Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in this House today and to support my esteemed colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé and the cheese producers in Quebec and throughout the country by supporting Motion No. 496.
This motion calls on the Conservative government to keep its promise to dairy and cheese producers of Quebec and Canada by revealing details without delay related to the compensation that will be paid under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union. It also calls on the government to provide an implementation period for the agreement for these producers and to put an end to the circumvention of tariff quotas and the misclassification of products at the border, while imposing the same production and processing requirements on products to be imported and committing to provide support for commercialization.
On October 18, 2013, Canada and the European Union reached an agreement in principle on what is now known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Seven months later, no final agreement has been announced. According to the terms of the agreement in principle, the European Union will have an additional tariff-free access for 16,000 tonnes of high-quality retail cheeses and another 1,700 tonnes of industrial cheeses.
This announcement has of course caused a certain level of concern among Canadian dairy and cheese producers, who are publicly expressing their concerns about the economic and commercial repercussions of this agreement on their industry.
The motion before us today seeks to mitigate the impact that CETA may have on the dairy and cheese industry and to support supply management in Canada, which helps us ensure fair and stable prices. It also calls on the government to keep its promise to provide financial compensation to the producers involved following the signature of the agreement in principle, and finally asks the government, seven months after the fact, to tell the House of Commons—formerly the most sacred place of Canadian democracy—the details of the agreement in principle.
As we know, the NDP supports the supply management system in the egg, dairy and poultry sectors and for the agricultural industry. Under the agreement in principle with the European Union, the EU will have greater access to the Canadian cheese market. This undermines one of the very pillars of supply management, that is, import controls, and at the same time jeopardizes the system’s effectiveness for Canadian producers. This potential agreement represents a loss for Canada’s dairy producers by taking away part of their income to the benefit of the European industry.
Canadians are aware that the economic development of many Canadian communities, as well as a number of jobs in this sector, would be jeopardized. The Conservatives promised to protect supply management, but the conclusion of the negotiations with the European Union has undermined the foundations of the supply management principle. This is one of the reasons why the government must tell Canadians, especially Canada's dairy and cheese producers, the details of this agreement, without delay.
In this regard, it is important to mention the reason why the motion put forward by my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé is so important. The dairy and cheese industry is booming in Quebec and Canada. We have the right to be proud of the industry's growth in recent years and of the tremendous quality and diversity of its products.
It is of the utmost importance that we continue to support this industry, not only for the reasons mentioned earlier, but also because the producers reinvest in their farms and support local businesses and suppliers, thereby contributing to the development of Canada's local, regional and national economies.
It is also important to point out that the supply management principle that we are talking about here is not a subsidy. Dairy producers do not receive any government support, unlike what is seen in Europe, where 60% of the income of some producers is made up of government subsidies. As a result, our dairy producers begin with two strikes against them if they are placed on the same footing as their European competitors. This is why it is so important for our government to respect the principle of supply management to the letter.
Furthermore, the uncertainty and secrecy surrounding this agreement in principle also affects investments in the Canadian cheese industry, because the people who want to invest are waiting to find out what impact the agreement will have on the industry. It is therefore crucial that the government reveal the terms of the agreement in principle as soon as possible, not just for the sake of transparency, but for the well-being of dairy and cheese producers in Quebec and Canada, in particular.
That is what we are trying to make the government understand with Motion No. 496, which is being debated today in the House.
Trade rules need to acknowledge the special and strategic role of agriculture and provide policy measures to promote stability in the food supply, leaving countries with enough flexibility to manage their own unforeseen circumstances through the availability of mechanisms for appropriate market regulation.
In this case, the agreement jeopardizes the supply management principle currently in place, which allows Canadian producers to have growth in their industry. It is therefore vital, first of all, to reveal without delay the details of the compensation that will be paid to producers, because all of the stakeholders have asked for more details. The producers want assurances that the Conservative government will keep its promise so that they can then make business decisions.
We are also calling on the government to provide for an implementation period for the agreement. Canadian dairy and cheese producers have called for measures in the agreement affecting their industry to be phased in over at least seven years.
We are also calling for an end to the circumvention of tariff quotas and the misclassification of products at the border. The supply management system is built on three pillars; undermining one of them—circumvention of quotas—could potentially compromise the integrity of the system.
It is necessary to impose the same production and processing requirements on imported products. Canadian standards are sometimes higher than those in Europe, making reciprocity important so that Canadian producers are not penalized.
Lastly, the government must commit to provide support for commercialization. This agreement will penalize Canadian cheese producers. This is not news to anyone. It is therefore important that they receive government support so that they can promote their products in new markets.
With this motion, the NDP is showing its firm and clear commitment to our dairy and cheese industry and to the existing and effective supply management system.
Dairy Farmers of Canada agrees with our demands. I hope that the Conservative government cares just as much about the well-being of producers as we do. That is why I urge the government to support the motion moved by my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé.