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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was actually.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Welland (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2021, with 32% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the simple answer to clarity is, where is the bill? I am not sure what I can vote for and what I am supporting if I have never seen the bill. The Conservatives do not have one. I know I do not get to ask questions. The questions come this way. The bottom line is they do not have a bill. They have an agreement in principle and they have some additional new text that explains it, but they do not have a bill.

Therefore, if he asks me which way I will vote, it is like asking me if I have a scarf on my coat that is blue or orange. Why not guess. Then again, they may say one, but they may be wrong.

The bottom line is that if you have a bill bring it out, get it on the floor, let us have that debate and you will find out how we will vote. That is what it is about. Put it on the floor, we would be happy to debate it and vote one way or the or the.

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, after listening to the parliamentary secretary, I almost find myself almost at a loss for words. That is hard for the House to believe, and to be truthful, I think I can find my voice.

As the House leader quite correctly said in one of the few things he said that actually was correct, we did not have all of the details to study this matter. At committee we questioned why we were studying this when we did not even know what it was. We only knew that it was a CETA agreement and that we needed more details with respect to it so that we could pose questions to the folks who came before us from the agriculture sector. They included primary producers, processors, and the retail sector. There was a comprehensive number of witnesses, and I felt that there was a reasonable cross-section of folks who came before us to tell us what it was.

However, when we asked them specifically if they really knew what it was, the answer was that they thought so. Many had been at the table, but some had not. There was a sense that there might be some things they could win and that maybe there were not, but most said that overall they thought it was a good deal. The parliamentary secretary said that. The problem was whether they would be able to take advantage of those good things.

Unfortunately, one of the things missing in this report was the numbers. We talked about a nice big number—I think it was $2.4 billion—which is the value of wheat exports being sent to the EU now in the agriculture sector, but there is no number in here as to what the EU sends to us in the agriculture sector, which is actually greater than $2.4 billion. Even after we add in the numbers that the government talks about in this report—and the agriculture committee heard from different people—and add that number to the $2.4 billion, it is still less than what the EU ships here, so it is not as if we come out a winner over the EU. We can certainly say that we have come up, and there is no question about that. We have a cumulative number that is higher, and the EU got some extra stuff.

I agree with what my friend from Malpeque said when he talked about supply management. The government did not destroy the three pillars of supply management. Wally Smith, the president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada at that time, was quite clear about that. He said that it had not.

However, this is an overgrown mouse that is chewing away at supply management, especially the cheese section. That is what has happened, to the tune of millions of dollars.

My good friend, the deputy critic for agriculture for our party, comes from a great riding I can never pronounce because it always escapes me. I sit on the agriculture committee, and she does a wonderful job. It was quite clear in the motion that she presented to the House that we need to have some sort of transition plan for cheese producers.

If I remember, I think the government supported that idea. I do not think it has done much with it yet, but it did support it. It will be interesting to see what it does with that and if it actually works that through. It even agreed that there is an impact; otherwise, why would anyone support a motion for a transition program for a group of producers if we thought they were going to be winners? This government says it does not give away something for nothing, so it would not give money to farmers, or pretend to, if it did not think that somehow there was a loser.

That is what is in this agreement. That is what the report highlighted. That is why we added no dissenting report here. We added a supplementary piece because we heard from our friends in the agriculture sector, who said that there were opportunities for them.

As we have seen, there are opportunities there now. The Canadian Meat Council quite correctly pointed out that it has access now, but it does not use it, for a lot of legitimate reasons. The council says that additional access would enhance its ability to go ahead, and its members would probably take advantage of it.

However, if memory serves me right, that industry is looking for about $100 million in transitional costs so that it can move those factories and processors so that they can ship to the EU. The reason is that the EU is looking for red meat that is different. It wants it to be hormone-free and probably without antibiotics, so the meat has to be treated differently when it is processed. Different things have to be dealt with.

The problem ends up being the cost. Does the government intend to move that cost, or will the meat processors simply say that without the money, they will not do it? We do not know. The indirect benefits clearly are to those who say that they will feed those extra cattle, but that will happen only if the producers grow the extra cattle and send the meat down the chain.

