|| That, since the government is signing trade agreements that are undermining supply management and that will have a negative impact on the Canadian dairy industry, the House: (a) recognize the magnitude of the economic losses to Canadian dairy producers from the importation of diafiltered milk from the United States, which totalled $220 million in 2015; (b) recognize that each day of government inaction contributes to the disappearance of a steadily increasing number of family farms across the country; (c) recognize that the entire industry is standing together to call for the problem to be resolved immediately; and (d) call upon the government to keep its election promises and honour the commitments made since the start of its mandate by immediately enforcing the compositional standards for cheese for all Canadian processors.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am always proud to rise in the House and speak on behalf of the people of Berthier—Maskinongé. It is an honour. It is also a real honour to move such an important motion on diafiltered milk. As everyone here knows, I often ask questions about this issue. I have been asking the government about its failure to act, and that is why I am so proud to debate today's motion in the House. I really hope I have the support of all my colleagues in the House. I also want to acknowledge the many farmers who are here with us today. Farmers work seven days a week, 365 days a year. They are passionate and dedicated individuals, and we are extremely proud of them.
I want to acknowledge the farmers here from Montérégie-Ouest, the Laurentians, the Outaouais, Lanaudière, and Mauricie. There are here for the debate in the House, and I hope they will also stay for question period.
I will briefly sum up the situation. Diafiltered milk is a concentrated milk protein from the United States. It was created to get around Canadian law, as no U.S. processor uses it. Because the Liberal government and the Conservative government before it have been slow to address the issue, this diafiltered milk, which is in gelatinous form, is being used instead of fresh milk from our farmers. This has been going on for two years now.
In 2015, imports of this product increased significantly, resulting in economic losses of $220 million for Canadian dairy farmers. This issue alone is causing each of our farmers here in Canada to lose on average $15,000 a year. This situation is disastrous for dairy farmers. They need a party that will stand up for them, and that party is the NDP.
The farmers are at the end of their rope. I think it is important to share some of their stories. We get many phone calls about this at our office. I meet with farmers daily and it is truly important to share some of their stories. I will start with that of Jean-François Allié from Saint-Léonard-d'Aston. He wrote:
“Mr. Prime Minister and dear Liberal government.... My farm is at risk. The standard price of milk of $68 per hl and $70 per hl is making me consider selling everything. My farm is my life, it’s all I have. The agreement with Europe, the TPP and the import of diafiltered milk in recent years are at the root of our losses…. I have been losing nearly $2,000 per month since May 2015. It has been a year, so that means $24,000. Please help us and address these three factors. The outlook is bleak. The Jean-François Allie farm, with 40 heads of cattle in Saint-Léonard-d'Aston, will soon disappear.”
The second story I want to share with hon. members of the House is that of Ana Maria Martin, from Lorami farm in Henryville, Quebec
“Dear Prime Minister, how disappointing for me to see that I believed in you during the election and now you are abandoning us! Doing nothing about diafiltered milk at this time is cowardly and it is destroying supply management in an insidious manner by destabilizing the market. My husband and I are milk producers and have a family farm. We bought it from his parents in 2013 and, in 2014, we invested in robotics in a barn where the cow's comfort is the priority. The goal was to be among the top elite producers of milk of excellent quality and become effective entrepreneurs and managers. Last year, we lost around $60,000 because of diafiltered milk. This factor is beyond my control, but it is not beyond yours. You are destroying our Canadian dairy industry because you do not want to upset our precious neighbours across the border. While giants send their money to tax havens, we reinvest in our region. I am the mother of four boys and it is essential that something be done before it is too late for many of us.”
I would like to read another account, that of a farmer from my region. Here is what Jean-Félix Morin had to say:
“Our farm is losing over $3,000 a month, which is more than my income.... My friends were losing even more than that and they had to sell their farm this fall. I find that really hard. Would I change careers? I would have to go back to school. It is upsetting that this is all about politics and that the government is not getting involved. No one wants to be a millionaire. We just want to make a living.”
That is important to remember. I could share other people's stories with the House, but I encourage members to go and meet with the farmers who are outside, and who will come in later to participate in the debate, and to chat with them. They are going to talk to us about how important it is to do something and to do it now. Everyone knows what the solution is.
In addition to these accounts, our online petition, which calls on the government to solve the diafiltered milk problem, was signed by over 4,500 people in less than 48 hours. All of these people are really disappointed, frustrated, and angry, and I am too. I think that many members understand the situation, but it seems that they lack the political will to do something about it. The current government is not doing anything. The Liberal government is still not taking action.
After asking a number of questions in the House, we still have no response and no action from the Liberal government. However, during the election campaign, the Liberals made a commitment to solve the diafiltered milk problem. Even the told milk producers in February that there was never any suggestion that diafiltered milk would be used as milk. More than two months later, he is not even enforcing the existing standards.
If I were in the government’s place, I would be really embarrassed. Even worse, two departments of the same government put diafiltered milk in two different categories. Border services allows diafiltered milk to enter as milk protein concentrate, or MPC, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency allows processors to use diafiltered milk instead of milk in their cheese. Such a flagrant lack of consistency is unheard of.
If the government were unaware of the situation, and if the problem were not urgent, I might have been able to understand. However, everyone knows about the diafiltered milk problem, which has been going on for more than two years. We are asking questions, in the House. We even had an opportunity to conduct a brief study in the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. The Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food has had many meetings with industry stakeholders, such as Quebec dairy producers, dairy producers across Canada, and even the processors. Everyone is on the same wavelength: the government must enforce the existing law and regulations.
The situation is pressing. What is at stake is this: lives, the economy, family farms and regions. The solution is simple: the government must act. Through the debate on the diafiltered milk problem that we will have today in the House, in which a number of members will participate, I am very hopeful that we will reach a consensus, that the government will support our motion, and, most importantly, that it will take action. We are now getting a lot of pressure from the Americans, and we are wondering whether the Liberal government is going to stand up for Canadian producers or capitulate to the Americans.
I am very hopeful that we will find a solution.
Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to be able to take part in this debate on the protection of our dairy producers. I am delighted with the proposal by the member for , who has worked her heart out for our dairy producers for years. It is thanks to her that we can talk about the problem of diafiltered milk crossing our borders. We are asking the Liberal government to stand tall, do something, or simply enforce its own laws. It is a simple solution that the Liberals do not want to apply. That is what we are talking about today.
The Liberals are saying nice things. For weeks and months, they have been telling us that they are going to do something, but the producers are still waiting. Hundreds of producers are out there on Parliament Hill, and they are prepared to speak with every member of the House to explain their situation. I am very happy to be able to rise in the House and defend the producers in my riding and producers all across Canada as well.
This is an extremely important issue. As I said, it affects tens of thousands of people across the country, and it is costing hundreds of millions of dollars a year because of diafiltered milk. It is especially damaging since the dairy industry pays $3.6 billion in taxes to the three levels of government every year. It provides the equivalent of about 215,000 full-time jobs. Quebec is a major player in the industry, with nearly 40% of the dairy cow herd.
As I said, there is a very simple solution to this problem: the government simply needs to enforce its own cheese compositional standards.
When milk comes out of a cow’s udder, it contains about 3% protein. The diafiltered milk from the United States goes through a technological process that increases the proportion of protein to about 15%. As a result, with diafiltered milk, dairy products can be made at a much lower cost than the costs of Canadian producers.
Currently, the Canada Border Services Agency considers diafiltered milk to be a milk protein concentrate. As such, it is not subject to customs duties, which is why it is financially advantageous for processors. On the other hand, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency considers diafiltered milk to be milk for inspection purposes.
Within one government, two departments categorize diafiltered milk in two different ways. It is completely inconsistent. In fact, it’s scandalous and crazy. This has many harmful and indeed catastrophic consequences for producers and for employment in the country, and also for the consumers who buy the products without knowing where their components come from.
In other words, diafiltered milk from the United States, where the standards are different, is mixed with Canadian milk to reduce production costs. That is a harsh blow to dairy producers. In 2015, losses to Canadian producers were estimated at over $220 million. In my region of Montérégie alone, producers are losing an average of $15,000 a year because of the diafiltered milk crossing our borders.
Throughout the election campaign and to this day, hundreds of producers have come to meet with me. During the campaign there was a huge demonstration at the Herdman border crossing, precisely to show the magnitude of the impact this was having on their production. Farmers came to my office or called me in tears to say they would have to close down their operations if this continued. They told me that farm work with their cows was their whole life. They had thought they would be able to continue and hand down their farm to their children, but that would no longer be possible because they had their backs against the wall.
