Madam Speaker, I will take a quick moment out of my time to congratulate you and your husband on 37 years of marriage. All of the partners of members of Parliament who serve along with us certainly play a big role. To my own husband, Germaine, I also say thank you for that.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques today to speak about the opposition motion.
Before I do that, though, I want to set the record straight a little. We have heard from the Liberals today about the opposition parties not bringing this forward at any other time. I would like to say that the NDP attempted to bring this before the agriculture committee as a very important issue and could not achieve that.
As vice-chair of the international trade committee, I was a participant in calling for an emergency meeting. We were able to achieve that, but we had only two meetings. In this Liberal-majority committee, we were only able to secure two meetings on canola. As members can see, there is no report before the House. The Liberals are speaking about the importance of this issue, but that certainly was not reflected at committee by the Liberal members who sit there, so I would like to set the record straight.
I would like to start with some facts about the canola industry, because it is important that we understand what is at risk here, and there is a great deal at risk.
The canola sector contributes $26.7 billion toward our overall GDP, much of it through exports. The total value of canola exports in 2017 was $11.4 billion. Canada shipped $1.7 billion worth of soybeans to China in 2018, $2.7 billion worth of canola; and $514 million worth of pork.
There is a lot at stake in our relationship with China, and recently we have heard from the Chinese that they are looking at other commodities to impact. The fact that today there was some badly needed movement on the canola file does not insulate and protect us from what could be coming forward, unfortunately, in this very bad trade relationship in which we currently find ourselves.
Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz was quoted as saying that the global trade war was “the biggest threat” to the Canadian economy. We need to take this issue seriously.
This could be the beginning of a very difficult trade period for our agricultural communities. There are 250,000 Canadian jobs related to canola. A lot of folks across our country rely on canola for their livelihood, not just farm families but everyone involved in the production down the line. The value of farm cash receipts for canola was $9.9 billion in 2017. That makes canola Canada's top agricultural commodity. Canola is a homegrown Canadian success story and a major driver of our agricultural exports.
At the committee, we heard from farmers who are very concerned. Currently they have the seed on their farms and they are ready to go for this year, but they find themselves in a financial position where they cannot back away. Quite frankly, canola has been quite good to these farmers and their families and the communities where they live. When they are rotating crops, it has become a necessity for them to use this to be able to make money to sustain themselves.
It is very important that we work hard to get out of this precarious position that we are in. Canola producers should not be paying the price for the Liberals' icy relationship with China. Our farmers need a government that will stand up to China.
New Democrats will be supporting the motion before us today because we recognize the importance of canola farm families and the canola producers in our country and the importance across our entire country of canola as a very critical export.
Currently we are going to other countries, but China is certainly the number one destination for our canola. We heard from farmers at the committee that they have enjoyed a good relationship with China. They have never had any of these issues come forward in the past. They have been able to send canola, and our canola is quite highly sought after, as members can imagine, in China. This issue does not stem out of their relationship with their trading partners there; they are being caught up in a diplomatic problem that the Liberals currently have with the Chinese government.
The decision to stop accepting or to delay shipment Canadian canola is very concerning and completely unjustifiable. Hard-working Canadian canola producers in our canola industry are in a crisis. It is essential that these people do not suffer from these current diplomatic problems between Canada and China.
I want to talk a little about what has happened here, but also about the decision being completely unjustifiable.
If we ask canola farmers, those in canola communities, or average Canadians why we currently find ourselves in this situation, they understand—because certainly this issue has been across the national new recently—that these actions are about a tit-for-tat and that we cannot just stand by and let this situation threaten Canadian jobs. Canola producers should not be the ones who are paying the price for the Liberals' inability to fix their dispute with China.
We know that part of this motion today relates to not having an ambassador to China. We actually have no one at the diplomatic level who can have those conversations with China. We have no one in China right now who is representing us in an ambassadorial role. The Liberals will say that we do have folks over there, but this is the way that our diplomatic system works. It is an ambassador who would be the key person to talk through this dispute. With the lack of that person, the Liberals are not taking this issue seriously enough. As I have said, we rely on other commodities being exported, but those commodities are already being threatened. What are the Liberals waiting for? When it comes to appointing an ambassador, the time is now.
New Democrats do not agree with Canada's membership in the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank or any efforts that results in the privatization of public infrastructure, whether here or abroad. We know that the Conservatives supported our participation in the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. At the time, New Democrats raised the alarm and said that we should not be a part of it. Now that we find ourselves in this trade dispute, the Conservatives are coming on board with the NDP to say that we cannot be a part of a bank that is funding private infrastructure for China when we are suffering under China's unfair attack on our canola sector, so we are pleased that the Conservatives are calling for this along with New Democrats.
I will talk about today's announcement.
We certainly saw the limit increased beyond the previous $400,000. This is something that farmers have asked for, but this alone is not enough, because these farmers, once they plant and harvest, are going to be looking for a market for their canola. If they cannot find a market for that canola, then that canola will sit, and it is a perishable item. It cannot just sit on farms indefinitely. This is a cyclical problem, and it is not ending with this announcement today. It is a beginning and it is part of what needs to happen, and I know that the canola farmers will be pleased to see this step by the government, but that alone will not resolve this very serious issue that we find ourselves involved in.
As New Democrats, we also strongly believe that the Liberals need to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization. Why is the Liberal government so afraid to launch complaints? No one else is afraid to launch complaints against Canada at the WTO. The U.S., other countries and all kinds of people are launching complaint after complaint at us. Why is it that we are so timid in that space?
We just had the steel producers asking for safeguards, which the Liberals failed to do. They let down steel producers and steelworkers in this country. Why? It is because they do not have the courage to challenge them. We are being challenged on trade at every single turn, and no matter how many agreements we sign, that is not going to stop the fact that we are going to continue to be challenged, because we have painted a big target on ourselves. We have said that we are nice. Canadians are nice, and we play by the rules. Other countries are not playing by the rules, and they are not being nice to Canada. What do we do? No, we are not going to launch a complaint. Why? We still do not have an answer as to why we have not launched a WTO complaint right now on the canola issue.
Yes, there is a working group, but the working group, I believe, will result in asking the government to launch a complaint. We have no choice. Across the globe we see that trade is being challenged in every single country. It is time for Canada to stand on its own two feet and show the courage that is necessary to protect the industries at home—farmers, in this case—who need our help.
We are initially talking about two major Canadian grain companies, Richardson International and Glencore, which was Canada's Viterra. Their export licences, of course, were revoked, but this is just the beginning of what could end up hitting our pork and soybean industries. It is very important, and the Liberal government must consider a wide range of options to restore this market access.
We are not going to be able to get canola into other countries fast enough by the end of this harvest season. It is time for us to stand up for canola producers and truly look at every single one of the steps that we have: appoint an ambassador, talk about getting out of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and do everything we can to support agricultural canola farmers in Canada.