In the committee report the barley producers talk about the net benefit to them. The problem is it is indirect, because they will not be selling barley to the EU. That is what the president of the Barley Council said. There is not really a big market for them to sell barley, because the EU has its own, but if we need another 500,000 head of cattle for that market, barley producers will be able to sell to the Canadian primary producers to raise that cap.

To go back to the beginning, if the processors do not develop a new line to take the cattle, then there are no cattle and there is no market for the barley producers. There is opportunity, but it is not a given. Unfortunately, my friend the parliamentary secretary always tells us that this will be so; well, it will not be so. It might be, but maybe not. We could point to other free trade agreements in which a lot of promises were made. Some of them happened.

It is not always the government's fault. We have to be truthful about that. If the opportunity is made available, someone has to take that opportunity. If they do not, then that is their choice. The issue is whether they can get all the things they want, and are we on a level playing field? It remains to be seen.

When we look at this situation, we see there are winners and losers. Some who came before the committee—and my friend did not talk about them—said they were not really sure if they are going to derive a benefit. Horticultural folks came before the committee and said they think they have some opportunities. They might have some winners, but they think they might have some losers too. Doing away with the tariffs is what it is about between the two, so they were wondering if the Dutch would dump all those red bell peppers on us, because right now they have a tariff. What happens if they decide to sell them in the horticultural sector? We will be swamped with bell peppers. We will be done. That is an impact no one in the government has talked about.

There is no transitional funding for the horticultural sector, by the way. At the moment the only reason there is one is that we moved a motion on this side to get Conservatives to talk about the cheese industry, and they finally accepted. There are none of those mitigating factors being taken into account.

On balance, it looks as though there could be opportunities, but perhaps not. No one is suggesting a free trade agreement in which one side wins and the other side loses. There has to be a balance. There is back-and-forth at the bargaining session. I know how it works. For 25 years I have looked across the table at folks trying to bargain collective agreements. We give something and we get something. That is how it works. In good agreements, on balance, we get what we need and they get what they need. When people go away from the table, they are never the happiest people in the world, but they feel they got a deal.

In this case, the EU will still have more agricultural product coming to this market than we will have going there, even when we add all of the new things that the government says will happen and, to be fair, what the ag sector believes it can win.

At the end of the day, we did not catch up, yet by all accounts we are a great agricultural country. We are great producers. We have great processors. We have great folks who market around the world and great products to sell. There are a multitude of things that we do extremely well, but we will still come up short compared to what will happen over there. We will still be in a position of going onto a playing field that we are not really sure is going to be equal.

After the committee adjourned, I had a discussion with one of our friends who appeared before it. He talked about GMOs. He said, “You know, we thought we were going to get that fixed in about four years.” I asked when that was, and he said it was in 1993. He thought that by 1997 or 1998 at the latest, we and Europe would be finished with that issue.

However, he said that what he liked about this agreement was that they are going to get to talk about it.

I said, “Didn't you talk about it in 1993?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “How are you making out?”, and he said, “Well, we're not, yet.” I asked him what makes this any different. He said, “Well, they said there will be an agreement on phytosanitary and all these things would get put to bed.”

I have never heard the government say yet that it has an EU deal that says the EU will take GMOs from us. If there is such a deal, somebody can nod their head in the affirmative over there and correct me. Stand and tell me I have it wrong. If it is true that CETA says the EU will take GMOs tomorrow, please let me know, because I have never heard it. That is not changing.

Our folks were hoping it might, but it did not. What does that mean for producers? It means it is a market they cannot get to unless they change. That is their choice, and that is okay. They can choose to go in that direction or not.

However, as the government says, it is a market of 550 million people that those producers will give up on, so they have to figure out what they want to do. Do they want to look at someone else who would take that particular product?

I make no value judgments with this speech about a GMO product. That is the farmer's decision to use the product. The issue in growing that crop is entirely up to them. At the moment, the market does not take that particular product, so it eliminates it for them unless they switch. Maybe someone from the other side, during questions and comments, will tell me that somehow this is not true and I have it wrong. I will wait to hear if that is the case.

Clearly, for us, we listened to farm groups, farmers and processors, right across the country, of which there were many. On balance, they said that the agreement looked like a good deal for their industry. However, there were some who said it was not necessarily a good deal for them.