The federal government has to act. Producers are wondering when it is going to do so, because the just keeps saying that he is listening and he is abreast of the situation. He even went to meet with producers to tell them that the government was going to take action, but nothing has been done.
In my riding, Mr. Montpetit has written to me about the problem of diafiltered milk, and I quote: “I am beginning to see our dream of having a prosperous dairy farm vanish into thin air”.
I am a defender of buying local. Indeed, I tabled a bill to that effect in the last parliament. Diafiltered milk is totally at odds with the buy-local principle.
What is more, the Liberals had all voted in favour of buying local. This truly contradicts the convictions they held when they were in opposition. Now that they are in power, things have changed. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
I want to be able to buy Canadian cheese, made in Canada from Canadian milk, not cheese made from dairy proteins that come from the United States. This issue is having real consequences for producers, for our workers, and for the diet of Canadians. The minister has to understand the magnitude of this problem and consider the consequences of his inaction. This is urgent.
The dairy industry accounts for nearly 5,000 direct, indirect or related jobs in Montérégie alone. If the federal government does nothing, it is going to have job losses on its conscience.
There is talk of the decline of the regions, where the land is. The agri-food sector contributes to one job in eight in Canada. This is one of the most important sectors in the Canadian economy. The Liberal government does not seem to understand this.
However, the ackonwledges the problem. I quote: “...diafiltered milk was never meant to be allowed to be used as milk.”
During the election campaign, the Liberals committed to solving the diafiltered milk problem, which is costing our dairy producers millions of dollars. However, the Liberals are dragging their feet.
I want to share a quote from a Liberal candidate during the last election, as reported in the media. He said that:
|| ...if the Liberals are elected, he would bring all the stakeholders together within 90 days of the election, without exception. They would have six months to find a solution, bringing to bear their respective skills.
|| If this group did not produce results, “the federal government would take responsibility and would solve the problem for the next 20 years”.
So far, as far as I know, the Liberals have completely broken their promise. It is starting to look like smoke and mirrors. The solution is simple: enforce the existing cheese compositional standards.
If the Liberals truly care about supply management, our family farms and our regions, they will support our motion and resolve this problem once and for all. This is why I am asking my colleagues opposite, who come from Montérégie, Mauricie, the Outaouais and anywhere else in Canada, to vote in favour of our motion, and then immediately take action and enforce the rules. The minister must be compelled to act, or else to justify his decision to abandon dairy producers all over the country.
The other stumbling block is the anxiety about free trade agreements. Not only is Canada signing trade agreements that are opening a breach in supply management, but it is also putting the compensation into question.
Whether the party in power is the Conservative Party or the Liberal Party, it must be said that things are much the same. The new agreements pose the risk of other dairy proteins entering the Canadian market without tariffs being imposed, as is currently the case for dairy proteins from the United States.
According to one study commissioned by Agropur, 4,500 to 6,000 farms could disappear and 40% of processing could move to other countries if supply management were to be sacrificed under free trade agreements.
We are going to repeat it all day long, and the producers who may be listening to this will repeat it as well: it is very important to enforce the standards for cheese within our own country, to give the inspectors of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency the necessary resources, and to stand up to ensure that border services officers are given the necessary resources as well, since they too conduct inspections and allow the milk in, since the government has not adjusted its criteria for the diafiltered milk that is crossing the border.
This is urgent, because it involves jobs and our economy. It involves the consumption of products by Canadians.
It is time that the Liberals opened their eyes. It is time that they acted on behalf of all the dairy producers of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for for raising this important issue in the House. I would also like to acknowledge the producers who are here today.
The government fully supports Canada’s supply management system. We are all working together to address the industry’s concerns. The minister and I are both former dairy farmers. We understand very well the challenges farmers face on a daily basis. My family’s farm is in La Prairie, not too far from here. It is a fifth-generation dairy farm.
Supply-managed sectors are essential for ensuring that Canada has a strong agricultural sector and a prosperous economy. All told, the dairy, poultry, and egg markets create nearly 300,000 jobs and generate overall economic spinoffs of $32 billion.
Of all of Canada’s food industries, the dairy sector is the largest. It accounts for $6 billion in farm gate sales and more than $16 billion in sales in the processing sector, and it employs more than 100,000 people.
The dairy sector includes our innovative cheese industry, which continues to win awards around the world. Dairy production is an important part of the economy in every region of Quebec. Across the province, over 6,000 dairy farm owners market nearly 3 billion litres of milk a year with a farm gate value of over $2,000 billion.
That is why the government committed to protecting supply management and holding consultations to find a long-term solution. Canada is also a world leader in exports of livestock genetics, with sales of nearly $200 million in 100 countries. The government is determined to support Canada’s dynamic dairy sector.
In January, we announced a new $1.75-million federal investment in the dairy research cluster. This large investment will support the work of our Canadian agriculture and agri-food researchers in two key areas: enhancing the energy value of Canadian forage crops to increase milk production and understanding the role played by milk fat, including its effect on type 2 diabetes. Total federal funding for the dairy research cluster is now $13.75 million.
We have been clear from the start: the Government of Canada strongly supports supply management. Innovation is important to the Canadian dairy industry. Today, the average cow produces almost three times more milk than 50 years ago. The industry is substantially improving its productivity and sustainability. Canadian dairy farmers are among the world leaders in their industry when it comes to the environment. The Canadian dairy industry currently has a smaller carbon, water and soil footprint than almost every other dairy industry in the world.
On our family farm in La Prairie, we want to conserve water and soil resources for future generations, so we are very conscious of the importance of the environment. All agricultural activities have an environmental impact, whether they take place in the field or in the barn. Canadian farmers know they have to take the environment into account in everything they do. That is the right thing to do for the future of their families and of our planet.
That is why I was in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue two weeks ago with the to announce a federal investment of $27 million to help producers find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their farming operations.
This investment is part of the Government of Canada’s ongoing efforts to help this sector be competitive, innovative and sustainable.
The agricultural greenhouse gases program supports research into greenhouse gas-reducing practices and technologies that can be implemented on the farm. This new five-year investment extends Canada’s existing commitment to support the objectives of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases. On Monday, the and ministers announced a one-year investment of up to $1.9 million for the agricultural youth green jobs initiative to attract youth to green jobs in the agriculture and agri-food sector.
This initiative follows through on a Government of Canada commitment made in budget 2016 to provide employment opportunities for post-secondary graduates interested in helping the agriculture sector carry out environmentally beneficial activities.
For dairy farmers, these activities could include building fences so that livestock—
Mr. Speaker, I will get to it.
As I was explaining, these investments will make it possible to build enclosures for livestock so they are kept away from bodies of water, relocate livestock wintering facilities away from waterways, improve manure storage to protect the environment, and establish feed crops on eroding soil.
The initiative will help finance internships at agricultural operations and agriculture and agri-food organizations to encourage youth to apply for green jobs. Furthermore, on Tuesday, the Dairy Farmers of Canada launched a sustainability initiative to showcase farmers' commitment to applying high standards on their farms in areas from milk quality to food safety, animal care, traceability, biosecurity, and the environment.
Milk producers are clearly demonstrating their commitment to responsible stewardship of their animals and the environment, producing high-quality, safe, and nutritious food for consumers in a sustainable manner. They are demonstrating to consumers that they share their passion for food quality, animal care, and the environment.
As I mentioned, we are aware of the industry's concerns. As producers have told us repeatedly, the use of diafiltered milk in cheese production is worrisome. We are working on finding a sustainable solution.
The minister and I have had exhaustive discussions with producers across Canada. The government is working to ensure that the standards are clear to everyone. The government fully supports supply management, recognizes the importance of effective import control measures, and manages those imports in accordance with its international trade obligations. The minister and his team regularly communicate with dairy sector stakeholders about this very serious issue. Our team is doing what must be done to ensure that the standards are clear to everyone.
Once again, the Government of Canada fully supports supply management. That means we have to resolve certain problems, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to do that here in the House. Problems always give rise to opportunities.
Canada's dairy industry is doing excellent work in growing markets by promoting its brand, collaborating with the industry, and innovating. Canada's dairy producers are unsurpassed. In my home province, Quebec, we know that Quebec cheeses are among the best in the world. Quebec dairy processors produce more than 60% of the cheese made in Canada. Quebec has about 110 cheesemakers and about 450 cheeses available on the market.
