those three pillars, which is why we must make sure that the supply management system has the tools it needs to survive.
In its response to the committee's recommendation about that, the government says that Canada continues to strongly support the system on the international stage. That sounds like a good answer, but what does it really mean? As the committee indicated in the report, the dairy industry wants the government to strengthen the three pillars of supply management and to ensure a 10-year transition period to eliminate duties on milk protein isolates.
The most concrete measure in the government's response is about amending Canada's customs tariff to address the problem of goods packaged in such a way as to circumvent Canadian regulations. It would be interesting to hear more about that. That is certainly one way to circumvent our tariff barriers.
We saw this with the pizza kits that were disassembled when they got to Canada so that merchants could sell the cheese and get around the supply management system.
There were also problems in the poultry industry, when American exporters were selling us turkey as so-called mature chicken. When we go grocery shopping at Christmas, we may see the label “mature chicken”.
I was a farmer and I have never seen a mature chicken. A mature chicken is a hen or a rooster that is at the end of its reproductive years. However, it was shown that the mature chicken that is imported to Canada from the United States exceeds that country's entire production. Imagine how much poultry is not being accounted for in our supply management model.
I therefore hope that the government has done its homework on this and that that is what we are talking about here. I would even ask the government to clarify this issue.
What amendments are we talking about? When were they made? Frankly, the word “recently” does not correspond to a date on a calendar and I would like to know more.
In my riding of Joliette there are many dairy farmers, some artisanal cheese makers and a winery. These industries are among those that will have the most difficulty competing with European imports, which are often heavily subsidized. Indeed, last Sunday on La semaine verte, we learned that sheep producers in Iceland are subsidized.
That is why the NDP recommended that the government keep its promise to dairy and cheese producers. Unfortunately, our Conservative colleagues did not follow that recommendation, and I would like to know more about why since producers in those industries will need help to adapt and remain competitive.
CETA will no doubt provide many business opportunities in a number of industries and thus benefit the Canadian economy. However, it could cause a net loss for some industries that are quite prominent in the riding of Joliette, such as the dairy and cheese industries.
Could the government be more clear about the compensation these producers will receive? It is all well and good to say that they will be compensated, but how much will they get? Earlier, it was said that they would be compensated on the basis of their losses, but all that remains to be seen.
Since I used to be a farmer, I know that it helps to know where you are going, and the fact that the government is stalling right now must have producers in a cold sweat.
Another recommendation that the NDP would have liked to see in the report involves ensuring transparency in the harmonization of health standards. It is a major problem. Think about the listeriosis crisis. Quebec's artisan cheese producers lost millions of dollars in production because of preventative measures, while imported cheese arrived by the tonne and was not subjected to the same treatment.
It was said that the exporting country's food safety rules prevailed. However, in the interest of public safety, is it not important to take this more seriously and include that concern in our trade agreements?
The government recently cut the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's budget by $45 million. In the wake of the XL Foods scandal, I cannot say that I, as a Canadian, feel protected.
In a world that is increasingly interdependent trade-wise, basic common sense tells us that we should work to make our trade agreements more responsible and accountable to the people.
Earlier, I spoke about partisanship in committee. Let us look at recommendation number 5 in the government's response:
...that the Government of Canada continue to pursue additional comprehensive trade agreements to open new markets...
It is all well and good to say that, but then what happens?
Free trade became the new global economic reality more than 20 years ago. Should we not be concerned by the fact that there will be other agreements?
What is needed is a better framework and more transparency to ensure that these agreements are truly beneficial to those who matter most to us in the House: Canadians.
To conclude, I know that I did not speak to all of the recommendations, but I wanted to express my views and those of my constituents on certain parts of the report.
I would like to commend the government for supporting sugar maple growers. Quebec alone accounts for 96% of maple syrup sales abroad. It makes sense to ensure that the phrase “maple syrup” appears only on the original product, not on imitation products.
If the European Union has the necessary tools to monitor that, I would suggest that this recommendation be included in other potential agreements, notably in Asia, where we have seen the proliferation of counterfeit maple syrup.