We have heard about the supply side and it may not get what it thought it would get. My colleague from Malpeque introduced the sense of how it would be affected. Mr. Wally Smith said that the existing quota today would be 2.25% less after the agreement than before. If the market is not growing in Canada, because it is a closed market for them, and the quota shrinks by that amount, it impacts the ability of farmers and producers to make money, unless the Canadian milk market can swell, but it only grows at a certain level.

The New Democrats, and I am sure members on their side, would encourage folks that if they do not drink a lot of milk, they should. They should drink additional milk products and look for real milk products, not the pretend products, if they want to do things for farmers. It is really all about that.

This is an issue on the supply management side that makes it interesting.

The other part of it is that in my neck of the woods we have the wine industry. When representatives of the industry came before us, they said there was no impact on them. The fact is that wine basically comes into the EU anyway. There is no real import tariff on it. It is a minor amount and it has been reduced for the last number of years. It basically is not there anyway. Most of it is kind of a provincial piece as it is imported into what the taxation regime is. Those people have said that they needed help marketing themselves, because the Canadian wine industry is a small player internationally. Part of that is because we do not have a lot of cultivars in areas where they grow grapes. We have less of it in the ground than in the European nations. That is just the nature of it. Since we are physically smaller player, they said it did not really impact them. In a way there is a bit of an indirect piece that they need.

The representatives did say that the potential was there for them to import equipment in the wine industry. I have always found it unfortunate that we do not have a manufacturer. I am not suggesting the government is at fault for this because it is not. As somebody who grew up in Niagara, I have always wondered why there is not a machine company around the province that makes good wine making equipment for us, rather than having to buy it from Europe all the time. Every time we go to these places, the equipment is usually made in Italy or Germany. I wonder why we do not make it here. We have great machinists and machine operators, so why do we not make the stuff here for our home industry? Maybe that will be an indirect benefit, and it will be an industry that sprouts up. We never know, because it certainly would be one that would be welcome in Niagara, which is a great manufacturing place to be.

As we went through this, we decided we would add a supplementary piece to the agreement that talked about what we would like to have seen as well. We wanted to see that protection for dairy farmers, and we made that motion in the House.

The New Democrats want to thank the government for accepting and supporting the motion, but we also want to ask what it is going to do. We are looking for some action. The Conservatives always suggest that we are inactive about certain things, well we are looking for some action from the other side and it would be nice to see that happen. It is clearly something they have said.

My friend mentioned Mr. James Laws, who is the executive director of the Canadian Meat Council. He was concerned about reciprocity. The reciprocity is on something that is called parma ham or feta cheese. It is a geographical indicator. We gave the Europeans a whole whack of geographical indicators, a whole pile of GIs, but we did not get too many in the deal. They got 20-some odd, which really surprised me because I actually thought they would only get a handful. I thought we would be firm with them and not really allow them to have as many as they got. We got next to none and the one we actually tried to get was maple, which is really a traditional Canadian symbol.

We put a recommendation in our supplementary report, but the government did not answer our recommendations at the back. It answered the other recommendations. It was really surprising that the government would not say it was for maple.

When it gets close to winter when the leaves fall, they are maple leafs. I am not suggesting the hockey team. I am saying it is maple leafs that are falling. For all the Leafs fans out there, I hear they are doing better than normally. One would think that if we are going to protect anything in this country as an icon, it is the maple leaf and maple syrup.

Members of my family who live in Scotland know to buy real maple syrup that comes from Canada. In fact, when they come to visit, we ensure they get some to take home. They say they can buy syrup in Europe, but it is not the real maple syrup. The real syrup that we get in Canada is iconic to our country. I am surprised the government did not say it agreed with that recommendation the New Democrats made as part of our supplementary report.

Clearly, there are some issues that the government has not addressed.

The Canadian Meat Council talked about it when it comes to GIs. It asked where that reciprocity was, where that ability was for us to stand up and ask why the Europeans were given all the ones they wanted. We understand that Europeans want to hang on to these sorts of indicators, that they really like the fact that this comes from a certain region, and they have a real attachment to it, especially when it comes to food products.