Today, about 50 small dairy processing companies, most of which are artisanal cheesemakers, are the pride of the regions, and their products are enjoyed by people all across Quebec. In fact, 31 of the 81 finalists in the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix were from Quebec. We can be proud of that. Fifteen Quebec cheesemakers won one or more awards for their cheeses at this prestigious competition. Nine new categories, including three for Gouda and one for smoked cheeses, were added to better reflect the growth and diversity of production in Canada, bringing the total number of categories to 27. Our award-winning cheeses can hold their own against the best cheeses in the world in terms of flavour and quality. World-class cheese made with Quebec milk is a winning combination.
We will continue to work with our industry to help dairy producers take full advantage of new global marketing opportunities.
We are determined to work together to help the sector make the most of the incredible opportunities that await us. We have entered into discussions with the industry and the provinces and territories about a strategic five-year pan-Canadian framework for agriculture. We will be reaching out to all producers to establish a framework for the future. I am pleased with the dialogue that is currently taking place between producers and processors in the industry on how to make the industry more competitive and innovative.
I encourage everyone to continue those discussions. I sincerely believe that working with the industry is the best way to overcome the challenges that the dairy industry is facing. From what I have learned from our discussions with dairy producers, I believe that the industry is ready to seize the opportunities for growth. The future outlook for the dairy industry is very promising.
The global population is growing fast, and the world will need to produce 60% more food to feed future generations. That food will come from world-class companies, which are found all over Quebec. It will require a lot of hard work and co-operation to overcome challenges and take advantage of opportunities. I firmly believe in teamwork. Together, we will establish a partnership for a prosperous future in Canada's agrifood industry.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate, which is of paramount importance to a number of dairy farmers in my constituency and other parts of Canada.
I will speak to the House today about the improper use of certain milk protein substances, such as diafiltered milk, in the context of Canada’s cheese compositional standards and the negative impact that such improper use has on Canadian dairy farmers.
A flourishing dairy industry means more jobs and better access to infrastructure. It also means economic spin-offs for other industries, such as the banks, businesses that sell food, livestock, parts, machinery and hardware, construction companies, veterinarians, and many others. It is important to point out that the Canadian dairy industry makes a huge contribution to the country’s economy.
It contributes $18.9 billion to our gross domestic product and $3.6 billion in tax revenues every year. It provides the equivalent of 215,000 full-time jobs for Canada as a whole.
As we know, the dairy farming sector in Canada operates under a Canadian agricultural policy known as supply management. The policy’s objectives are to ensure that farmers receive a fair return, derived from the marketplace, for their work and investments; provide processors with a stable supply of milk, so that they can properly plan their production year after year; and provide consumers with a consistent supply of milk and milk products of the highest and safest quality, at a fair price.
Canadian dairy was the first industry to operate under supply management—a system that egg and poultry farmers would later adopt.
As for the dairy sector, the supply management system is administered by the Canadian Dairy Commission. The basic idea behind supply management is simple: manage production so that supply is in balance with demand.
Supply management is much like a stool that rests on three equally important legs, or pillars.
The first pillar is farmgate prices, which ensure that the milk price received by dairy farmers takes into account the cost of production, including capital and labour costs, and the overall conditions of the Canadian economy.
It is important to note that the retail price is not set by the Canadian Dairy Commission, the provincial milk marketing boards, or the producers. The price paid by the consumer at the grocery store and in a restaurant has always been set by the retailers or restaurant owners.
The second pillar is production discipline, which ensures that the supply of Canadian milk corresponds to the demand from consumers. Each dairy producer in Canada holds a quota, that is, a market share establishing the quantity of milk that it can produce, depending on the demand from consumers. The quantity that the quota allows to be produced is adjusted upward or downward according to demand.
The third pillar is import control. For supply-managed sectors, imports are controlled by means of tariff rate quotas. Tariff rate quotas allow a predetermined quantity of dairy products to be imported at preferential tariffs, generally duty-free, while maintaining control over the quantity imported.
When the three pillars of supply management play their allotted roles, they enable the dairy industry to weather all economic storms, attain a high degree of self-sufficiency, and ensure its sustainability. Conversely, if one of the three pillars becomes unstable, it can jeopardize the whole system.
This brings me to the reason why we are here today: milk proteins. It used to be that Canadian milk was a primary source and basic component in the making of dairy products.
Even though certain makers of cheeses and yogurts still use 100% milk, for which I congratulate them, a growing number of them are adding ingredients such as milk protein isolates, milk protein concentrates, and diafiltered milk to replace milk.
These ingredients may be produced in Canada or imported. When they are imported, they are not classed under chapter 4 of the customs tariff schedule, which includes milk products.
Instead they are classed under chapter 35, which includes ingredients such as milk protein substances. Originally, these milk protein substances were imported in dry form. Over the last five or six years, however, we have seen a change in the import model. The quantities of milk proteins imported in liquid form under the same tariff line have increased significantly.
Once they have entered the country, these milk protein substances are used as ingredients in making cheese and yogurt. However, the situation becomes complex when the same product is treated differently by two government agencies. When one agency considers a product to be an ingredient and the other treats it as milk, then we have a serious problem.
Under the Canadian cheese composition standards, a minimum percentage of the protein used to make cheese must be sourced from milk. The percentage required varies from one cheese to another. For example, at least 83% of the casein contained in cheddar must derive from milk, and a maximum of 17% of the total protein content can derive from ingredients, including milk protein substances.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for applying the cheese compositional standards. That means that it has to verify that the milk-to-ingredients ratio defined in those standards is adhered to for every cheese. Since milk protein substances are ingredients that are sometimes less expensive, some processors use them to make up their required minimum quantity of milk in cheese making, instead of using them for their permitted percentage of added ingredients.
This situation is also inconsistent with the classification of these ingredients at the border, where they are not treated under the chapter on milk and dairy products and enter the country duty-free.
One of the most serious issues today is the growth in the uncontrolled importing of milk protein isolates. Imported in ever-larger quantities, they are competing with the skim milk solids and milk proteins produced here, thereby altering the competitive context and undermining the revenue of dairy producers.
The importing of milk protein isolates is growing exponentially. Canada adopted tariff rate quotas on milk protein concentrates around the mid-1990s. About 10 years ago, a few companies began to import milk protein concentrates, isolates, to obtain larger protein concentrations. Milk protein concentrates are a skim milk product from which lactose and permeate, which is mostly water, have been removed to varying degrees.
These highly concentrated proteins are imported into Canada duty-free, which allows companies to get around the tariff rate quotas. The Dairy Farmers of Canada tried to resolve this situation by bringing the matter before the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.
The concentration of protein in normal farm gate skim milk is about 35% in dry matter. Any product whose protein concentration is above that percentage is considered a concentrate. Therefore skim milk containing 40%, commonly called 52% to 72%, or even up to 84% protein is still considered a concentrate.
The Canadian International Trade Tribunal determined that a product with a concentration of over 85% is an isolate, not a concentrate, even if it is used for the same purposes. This product was designed for the sole purpose of circumventing the tariff rate quota on milk protein concentrates. This decision defies common sense and is not in line with government policy.
In any case, the Government of Canada attempted to rectify the situation.
Around 2008, the government set a new tariff rate quota and tariffs for milk protein isolates. The only problem is that these tariffs do not apply to NAFTA countries, namely the United States and Mexico. Consequently, the border with the United States remains open. Milk protein isolates cross the border as ingredients but can be used in Canada as milk. This conundrum leaves an ambiguous situation.
Although supply management was protected in international agreements, it is now up to us to protect it from within. The Conservative government took significant action in 2007-08 by establishing cheese production standards to limit the quantity of ingredients that could be used.
However, recent imports of diafiltered milk from the United States are once again threatening supply management. This product was designed solely for the purpose of circumventing border controls and Canadian cheese standards.
These proteins replace skim milk in cheese and yogurt production. In fact, there is no technical limit to the use of these proteins in production. This scheme is unacceptable. At the border, this product is considered an ingredient by the Canada Border Services Agency, which allows it to enter tariff-free.
However, for yogurt and cheese production, it is considered milk by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. This means that its use is not limited by cheese and yogurt production standards. The federal Liberal government therefore has an important role to play. Diafiltered milk needs to be considered an ingredient under the compositional standards for cheese and yogurt. This will ensure that the standards and the spirit behind them are honoured.
