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Track Ruth Ellen

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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word is farmers.

NDP MP for Berthier—Maskinongé (Québec)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 42% of the vote.

Statements in the House

International Trade October 18th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Minister of International Trade demonstrated that she continues to dismiss the concerns of Quebeckers about the repercussions of this free trade agreement.

After promising transparency and consultation, she continues to ignore Canadians. It is no wonder that she is facing challenges in her negotiations in Europe. Quebec dairy producers have expressed serious concerns about this agreement, and there is still no sign of any compensation.

Will the minister finally fix this deal for Quebeckers and Canadians once and for all?

Dairy Industry October 7th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, since coming to power, the Liberals have taken no meaningful action on diafiltered milk.

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food admitted that the dairy farmers' and processors' ingredient strategy is not good enough. The minister spent more than a year consulting farmers and every other industry stakeholder, but he is still looking for a solution. That is just outrageous.

I have one simple question: will the government enforce cheese compositional standards starting now, yes or no?

Fight Against Food Waste Act October 4th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I would have liked to have more time to talk about my Bill C-231. It is an important bill. I also want to thank all the members who spoke today and during the first hour of debate. This bill means a lot to me because fighting food waste is a very important issue.

I thank all those who supported my bill. We received support from a number of organizations, such as Moisson Montréal, Moisson Mauricie, and Moisson Lanaudière. These organizations across Quebec support the initiative and the objective of Bill C-231.

There is also the Quebec chapter of the Friends of the Earth, Rescue Food in Calgary, and l'Escouade anti-gaspillage alimentaire de l'Outaouais. I thank them for the work they do to fight food waste. I also want to mention the Recycling Council of Ontario, and Second Harvest, in Toronto, the largest food distributor in the country. Eight million pounds of food were distributed in the past 12 months.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization commended us on our initiative, Bill C-231, and noted the importance of setting targets for reducing food waste in Canada.

I also recently received the support of Arash Derambarsh, from France. He said:

I am proud to join with my the fight against food waste in Canada. In France and elsewhere in the world, food waste is a problem that has economic, social, and environmental consequences.... I believe it is urgent that the Canadian government legislate to ensure that unsold food is redistributed rather than thrown out.

I would also like to thank researchers, such as Iris Simard Tremblay, author of the essay Comment réduire le gaspillage alimentaire dans l'industrie agroalimentaire au Québec?; Éric Ménard, a lecturer, blogger, and food waste expert; and Paul Van der Werf, who did extraordinary work. I want to thank Paul for his help and encouragement. We will not give up.

Food waste in Canada is everyone's business A lot of people are concerned about food waste. It is in the news quite often. When we look at what is happening in other countries, we see they have taken some measures that are very important. Canada could be a real leader when it comes to reducing food waste. Food waste has very important social and environmental impacts, and that was mentioned in some of the speeches today.

Earlier today, we had a great debate on the Paris agreement. Is the government serious about tackling climate change?

The fight against food waste is an important part of that. In Canada, we waste 31 million tonnes of food per year, which represents a loss of $31 billion dollars a year. That is shameful. In a country as rich as Canada, approximately 900,000 people rely on food banks. The food distribution system is broken. There are many improvements that need to be made and this bill is a step in the right direction.

There are quite a few questions that were raised about the bill. My colleague from Toronto—Danforth talked a lot about poverty. I think that, yes, the government has a role to play in reducing poverty. Maybe a $15-per-hour minimum wage would be very good. I would also like to say that Second Harvest supports the bill.

My colleague from Cypress Hills—Grasslands, who also sits on the agriculture committee, talked about costs. I think the inaction of the government costs more. Under the Conservatives, since 2008, there was a 26% augmentation of food bank use in Canada. Also, in 2014 there were $27 million in losses from food waste and now we are up to $31 million. Inaction costs more than the action asked for in the bill.

Other people have talked about the importance of holding consultations. In the bill, I ask the Canadian government to do just that; we know how much the Liberal government enjoys holding consultations. If the bill is passed at this stage, it will go to committee, where improvements can be made.

In my opinion, as parliamentarians, we also have the duty to reduce inequality and fight against climate change. This bill is a good step in that direction. If it is not passed, I will continue to fight to reduce food waste and food insecurity in Canada.

Louiseville Buckwheat Pancake Festival September 22nd, 2016

Mr. Speaker, the 38th edition of the Louiseville buckwheat pancake festival is happening from September 30 to October 9. Since 1978, this fun and friendly event has brought together festival-goers from all over to enjoy all kinds of activities with a special focus on traditional cuisine. Folks can sip some caribou, savour a famous buckwheat pancake, and sample many other local delicacies.

I would like to congratulate the president, André Auger, the past president, Yvon Picotte, the honorary president, Paul Gélinas, and all of the people on the organizing committee who are making this festival happen once again. I would especially like to thank the volunteers who make this event such a success.

I invite everyone to come celebrate with us in buckwheat country, sink their teeth into a tasty pancake and take in all the activities and shows. Enjoy the festival.

Dairy Industry September 20th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, dairy producers continue to pay the price for the Liberals' inaction. After promising to fix the problem of diafiltered milk, which is costing Canadian producers millions of dollars, the Liberal government has yet to take any action whatsoever. Once again today in committee, the minister had nothing new to offer: no plan, no vision, no solution. This is not at all reassuring. The government should be ashamed.

I call on the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to do his job. When will he put an end to the consultations and finally take action to fix the problem of diafiltered milk?

Air Transportation June 17th, 2016

Madam Speaker, first it was Neuville and Mascouche. Now it is Saint-Cuthbert's turn to get an airport that it does not want. Residents, elected officials, and the UPA have all said no. Even the National Assembly was unanimous in saying no.

The Minister of Transport refuses to intervene, even though he knows that there is no social licence for the project. The process has been botched.

Will the minister listen to Saint-Cuthbert's elected officials and residents who are calling for a ministerial order? Will he put a stop to this project that nobody wants?

Committees of the House June 15th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I know that the provisions that have been prolonged are very important to keep. One aspect that keeps coming up when I speak to farmers is the importance of data sharing and predictability, knowing when things are happening, when they are going to arrive. That is something that we had brought up and when Bill C-30 was at committee, we wanted to make sure that there was better data sharing, transparency. That is something that I think would be very important for shippers, not just agricultural products, but everyone would like to have better data sharing like we see in the U.S. If the U.S. can do it, why can we not do it here?

That is something that would help everyone. It would make sure there is more predictability and information sharing and then we could look into penalties to make sure that when delays are not respected, whether it is the railways or at grain, that there is some kind of reciprocity. That is very important too. I am really looking forward to seeing what the government comes up with and working together to make sure that we get our grain and our transportation going in Canada so that we can respect our international trade agreements.

Committees of the House June 15th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.

I think many of the provisions passed in Bill C-30 are really important for the industry, as well as for ensuring the safe transportation of agricultural products and other goods. I am really pleased that the government moved a motion at the last minute to extend many of those provisions once again. I think we need to keep those provisions, including the one on interswitching, for example. All the stakeholders and farmers told us repeatedly that they were really happy with the decision regarding the extension of interswitching distances to 160 km.

Perhaps we could consider the possibility of extending that distance, since, as members know, Canada is vast and transportation is rather complex. I would also like to see what comes out of the consultations being held by the Minister of Transport, Mr. Garneau. I look forward to hearing about that and I hope to have some news when the House returns this fall. I also think the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food could show a little more initiative on this.

The House will recall that Bill C-30 was introduced by the former minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. This directly affects producers and therefore we must consult these experts. I hope that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food will show more leadership and, together with the Minister of Transport, will ensure that producers have fair and adequate service.

Committees of the House June 15th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about the motion from the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

We have been calling for the Liberal government to take action on the grain transportation file for a long time. The report simply requests that the changes set out in Bill C-30, which expire in August 2016, be extended for one year. I agree with that request and will support it when it comes time to vote.

Before explaining why it is important that the government extend these provisions of Bill C-30, I would like to give my colleagues in the House a little bit of background about the grain transportation crisis. About two years ago, I spoke specifically about Bill C-30 in the House.

The combination of an excellent harvest and a harsh winter uncovered major flaws in our grain transportation system that cost farmers and the Canadian economy between $7.2 billion and $8.3 billion.

Although the government at the time had known since the fall of 2013 what our farmers would be up against, Bill C-30 was its belated response to this major crisis. The opposition parties and stakeholders had to pressure the government for months before it did anything.

Unfortunately, the bill did not go far enough. What is more, it was temporary, as members can see from the provisions that expire in August.

The Premier of Saskatchewan said that the bill was flawed and disappointing. Throughout the crisis, the Conservatives acted as if the situation was out of the ordinary, even though farmers had clearly indicated that the system was broken and the duopoly of Canadian Pacific and Canadian National over the market was allowing the companies to provide inadequate service without fear of repercussions. There is still an imbalance of power between farmers and the railway companies.