As much as we do not have quite the same attachment, one would have thought during bargaining we would have wanted to get something for that. If we were going to give them the GIs, why would we not then ensure they did not get as much cheese? Why did we not get something in return for that? That is what bargaining is about. It is about getting something for giving something. One does not just give stuff away for free. That is not bargaining, that is just giving up. For me, it was a real issue about not fighting to keep the things we need to keep.

On balance, I would be foolhardy to suggest that the folks who went before the agriculture committee did not say they felt there were opportunities here. Some felt there were very direct opportunities and could track it, but they were not really sure. There were some numbers used, some approximates, which were probably close to reality, but others were not. It really is quite often, as they say, not to pick on the pork industry, a bit of a pig in a poke, which is maybe it is and maybe it is not. One has to wait on those things.

Let me end by saying that the parliamentary secretary's amendment earlier I found strange at best, but then again I should never find anything coming from the other side too strange. There is this sense that the bill should be taken back to be re-studied with the additional information, which is actually a good piece. I do not know if subamendments can be made to these things, but I am not even going to try.

The bottom line is that now we have this additional information, maybe we should show the folks who went before the committee and ask them what they think. They may think it is better, they may think it is not so good. Giving an explicit instruction saying thou shall vote this way, means one really supports it. Let the Conservatives bring the bill to the House and then New Democrats will see if we want to support it.

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the clarification.

I am surprised that my good friend the parliamentary secretary would want to revisit all of this.

The specific instruction says that one should vote for something at committee before it actually comes before the House of Commons, which is really quite strange. The hands of committee members would be bound by saying that they must vote for this that says one shall do this, but yet it is not here. There is no bill here, unless the House leader intends to bring one forward tomorrow that we do not know about. The CETA bill is not before us in the House, so how can it go back to the committee with an instruction that says thou shall go study it with the new pieces?

I agree with the parliamentary secretary that there are pieces we did not see before. As the House leader quite eloquently said, this committee report was written prior to all of the details coming out. The problem is that there is no legislation here from the government. If my memory serves me correctly, there is no agreement from the other parties across the Atlantic that they have accepted the whole thing yet, because a lot of countries have to vote on it and get it translated.

Could the parliamentary secretary tell me why the government would bind the hands of not only government members but the opposition as well, by saying that we must vote for this before we even know what we are voting for? Are we expected to agree on something, but we do not know what it is, because we really like it a lot or because the government likes it a lot? This reminds me of the leader of the third party, who jumped up and said he was in favour of it before he had actually read it.

If memory serves me right, the Conservative government always told us that we should not say things about things we do not yet know, and yet the government is asking us as a committee to vote in a way that will bind us. I am not sure how one binds oneself to a committee anyway. I suppose we could support the committee's report. Does that mean the government whip would tell us how to vote when the government brings in CETA? I do not think so.

I am not quite sure why the parliamentary secretary would decide to do it in that direction. If he wants to bring it back for study, why not just bring it back as an open discussion? Surely that is what—

Committees of the House November 18th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, I look to you for direction first. Is the question directed at the motion or directed at the parliamentary secretary and his overview? I recognize you always give us leeway, but I want to be—

Questions on the Order Paper November 17th, 2014

With regard to confined field trials of crops with novel traits, as conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists at the Central Experimental Farm, and the possibility of these being prohibited by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, in the summer of 2013: (a) what was the decision made and why; and (b) have there been any field trials of crops with novel traits at the Central Experimental Farm since 2013?

Agricultural Growth Act November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, it is always a joy to the listen to the parliamentary secretary. It is like Aesop's Fables most of the time.

If he is asking if New Democrats have failed farmers, we actually listen to farmers. It was the government over there that did not listen to farmers. Nearly all farmers were saying over and over again that there needed to be amendments to this bill. What did the government do? It came back with a couple of tiny lines in the area that farmers wanted changes, under what it has now termed “farmers' privilege”. The government came back with a tiny clarification that did not meet what farmers had been asking for.

If anybody has failed farmers, it is the government. That is who has failed farmers. Ultimately what could happen, and what I think what will probably happen, is that the royalty system is going to change in this country as soon as this becomes law. When seed companies move in, they will decide if they are going to have end-point royalties, graduated ones, cascading ones, or whether they are going to be at the beginning, and farmers are going to be the poorer for it at the end of the day. Oddly enough, a Conservative government that says it believes in and preaches competition is more than likely going to take competition out of the system, and the only ones who will be affected are farmers.