Also, the verification rules for these standards need to be strengthened to ensure compliance. We all need to work together to come up with a solution to the problem of diafiltered milk. We are all aware of that. I believe that many members of Parliament are keenly affected by and aware of this problem. We ran into the problem of solid proteins and then pizza kits, which the previous Conservative government was able to fully resolve.
The dairy industry says it has no choice but to use diafiltered milk in making dairy products. As I said earlier, diafiltered milk was created to get around the rules at the border and production rules. I was able to confirm that thanks to the answer I got to one of the questions I asked in the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. No one in the United States makes cheese with liquid protein concentrates with 85% protein. Processors in the United States do not do that. It does not happen.
In Canada, processors are now using this product to remain competitive. They are using it for one reason only, and that is to save money. That does not make sense because this cost savings cannot benefit the producers and, at the end of the day, the processors are not benefiting either. Things start to get profitable only after the processing stage.
Honestly, this has to stop because the entire industry is engaging in this at the expense of supply management. As long as the issue of imported diafiltered milk is not resolved, there is no doubt that processors will keep looking for ways to reduce costs. We want there to be a level playing field, and we urge the Liberal government to do something about this.
The processing industry in the United States produces cheese without using diafiltered milk. Americans therefore eat cheese that was made without diafiltered milk. Canadians should not be eating cheese made with American diafiltered milk.
There is absolutely no justification for this because there is no economic incentive for it. There is no reason to do this. The only reason Canadian processors are importing diafiltered milk is that it is cheaper because it is tariff-free and there are no restrictions on using it in manufacturing. That is the only reason.
With respect to imports coming into the country, how much do we need to satisfy market demand? We do not need any. Why? Because Canada has an abundance of skim milk that can be used to produce these ingredients. If the government decided to regulate the use of these ingredients, we would produce them domestically at a competitive price, and we would use them. We do not need these imports because we have an abundant quantity of skim milk available.
Whether it is imported or produced domestically, the product used by many processors contains 85% or more milk protein. That is the definition of ultra-diafiltered milk. According to the regulation, there are no restrictions on the use of diafiltered or ultra-diafiltered milk in regular cheese and other dairy products.
If imports are not controlled, it is impossible to manage the supply to ensure that it meets demand. A lack of import controls will inevitably lead to overproduction and make our system unstable. It is not enough to have good regulations in place. The validation and auditing processes and the enforcement of the regulations are also important.
Right now, those who may want to circumvent the rules are fully aware that, when it comes to dairy products, existing border controls are not being applied in a consistent and uniform way in Canada. Proper law enforcement and audits are therefore essential in order to discourage anyone seeking to exploit these loopholes. People can be very creative when it comes to getting around tariffs and quotas. The problem with pizza toppings is a prime example of that.
The Canadian dairy system is unique and has proven its worth. It provides dairy producers with an income that allows them to cover their costs and gives processors a stable environment. It helps maintain the social fabric and contributes to the economic development of our communities, while providing consumers with high-quality products at competitive prices. We therefore believe that it is necessary and more important than ever for all stakeholders to work to support supply management. That is obvious.
The Conservative government managed to maintain high tariffs at our borders in recent trade agreements. This is essential to maintaining our dairy system. We hope that the Liberal government will not undo the Conservative government's work to protect the supply management system.
With respect to border controls, at least four departments are affected by the issue of effectiveness. The Department of Finance ties into the payment of tariffs, and the Department of Public Safety is responsible for border controls, through the Canada Border Services Agency. There is also the Department of Agriculture and Agri-food, because this has to do with agricultural policy, and then there is the Department of Foreign Affairs, since we have trade agreements and we have made commitments to our partners. Our trade partners also have specific requirements and agricultural policies as well.
In conclusion, if we work hard to fix the problem with diafiltered milk and other dairy substitutes that are crossing our borders, we can restore the balance in our supply management system, which will benefit the entire Canadian dairy industry. We will restore harmony in the entire industry, from producers to processors, to distributors, and all the way to our esteemed consumers.
For more than 45 years, we have managed to keep Canadians happy with high-quality dairy products at a fair price, in accordance with the wishes of this House.
To succeed, the industry needs to be supported by a regulatory and policy framework that maintains supply management and the three pillars.
Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with my esteemed colleague from .
Perhaps I could begin my speech by responding to the member from the Conservative Party who asked us what we in the NDP are doing for this debate. Let me tell the member that we are the ones who brought this debate today. It is we, and it is my colleague from , who are asking the government to come up with a solution.
Unfortunately, the Conservative members did not put forward an opposition day motion on the issue, and they are asking very few, if any, questions about it. Their new awakening to the issue, which just began with the debate today, is quite sudden.
Still, this does not let the Liberal government off the hook. The Liberals were quite happy to listen to our questions, and they applauded us when we criticized the Conservative government.
Now they are the ones in power, they are now the ones with the ball, and it is up to them to take up the responsibilities of governing. On this I agree with my colleague from , because ultimately, the Liberals have been here for six months. They can certainly quote what the industry said in December, but that took place almost five months ago.
All we are asking for with regard to diafiltered milk is a regulatory change. It does not require a large bill or any studies, as the parliamentary secretary tried to tell us. This is not a complex issue; it is a very simple one.
Some American companies are producing diafiltered milk and are taking advantage of a loophole in the regulations to flout the spirit of the law and export products that are putting our farmers at a disadvantage. It is as simple as that.
All the minister has to do is enforce the law and, if necessary, make a small change to the regulations. That is it, problem solved. It is not very complicated, but it appears to be too much for the Liberal government.
Maybe the government should open not only its eyes, but also its ears, because Canadian producers are protesting today on Parliament Hill and outside some offices.
For example, some producers are protesting outside the offices of the member for , the riding next to mine, because he will not even answer their calls, and they are wondering why the member is not standing up for them.
The good news for these producers is that the NDP will continue to stand up on this issue, as the member for not only has done in this Parliament, but also did in the previous Parliament.
This is nothing new. The problem goes beyond diafiltered milk and extends to supply management and to the lack of respect for our producers. Loopholes are now being created in this system, which ensures the survival of our local economy and our agricultural producers.
I will give a few examples.
The first example involves my colleague from , who stood up for producers when the Liberals and Conservatives refused to do so.
The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which was introduced during the previous Parliament and which the Liberals were prepared to support before even reading it, was negotiated by the Conservative government of the time. The Conservatives told us not to worry, that they were committed to supply management, and that they would defend this system. What happened? They got to the bargaining table and put everything on the table, despite all of their rhetoric in the House in response to our questions.
My colleague from therefore moved a motion calling on members of the House to support a compensation package.
The Conservative government promised financial compensation to the producers who would suffer losses as a result of the agreement negotiated, which created loopholes in the supply management system.
During the last election campaign, the Liberal Party promised to respect this agreement, since all members had voted in favour of the motion moved by my colleague from . This motion, which would allow for financial compensation to producers, was unanimously passed by the House. I was flabbergasted to hear one of my Conservative colleagues defend supply management a few days ago, when the Conservatives did everything they did to undermine this system for 10 years.
This compensation is yet another betrayal by the Liberal Party. This is about more than supply management and diafiltered milk. This is about all of the commitments made by the Liberals.
With regard to compensation, the Liberals said during the election campaign that they would honour commitments made by the former government. At the time, we extracted answers, with great difficulty, from the Conservative Party. It said that it would provide compensation, but that it could not tell us when or how much. When the Liberals came to power, there was nothing about this in their budget. The Liberals were unable to tell us whether they would honour that commitment. They are unable to tell us anything.
This creates not only a continuity problem for farmers, but also uncertainty. That uncertainty would be eased simply with a few words. We are only asking the government to tell us, one way or the other, whether it will honour the commitment regarding financial compensation, regarding the cracks that have appeared in the supply management system.
These are not the only nice promises we have heard from the Liberals. We have also had promises about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That was another issue on which the Liberals said one thing in the election campaign and, now that they are in power, they are saying something else. Once again, that agreement undermines the supply management system. During the election campaign, the Liberals promised to study the issue and to listen to the stakeholders and farmers who would be negatively affected by the negotiations, which, it should be noted, were conducted by the Conservative Party. Once again, we see that the Liberal Party is content to complete the Conservative Party’s work, to the detriment of our farmers.