In an attempt to address the many shortcomings in Bill C-30, my party proposed a number of amendments: implementing mandatory reporting of the price of grain throughout the transportation system; requiring adequate service in all corridors; ensuring that producers in all affected regions would be consulted about the regulations; requiring the government to work with the provinces to develop and implement a plan for open access running rights to ensure effective competition in the rail service; imposing a moratorium on the closure or delisting of producer car sites; increasing fines and directing those revenues to compensation programs for producers; and opposing the temporary nature of the provisions in Bill C-30, which suggested that systemic structural problems were actually temporary and exceptional.

Unfortunately, all of the amendments that the NDP presented in committee were rejected. By the end of winter 2015, the delayed delivery of more than 11,000 grain shipments prompted us to try again. Despite Bill C-30, there was another crisis.

As a result, I moved another motion in the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food for the immediate study of problems related to the transportation of grain and agricultural products. Subsequently, my colleague from Sydney—Victoria moved a motion in the House.

His motion, which was adopted unanimously on April 22, 2015, called on the House to recognize that an increase in rail service and capacity is essential to the livelihood of Canadian agriculture and that changes to legislation are needed to address the structural gaps in our system.

When I spoke to the motion, I made sure to emphasize how important it is for the government to listen to all stakeholders. That point is important and remains valid.

The current government should improve the system. It should implement the recommendations of all stakeholders, the experts, and especially farmers.

I am pleased to see that the Minister of Transport said that he would take the Emerson report as advice only and that his government would consult stakeholders before making any decisions.

I can tell him right now that producers and shippers are not keen to abolish maximum revenue entitlement and interswitching. Stakeholders all agree, as do the parties here in the House, that these two measures should be removed.

As Dan Mazier, the president of Keystone Agricultural Producers, said:

“The report doesn't address [the lack of competition in grain transportation] at all, and this is the fundamental thing those in the grain industry believe lies at the heart of all of our problems.”

Since the beginning of the year, stakeholders have also all agreed that it is important to extend the provisions of Bill C-30, which expire on August 1. All of the groups I met with mentioned this to me. The members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food received many letters to this effect from such organizations as Alberta Barley, Alberta Canola, Alberta Pulse Growers, Alberta Wheat, and Grain Growers of Canada.

They wrote to us to encourage the fact that we need to act very quickly and that the pro-competitive measures introduced in Bill C-30, the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act, do not expire on August 1.

Among the other measures, the legislation provided for the establishment of minimum grain volume targets for railways, gave authority to the Canadian Transportation Agency to establish regulations governing rail service level arbitration, and provided for the extension of railway inter-switching distances from 30 km to 160 km, in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

Parliament must pass a resolution prior to August 1, 2016 to extend these elements of railway regulation or Canadian shippers will lose these important shipper protection measures.

The report presented to the House by the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities goes precisely along the same lines. That is why we support it. However, the government must adopt a long-term vision and address producers' concerns. This is important. A number of agronomists and officials at the Department of Agriculture and Agri-food have said that crop yields would only increase.

If the government does not improve our system, we will see more crops like those we saw in 2013 and more crises like the one we experienced in 2014-15. The government must show leadership and must implement long-term solutions for producers.

I sincerely hope that the Liberal Party will keep its promises on this issue and that its decisions will be consistent with what it said and did when it was in the opposition. It is one thing to get all worked up to defend producers when one is in the opposition, but it is another thing to do so when one is in government.

Since the beginning of their mandate, the Liberals have not had a great record on agriculture and agri-food, but they now have an excellent opportunity to take action and to stand up for producers. We hope that they will take this opportunity today and will take action quickly.

Committees of the House June 15th, 2016

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows well, Canada has many trade deals. During the grain transportation crisis, there were boats sitting empty in Vancouver. On the international scene, our image was damaged because we were not able to deliver grain. There were empty boats leaving Canada. Where are they going to go? They need consistency, so they are going to look elsewhere.

I wonder if the member could elaborate on how important it is to make sure that we consult and work with farmers, but also that we have the big stick ready to ensure that the two rail companies are actually doing the work they are supposed to do. When we have all of these trade deals and we are not able to deliver the merchandise as we are supposed to, what does that mean? It means they are worthless. I was wondering if the member could comment on that.