Farmers are affected by competition and a lack thereof, and when there is a lack of competition in the seed business, it is the farmers who will pay. The government will have failed those farmers. Conservatives should hang their heads in shame. That is what they ought to do.

Agricultural Growth Act November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Red Deer gave a great account of the advance payment program in Bill C-18. To be perfectly blunt, I do not think there is much I could quibble with on that particular aspect. The member did a great job at committee in helping us understand how it works, for those of us who have never taken advanced payments, maybe because we do not own farms. He has done it again here in the House, and I want to thank him for that.

It is important. That is a piece of the omnibus bill. As it stood, with a little tweaking, it was a six-page amendment, but it was a technical piece. I get that piece. In fact, the department needed six pages to actually tell us how to technically amend it, but at least it got it right. We could have voted for that, if it had been separated out. However, the government did not do that.

We go back to the issue of UPOV '91, which is really about intellectual property. One of the things we try to do as the opposition is suggest amendments. The amendment should be about making sure that when going to a court of law, there has been an infringement. In other words, it should not have a chill effect, as it is called in class action lawsuits, where a farmer who inadvertently ends up with material in his field ends up in a lawsuit. We wanted to try to stiffen that so that this would not happen to farmers.

Could my friend from Red Deer comment on why we did not want to strengthen that and left that alone? If someone actually tries to take someone else's property, that is wrong, full stop. That is not the issue. The issue is what happens if there is a chill effect, because we have seen that in other instances.

Agricultural Growth Act November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues is that a number of changes were made that mentioned the CFIA becoming the regulatory body, in the sense that it would oversee it. One of the things we do know is that if we look at the line items in the budget, those that were announced here—not announced to the bankers at that $800 a table event—we can see that there has been a decline overall in the budget if we look at the budget forecasting.

The government has added additional things for the CFIA to do. Is my friend not concerned that if the resources continue to contract and if the CFIA does not have the ability to do what it is specified to do under the legislation, everything will become backed up? Will that not throw a wrench into situations and approvals will not come forward and things will slow down, and the so-called red tape reduction team will have simply gummed the works up, not with red tape but with inaction?

Agricultural Growth Act November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the minister has asked why can we not support the bill. If there were individual bills instead of an omnibus bill, we probably would have supported the vast majority of it. During committee stage, quite often there was agreement around certain sections, whether it was the fertilizer piece, or some other pieces. We have problems with one side of it and we do not get to vote on it separately, which I do not think is allowable, so we end up with this.

On farmers' privilege, the government recognized it had it wrong and suggested it needed to come back with substantive changes. However, it came back with a minor tweak. If the government recognized that this was not the correct way to go, that farmers would not be placed in a position of equality with the intellectual property holders, that they would be in a lesser position when came from the sense of saving seed, why does the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism, and Agriculture think it is all right for big business to swamp out what ostensibly is a small business? Some farms are large, but most of them are small. Why does the minister not say that we need a sense of balance so that people with small farms who develop their own seeds do not end up being wiped out by large multinationals, which have the power to take them to court and the farmers will not have the power or resources to defend themselves?

Agricultural Growth Act November 17th, 2014

Mr. Speaker, the member has asked an interesting question. The power relationship tips because of the size that they are and the amount of money that goes into research. That is what happens. There are some pieces in the legislation that would allow someone to take intellectual property up to a certain level and use it and work on it. The problem is that when public dollars go out, then one of the competitors is gone. The next piece is when small seed producers leave and just a handful are left.

Where is the royalty? Farmers want to know. They want to know if it is when they buy a bag of seed, at the end, or both. They want to know where it is. The bill does not say anything about that. Some farmers will say that an end-point royalty is okay, because if they buy lousy seed and they have a lousy crop, they will pay a lousy price for it. The problem is that if farmers pay a decent price for a lousy bag of seed and then receive an end-point royalty, they have paid a lot for stuff that was lousy in the first place.

That is the problem. The bill would not allow folks to fight that off. In our view, it would unbalance what we thought could be a balance between those large corporations that come in with intellectual property rights and those that are smaller and do not have them. The amendments would allow them to succeed in the marketplace.