Now, despite the promises made by the two ministers concerned, the and the , when all is said and done, we are simply told that we have to sign anyway and we will see afterward. That does nothing to reassure farmers who are in an increasingly difficult position. Moreover, the farmers feel that the government is not standing up for them. It is very disappointing. It is really a betrayal.
During the entire election campaign, and even before, I heard nice words and fine promises from the Liberals. We were told not to worry, because a Liberal government would have a plan and would stand up for those people. What is happening today? The government is not even capable of making a simple regulatory change to enforce the law and prohibit the importation of diafiltered milk. Those imports are causing losses of millions of dollars for dairy farmers throughout Quebec and Canada.
The government is incapable of living up to its commitments and holding real public consultations on the trans-Pacific partnership. It is also incapable of keeping its word concerning the financial compensation to be provided to our farmers.
I keep up with the news, and I asked myself some serious questions when I heard the speech of the . He tells us that the matter needs to be studied, that it is a very complex issue. Yesterday we voted on a time allocation motion for Bill , and the government told us that it was not complicated, that we should move forward and debate was over. It is so comical to see how little time it has taken for the Liberal government to resemble the old Conservative government. Liberal, Tory, same old story, that's the phrase that comes to mind, because the Conservatives pulled the same stunts.
Indeed, the Conservatives brought us their own time allocation motions. They would tell us that it was urgent, that we had to move quickly, that debate was over, that we were going in circles and repeating ourselves. They would gag us and ram bills down the throats of parliamentarians, without offering them the chance to speak and without listening to stakeholders. On other issues, however, they would tell us to allow them the chance to study and fully grasp the matter, because it was very complicated. This is exactly what the Liberal government is doing today: time allocations and gag orders, when it suits them to do so. They tell us that the issue is very complex, not having the gumption to simply rise and admit that they have not been equal to the task and have not met their commitments.
All that we are asking of the Liberals today is precisely that: to rise in the House, to say that the matter is very simple and they are going to enforce the law and the regulations to prevent the importing of the diafiltered milk that is harming our dairy producers. We are also asking them to say that they will meet their other commitments and will offer this financial compensation to the dairy producers. They should also add that, when they negotiate agreements, or rather when they wind up some negotiation carried out by the Conservatives behind closed doors, they will at least have the political courage to consult the people who will be affected, namely the farmers. Clearly, the Liberals have been unable to listen to them and to keep their promises. That amounts to a betrayal of those producers.
However, I am happy to rise today in support of my hon. colleague from .
We will continue to stand up for them. We shall not relent until this government honours its commitments toward farmers, our communities, our producers, and, ultimately, our economy. That is what is at stake.
Mr. Speaker, first I would like to thank my colleague for bringing this motion forward. From all the questions raised in the House and to the agriculture committee, I want to acknowledge and thank the member for the great work she has done since the election to bring this issue front and centre.
It is an important issue, because across Canada and in my riding, these are real jobs for people. It is about good jobs for members of all of communities, and I am honoured to stand in this House today to speak on behalf of the wonderful dairy farmers in my riding.
In a world where jobs are at a premium, keeping a thriving domestic industry may be more valuable than cheap milk or imported diafiltered milk. For this reason, I am very happy to speak in support of this motion today.
Dairy farmers are speaking out in B.C. The dairy sector contributes many millions of dollars to the provincial GDP and is responsible for more than 15,000 jobs, which is 21% of B.C.'s agriculture jobs.
The NDP stands proudly next to our dairy producers. They are the pillar of our economy and our food sovereignty.
In my riding of , we have farmers losing out simply because the Canadian government cannot do its job.
Let me explain.
The problem of diafiltered milk has been going on and has been a battle for our dairy farmers for at least the last two years. The diafiltered milk is a U.S. product, part of the great family of milk protein concentrates. These are ingredients mostly used for cheese, which are less costly and are made from heavily subsidized U.S. milk. They are designed exclusively to get around Canadian rules. Diafiltered milk is imported and is used instead of milk from our farmers, which results in financial losses for them.
Currently, the Canada Border Services Agency considers diafiltered milk as a milk protein concentrate. It is, therefore, not subject to the dairy chapter of the customs tariff schedule, so enters the country tariff free.
For its part, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency considers the diafiltered milk as milk in its inspection work of these cheese standards.
We have two departments, under one disorganized government, considering the same product in two different ways.
Under the cheese compositional standards for Canada, it is required that a minimum percentage of the protein used in cheese-making be sourced from milk. Some processors have taken to using milk protein substances as part of their required minimum percentage of milk when making cheese, instead of using it as a part of their allowable percentage of added ingredients.
This is how U.S. producers and large-scale Canadian transformers are getting around the rules.
Consequently, this is a considerable financial advantage for some processors. However, but not all processors can use or have access to diafiltered milk, which causes unfair competition, specifically for small cheese processors.
The solution is quite simple. We need the diafiltered milk to cease to have a dual identity, and we need the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to enforce its non-dairy character so that processors do not use it instead of Canadian milk.
On Vancouver Island alone, where I reside, the dairy sector is responsible for more than 1,300 jobs. It is estimated that the financial loss caused by diafiltered milk is $220 million across Canada a year. That is an average loss of $15,000 per year, per producer.
Why is this problem persisting?
The issue was raised during the election campaign. The dairy farmers were persistent and continue to advocate. As Liberals do, they pledged to solve the problem. However, we now see the Liberal government continuing to drag its feet. It is starting to look like a broken promise.
Yet the solution is simple: enforce the cheese compositional standards.
If the Liberals genuinely care about supply management, our family farms, and our regions, they will support our motion and solve this problem once and for all.
The Liberals have said repeatedly that they will protect supply management. With our motion, they have an opportunity to put their words into action and make this pass.
Let me quote Ms. Caroline Emond, the executive director of Dairy Farmers of Canada:
|| The government is responsible for the enforcement of Canada's border measures and must act quickly to limit damages caused to Canadian industry. This role will be even more important when service imports enter into Canada as a result of CETA and TPP.
|| Let's be clear. All we're asking is that the government enforce existing rules and allow only the amount that has been agreed to in trade agreements to enter the country.
The Quebec National Assembly voted unanimously in favour of a motion asking the federal government to apply its standards and protect the integrity of our supply management. When will the Liberals keep their promises and stand up for Canadian dairy farmers, like those who live in my riding and those who live in many ridings of members in this House?
Our producers are worried. To add insult to injury, Canada signed a trade agreement that opened a breach in supply management. The sum of access granted to the dairy industry projects to be 3.25% of Canada's 2016 milk production. The milk displaced by this agreement will never be produced in Canada and will result in a perpetual loss of revenue for our farmers and for the Canadian economy.
This month, Joe Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, sounded the alarm for workers. Why are the Liberals determined to move forward with this agreement? Then there is the Canada-Europe trade agreement. These concessions will cost the dairy industry an additional $300 million in market losses. The 2016 Liberal budget's lack of compensation for cheese producers for concessions made as part of CETA has angered Canada's dairy industry.
It is clear that whether the Conservative Party or the Liberal Party is in power, they are doing the same thing. We have seen this happen again and again, and we are not protecting the jobs in Canada that make this country strong.
Let me conclude by quoting Mr. Wally Smith, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada:
|| ...all of Canada's dairy farmers speak with one voice on diafiltered milk. We are collectively disappointed with the lack of action on enforcement of the cheese standards. The Government does not need to pass a new law or new regulation and the solution is simple. The Government needs to enforce the existing standards.
I hope in this House that we can make sure today that this job is done. We need to enforce these standards to move forward in a positive way for our country and protect dairy farmers.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am very concerned about the importation of diafiltered milk because it affects many people in my riding. I have the honour of representing the people of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, a large region with a vibrant and active agricultural industry.
My riding is home to over 300 dairy producers and two processing plants, one of which is a cheese factory that uses only Canadian milk. The only French agricultural college in Ontario is also located in my riding.
I am rising in the House for Jasmin Benoit and his family, for Ferme Dla Sept, and for the Lafrance and Bilodeau families. I am rising in the House to stand up for the interests of all dairy farmers in my region. Whether big or small, each of them contributes to the collective well-being of our communities. Electricians, mechanics, veterinarians, and people in other occupations are all called upon to work for dairy producers. They are a real economic driver in the rural regions of Canada.
However, we strongly disagree with the assertion of my hon. colleague that we have undermined the interests of Canada's supply-managed sectors, and in particular, the dairy sector. The issue of milk protein and diafiltered milk is not new. I know what the official opposition may say about this issue, but where were those members when the problem was less substantial than it is today?
Unfortunately, we saw the former Conservative finance minister's recent comments in the National Post, in which he railed against supply management. Now I believe I really understand the true agenda of the Conservative Party. I can assure all members that our government fought hard for and implemented supply management. We know that it provides Canadian consumers with a stable, affordable supply of dairy and poultry products, while assuring farmers of a good and predictable income.
Unlike the Conservatives who cut nearly $700 million out of Agriculture Canada, our government is committed to reinvesting, including over $70 million in the budget for research and infrastructure and $38.5 million for food safety.
We are also investing $500 million to extend high-speed Internet to hundreds of rural communities across the country, which is much needed for Canada's agricultural industry. Our farmers are moving from pitchforks to iPads, but they need access to the Internet to be able to use the application. That's how we create an innovative country.
Each and every day, Canada's innovative dairy and poultry farmers bring nutritious, wholesome food to our tables while creating jobs and adding value to our economy in rural and urban Canada. Combined, the sectors drive over $30 billion in farm cash receipts and processing sales. That translates into close to 300,000 jobs for Canadians. That is why the government continues to support the current supply management system.
At the same time, the Government of Canada continues to pursue an aggressive trade and export agenda. Agriculture and food exports hit a new record of over $60 billion last year, and there are more opportunities for growth to come.
The facts are clear. Supply management has not prevented Canada from signing any free trade agreements with any country in the world. From poultry to pulse crops, our government will continue to support a strong agricultural industry in Canada. The country's economy and the well-being of Canadians depend on it, and the demand for food is only going to go up in the future.
I want to take a moment to talk about the CETA, the comprehensive economic and trade agreement. The Government of Canada is committed to ratifying the Canada-EU CETA as soon as possible to open the world's largest market for food to our industry. This agreement, while not perfect, is the most comprehensive and ambitious trade agreement since the North American Free Trade Agreement.
With the CETA and NAFTA, Canada will be one of the few countries in the world to have preferential access to the world's two largest economies, some 800 million of the world's most affluent consumers. We understand the importance of compensation to the dairy sector in the context of the Canada-EU CETA. Let me repeat that we do understand the importance of compensation to the dairy sector. Engagement with the dairy sector is ongoing.
Our government is very clear with our international partners. We unequivocally support our supply management system and will defend it at all costs.
We will continue to do so while pursuing an aggressive trade agenda, because Canada's export sector depends on trade and creates economic growth across the country.
We are working in the best interests of Canadians. We are talking with industry stakeholders and listening to their views on compensation. We have heard how important compensation is to the supply-managed sector. We will protect the integrity of the supply management system and fully recognize the importance of import controls.
We are aware of the industry's concern regarding the use of diafiltered milk in the making of cheese and are committed to continuing to engage with the entire industry on the best way to achieve a long-term, sustainable, and agreed-upon agreement to fix this issue.
I am constantly talking to farmers in my riding about the issues that affect them. I created a local agriculture committee to ensure that I fully understand the issues and to give farmers a real voice in the House of Commons, and not just when this issue is in the headlines.
We want to keep farmers engaged in this conversation so that we can ensure that we work together on finding a sustainable solution. Our party fought hard for implementing supply management, and we will continue to work for what is in the best interests of Canadian farmers.
Finally, I just want to highlight that we are helping to grow this vibrant sector of our economy by supporting commercialization of innovative dairy products.
In February, at the Dairy Farmers of Canada annual meeting, the hon. announced an investment of $1.75 million in the dairy research cluster under Growing Forward 2. This investment will support research by our scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in two key areas. The first is in increasing the quality of Canadian forages to help increase milk production, and the second is in understanding the role of dairy fat products, including their impact on type 2 diabetes. That brings the total federal investment in the dairy cluster to $13.75 million over five years.
In closing, my message today is that the government is committed to keeping the Canadian supply management sector strong and profitable. It will promote a balanced trade agenda for all sectors of our economy. Demand is growing around the world for the high-quality, sustainable food that our farmers and food processors can deliver.
As we all know, a strong agriculture industry means a strong economy. It is a simple equation, but it works. I can assure this House that the , a dairy farmer himself, and the and I and all my colleagues, as well as the , are fighting hard in this chamber for all farmers.
Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to address the House on this very important issue.
I would first like to underline the work that is being done by both the and the .
I want to thank all the members of the Liberal caucus, and rural members. They are working very hard. I want to assure the members that the parliamentary secretary, especially, is working so hard that he has done much more than was done by the other government over the last five years.
Canada has always depended heavily on international trade and investment for its economic well-being. We live in a vast country with a relatively small population, and we enjoy a high standard of living. We produce more goods and services than Canadians consume. As a result, we sell our products and services abroad, which helps maintain a strong economy.
We strive to maintain and expand access to foreign markets, since an open trade and investment environment allows companies to prosper and provide better middle-class jobs. The government is committed to developing trade in Canada and attracting investment that creates jobs in our country.
In Canada, one in five jobs is generated by trade. In 2014, Canadian exports of goods and services represented just under one third of our GDP. More than 40,000 Canadian companies, mostly small and medium-sized companies, are exporters. Canadian consumers also reap the benefits of international trade, which gives them a greater variety of goods at better prices. Furthermore, we know that companies that participate in international trade are more innovative and have higher productivity.
Against a backdrop of slowing global economic growth, it is important for Canada to continue to strengthen our competitive position and extend our reach, including to new markets. The competitiveness of Canadian businesses in the international marketplace will be enhanced by breaking down barriers to trade, both internal and abroad, and providing the appropriate tools and policy framework that allow Canadian exporters to take advantage of new trade opportunities.
Canada employs a variety of trade policy tools to do this. These trade tools improve operating conditions for our firms by committing countries to transparent, rules-based systems. This helps establish a more predictable environment for trade and investment.
Free trade agreements open markets to new opportunities but also give rise to concerns, sometimes about the concessions that have to be made. It is important to remember that Canada has always been a trading nation, and the government will continue to pursue opportunities while protecting Canada's interests. This government has not wavered in its commitment to supply management or the people who earn their livelihoods in these sectors—far from it.
The three pillars of our domestic system of supply management—namely, production controls, import controls, and price controls—have been maintained in all our free trade agreements. In addition, the has been tasked by the himself to continue to promote Canadian agricultural interests during future trade negotiations.
We are very aware of the issues with enforcement of our rules surrounding supply management. As my colleague, the , has repeated numerous times in the House and elsewhere, this government supports supply management, and we are working hard with the industry to find a long-term solution to this question.
Let me say a few words about CETA.
The European Union is Canada' second largest trade and investment partner and its relationship with our country is of fundamental importance. The European Union is the largest market in the world with 500 million people in 28 countries and a combined GDP of about $20 trillion.
The Canada–Europe Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement is a benchmark model. We also addressed Canadians' concerns regarding investment protection and dispute resolution by establishing in the agreement stronger provisions on the right to regulate of all levels of government and creating a dispute resolution system that is fairer, more transparent, and more objective. We are pleased that this progressive agreement is now moving towards implementation next year.
Canada will be a leader that respects the guiding principles of international investment in the 21st century, and the comprehensive economic trade agreement has laid a solid foundation to that end.
The government believes that the agreement will have many positive spinoffs for the Canadian economy, including the agricultural sector, and for all Canadians.
When the agreement takes effect, 98% of EU tariff lines on Canadian goods will be duty-free. Once the tariffs have been phased out, seven years after the agreement comes into effect, this percentage will be 99%, including more than 95% of the tariff lines on agricultural products. Eliminating duties will increase export opportunities in the European Union for Canadian producers, including exporters of agricultural and agri-food products.
Furthermore, as mentioned by the in the mandate letter for the , this government understands that it is important to work with departments as well as the provinces and territories in order to support necessary adjustments in sectors such as agriculture, which is supply-managed.
This issue is very important to the minister and the government as a whole. The minister has already met with the representatives of the five supply-managed groups, and she will continue to work closely with this sector.
We will ensure that the implementation of the agreement provides maximum benefits to Canadians across the country.
On the trans-Pacific partnership, our focus is to ensure that Canadians can have a good look at the TPP and that they can ask questions and express their views on whether the outcomes of this agreement are in the best interests of Canadians.
The government has made a commitment to consult Canadians before taking a decision on ratification, and that is exactly what we have been doing since we have taken office.
The has undertaken an extensive consultation process to offer Canadians the opportunity to provide their views on the agreement, and Canada's participation in it, before the government makes a decision on whether or not to ratify it.
The minister is also working closely with colleagues whose portfolios are implicated by the TPP to engage Canadian stakeholders and hear what they have to say. Since the was sworn in last November, the government has been part of more than 250 interactions with over 400 stakeholders to discuss the TPP, including all the provinces and territories, industry, civil society organizations, think tanks, academics, and the general public.
Parliament now has a sense of the consultations the minister has undertaken thus far. The engagement with Canadians will continue in weeks and months to come.
The government's TPP engagement has already touched many areas of Canada. Consultations are a good vehicle not only to learn about views on the TPP but also to have a constructive conversation on broader issues of importance to Canadians.
The government understands the fundamental nature of the agricultural and agri-food sector to our economy. That is why, as I mentioned already, the has wasted no time in meeting with representatives of all the supply-managed groups after taking office.
This government fully supports supply management, and we know that if a decision is made to ratify the TPP, we will need to work with sectors affected in the transition.
We are also pleased, as members know, that the House Standing Committee on International Trade is currently studying the TPP and in fact is beginning to consult Canadians in its own way.
As mentioned, this government is committed to being fully transparent and hearing the views of Canadians on the merits of the TPP before deciding whether to ratify the agreement.
On this motion, in conclusion, trade agreements are good for Canada, provided they provide benefits to Canadians. We think CETA is a good one; we are studying the TPP to see whether it is or not.
With respect to diafiltered milk, we are working with other members of the government and with farmers in the sector, knowing the complexity of the issue, in order to find a just and equitable solution for Canadian farmers.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
It makes perfect sense that the hon. member for is rising in the House to talk about diafiltered milk. I represent a riding where there are close to 500 companies and nearly 1,500 agriculture and agri-food companies directly affected by this issue.
I just want to point out that every member of the House is affected when supply management is on the line. Supply management also affects consumers. Whether we are in a rural and agricultural riding or a fully urban riding, people in every one of our ridings consume milk, eggs, chicken. This affects us all.
Supply management was put in place for our farmers. We say “supply”, but really, the system manages supply and demand. That means that here in Canada, we know that we will always have enough milk, eggs, and chicken. We have known that for decades. That is not so across the border. In the past few years there was an egg shortage and consumers saw the price of eggs skyrocket.
In Canada, we are also assured of quality. Consumers know that when they see “Canadian milk”, it means that the milk came from producers who comply with animal welfare, safety, and environmental standards. We have no guarantees when the milk comes from the United States. A number of young producers told me that they have visited farms there, that they saw how things worked, and that there is no guarantee of quality.
Under Canada's supply management system, consumers have assurances about quality, quantity, and reasonable prices.
We often hear people say that they went to the United States and that prices were lower there. Prices may have been low that week, but if those people returned the following month, that might no longer have been the case. However, when you buy milk here, you know that the price will always be reasonable and fair for consumers. It is important for the House to understand that this affects us all.
Members need to understand what is meant by diafiltered milk. It is important that all members understand that, because I hope that they will support the motion moved by my colleague today. Diafiltered milk is a way of circumventing the regulations. Importers claim that the milk is not really milk, but that it is “milk protein concentrate”. They give it that fancy name to get it across the border. Since the product is not milk, the Canada Border Services Agency does not charge the importers customs fees. That makes it a competitive product. However, when the product gets to the processing plant, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency considers it to be milk. That means that, as a consumer, when I read the word “milk” on a product, I have no guarantee that the milk came from Canada. I have no guarantee that environmental, animal welfare, and food safety standards were upheld. That is what diafiltered milk is.
The parliamentary secretary just said that we do not understand, that the issue is too complicated. We are saying that that is not true. It is very simple. Milk usually contains 3% protein. The milk in question is being processed in such as way that it contains 15% protein so that the rules can be circumvented and the milk can get across the border.
Supply management is a system that ensures that dairy producers do not need any subsidies. By letting this milk across the border, the government is telling dairy farmers that it is not going to give them any subsidies and on top of that it is also going to penalize them. On average, farms are losing $15,000. In my riding, farmers are telling me that they are losing up to $25,000. Today, farmers are protesting in front of the Parliament Buildings. Young farmers are saying that the money they are losing this year is their salary. Do we expect our dairy farmers to continue to give us a high-quality product without even earning an income? Are we going to make it impossible for the next generation to take over? This is a land use issue.
We represent regions all over Canada. Farms are going out of business all the time. In Quebec last year, 257 farms ceased to be. Every week, I meet dairy producers who tell me that they are sick of seeing the farms around them close up shop. They want their farms to be family farms, and they want them to be viable. They want to stay on their land.
Do we want to see our family farms in Canada disappear? Would we rather have mega-farms like those in the United States? Do we want our towns to cease to be?
My riding is 50 kilometres from Montreal, but some of the towns no longer have a credit union, a grocery store, or a convenience store. In some towns, even the school is barely surviving. In other regions, schools are being converted into seniors' homes. Our supply management system made it possible for dairy producers to operate in all of our regions: north of La Tuque, in Gaspé, in Abitibi. Our supply management system makes it possible for them to stay in business. Do we want to jeopardize the supply management system by allowing diafiltered milk into the country? The government says it believes in supply management, but saying so is not enough. The government has to take action to safeguard it.
For my region, this is about economic development. Millions of dollars are at stake. Last year alone, dairy producers lost $220 million. Last summer, a press conference on supply management was organized in my riding. There were representatives of municipalities, chambers of commerce, and economic development organizations because they know very well that if agricultural producers go out of business, companies that sell goods and services will shut their doors because the economic activity of these producers is the lifeblood of the region.
It is important to bear this in mind, and that is why this concerns all of us. We cannot say that this only concerns the producers who came to see us on the Hill today. Today, when we reflect on this issue and when we vote, we really have to tell ourselves that this concerns every one of us and that it is important to support my colleague's motion.
The Liberals are telling us that this is complicated, but really, it is quite simple. The government simply needs to enforce the regulations that already exist. The House of Commons does not even need to pass any new legislation. The regulations exist; they just need to be applied. We are being told today that the discussions are ongoing, but farmers are coming to us and saying that the discussions have gone on long enough and it is time for action. The action to be taken is very clear: the existing regulations simply need to be enforced. The cheese compositional standards need to be enforced.
The decided not to block products at the border, which is something he could have done. It has been done in the past. An agriculture minister did that a number of years ago, when mozzarella was crossing our borders in cheese kits. This time, although we have no idea why, the minister decided not to block diafiltered milk at the border, but he could still do something about cheese compositional standards, and there is no reason to wait to enforce regulations that already exist.
I do not know what they are waiting for. Last week, the Quebec National Assembly unanimously adopted a second motion calling on the federal government to resolve this issue. To me it is clear. When farmers tell us it is time to take action, when two unanimous motions from the Quebec National Assembly tell us it is time to take action, then it is hard to understand why the government still wants to discuss the matter and collaborate. It is time to take action, period.
This is also important because the trans-Pacific partnership threatens supply management. The Canada-Europe free trade agreement threatens supply management. The message I want to get across today is that we need to stop including agriculture in our international agreements. We took culture out of our international agreements because it was a sensitive topic, and now we need to take out agriculture. We simply cannot put agriculture in the same agreements with the automotive industry and the pharmaceutical industry. We are talking about land use.
The government has to act now.
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to thank my colleague from for her initiative today in the House.
Before I begin my speech, I would like to read into Hansard what the current said on August 26, 2015, during the election campaign.
She gave a press conference with the current , and many farmers were invited. She gave this press conference to defend supply management. She gave a fine press conference with great fanfare to say that she was going to defend supply management if she were elected. With respect to supply management, she said:
|| [Supply management] also maintains our family farms. If we opened up the gates and abandoned supply management, our farms would be in danger...
I could not agree more. Today, the big problem is that the importation of diafiltered milk is undermining supply management because producers in the United States are circumventing the rules and ending up exporting what could be called processed milk. They are getting around the supply management rules.
I could not agree more with my government colleague, who during the campaign proudly stood up to defend supply management. Today, she and her government are dragging their feet. It is extremely unfortunate, because the situation is very serious.
I am delighted to rise today on behalf of all of Canada’s dairy farmers, especially the many farmers in the Eastern Townships, where there are about 535 farms and 2,144 owners/producers. These 2,144 dairy farmers have families. We are talking about 5,157 direct and indirect jobs in this sector and an annual production of $253.5 million. This is a major issue in the Eastern Townships.
It is extremely important for me to take part in this debate and especially to thank my colleague for her initiative. We need to ensure that the Liberals follow through on what they said during and after the election campaign. They said that they were going to address the problem and, today, six months later, nothing has changed. However, the situation is extremely serious. Several of my colleagues have pointed out that the losses are enormous. Each day that the government does not address the problem means losses for dairy farmers in Canada and the Eastern Townships.
This is affecting a lot of producers. Some have decided to add their voices to the discussion. For example, Christian Bouffard of Ferme du Cabouron made a video a few weeks ago that garnered 900,000 views. In it, he spoke out against the situation in Saint-Romain, which is in my colleague's riding, . He began by talking about his own situation. He has been in the business for 30 years, and all of this is really destabilizing his farm and others all over the Eastern Townships. In his video, he asked processors to show some respect for the producers who supply their raw materials. He believes that some processors do not care. I will not paint them all with the same brush because some processors are talking about this. They are raising the issue and offering solutions.
Other people in the Eastern Townships have spoken out about this problem too. Lynne Martel Bégin of Ferme Rivière Verte in Bury has spoken out. Some of my colleagues may know Marcel Blais, the vice-president of the Eastern Townships dairy producers' association, who has a farm in La Patrie. In Magog, Ferme Magolait's David Beauvais said that if the situation persists, he will lose about $30,000 per year.
Benoît Simard, from Ferme M. Grenier et fils in Stanstead, also denounces the situation.
Many farmers in the Eastern Townships have taken part in demonstrations to protest the untenable situation they find themselves in because of the government's inaction and failure to enforce the rules. The rules could be changed or simply enforced if the government had the political will to do so.
Dozens of farmers went to Stanstead with their tractors and their placards to take part in the demonstration near the U.S. border in order to protest imports of diafiltered milk.
Ms. Walker said, “Medium-sized farms are losing on average roughly $1,000 a week because of this problem.” These family farms do not have huge revenues. Farmers are having a hard time making ends meet and making the necessary investments in their farms. They are losing piles of money every week, every year.
These farms are the economic drivers of the regions and are essential to their vitality. A number of hon. members are in a good position to talk about this, including my colleague from , who knows the importance of family farms to the regional economies. They support communities and create direct jobs. When the farmers are doing well financially, they keep the regional economy going. It is therefore extremely important for the government to support them.
The government is dragging its feet, and I strongly object to that. Since he was appointed, the minister has been all talk. He is obviously familiar with the file. Everyone agrees that this is a well-known issue. However, the problem existed before the Liberal government was elected. It could have been solved a long time ago, but now producers have had to come to Parliament Hill to demand action because this government and the previous government have not done anything.
There is a fairly easy solution. We are being told that the issue is too complicated, that there are a lot of factors to consider, and that the problem cannot be solved overnight, but that is completely untrue. A Conservative member proposed solutions as though this were something new. He could have implemented those solutions when he was in power. This problem has been around for two years. Lately, it has gotten worse, and it is high time something was done about it.
It is unfortunate that the Conservatives did not do anything, but we need to focus on the Liberal government that is currently in office. If the minister had the political will to act, the problem would likely already be solved.
The Liberals are saying that we need to consult with producers to truly understand the problem, but if they had real political will, the problem would have been solved a long time ago. It is unfortunate that we have to talk about it here to force them to take action.
Finally, the Liberals did not hear the message sent by producers, even though they came to Parliament Hill recently to raise this issue.
Today, we are seeing the real face of the Liberal government, which seems to be listening very attentively to what certain processors have to say. Perhaps that is why it is slow to make a decision. This is a very sensitive issue.
The producers who have assembled on Parliament Hill deserve answers from the government, if not immediate action. This issue needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
I implore the government to take action once and for all and finally give producers the means to be able to sustain the regions.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I would also like to thank the member for for raising this very important and sensitive issue in the House. This is an important issue for all dairy producers in Quebec and Canada, and also for many producers in my riding of Châteauguay—Lacolle.
It is not political will that is lacking here. I am well aware that the dairy producers in my region are feeling the effects of the current turmoil in their industry. Part of the reason for that is the fact that our riding is adjacent to the United States and has one of the 10 largest border crossings in Canada, the Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle crossing.
I am pleased today to clearly state that I support Canada's supply managed industries. The goal of the opposition motion is to have a discussion today about the issues affecting the dairy industry. However, I would like to draw members' attention to the issues affecting the other two supply managed sectors: the poultry and egg sectors.
In Châteauguay—Lacolle, the production of turkey, poultry, table eggs, and hatching eggs is an important sector. In fact, our riding has about 10 rural municipalities.
These industries are thriving right now and are supporting many Canadian communities. I want to point out that our government fully supports Canada's supply management system, which is a vital and inalienable achievement for family farms and small farms. We are proud to say that these farms are the hallmark of Quebec's agricultural industry.
We are determined to maintain and protect the three sectors subject to supply management: dairy production, poultry production, and egg production. For example, the poultry industry brings in about $3.9 billion a year for farms and contributes about $1.3 billion a year to Canada's gross domestic product. Furthermore, this industry estimates that it provides more than 100,000 jobs across the country, on farms, in processing plants, and in other areas. In Châteauguay—Lacolle alone, there are 16 poultry producers.
We can also be very proud of the fact that Canadian egg producers supply the highest quality product, since they are subject to some of the strictest standards in the world.
In our riding, we have two sites that produce table eggs.
Since I am a student of history, I want to describe the situation that existed before Canada introduced the supply management system in order to prove just how vital the system has become.
First, in the 1960s, some provinces began restricting the entry of agri-food products from other provinces in order to protect their own farmers from the risk of falling markets, which often occurred when there was overproduction. Naturally, in keeping with the mechanism of supply and demand, overproduction resulted in major drops in prices. It was at this time that the Farm Products Marketing Agencies Act was passed to bring in an essential federal regulatory structure. The national agencies balance supply and demand by setting appropriate production levels for each province, once projected imports are taken into consideration.
Supply management was first introduced for the table egg industry, then a little later for the poultry industries. The hatching egg industry was added in the late 1980s.
For each of these products, the national agency works with the provincial boards to allocate production among the provinces to fully meet national market requirements.
In short, supply management has worked well and continues to work well in the poultry and egg sectors, since the system requires that responsibility be shared among the federal, provincial and territorial governments and farm groups to ensure a stable and well-functioning market.
Nevertheless, as elected members, we have an important role to play in protecting this proven system that can be held up as a model.
As the member for Châteauguay—Lacolle, I need to be sensitive to the needs and requests of the farmers in my riding, stay on top of the issues and bring forward information to our government.
I wish to reassure the local farmers in my riding and all farmers across Canada by saying once again that our government will provide full support for trade and supply management in the poultry and egg sectors.
We recognize how vitally important supply managed industries are to Canada’s economy, which is why we are doing everything we can to keep these sectors strong and profitable.
Specifically, we will continue to support the three main pillars of the supply management system: production management, import control and price control.
Our government is making this aspiration a reality through our efforts to develop lucrative new markets for our farmers, in part through free trade agreements with large importer countries.
We also have other effective ways to support the poultry industry, such as strategic investments in research, science, and innovation.
Our ultimate objective is to help supply managed producers and processors to boost productivity, build their competitive capabilities and maintain their sustainability.
Of course, we are also working in partnership with the industry to develop animal welfare codes of practice. Over the years, these strategic investments have helped grow our industry as well as Canada’s economy.
I will conclude my speech by stating that our government fully supports supply management and that we are constantly working in the best interests of everyone: Canadian communities, families, and farmers.
We are positioning ourselves strategically on the international stage to maximize trade success, and this success is to be shared by all agricultural sectors, including those under supply management.
Our government is highly optimistic about the new growth opportunities to arise from our participation in new international trade agreements that will be valuable for Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House this afternoon to talk about the important issue that is before us.
Agriculture is a critical part of our economy, and the Government of Canada has made it a priority. The government's mandate is clear: support the agricultural sector so that it can be a leader in job creation and innovation, including the supply management system.
Together with our colleagues in the House, the provinces, and the territories, and with help from the sector itself, we will carry out the government's action plan to strengthen Canada's agriculture sector, help it boost innovation, and ensure its stability.
The government will use its policies and financial tools to support the essential work of the agricultural sector. It will help on many fronts: product commercialization, research, innovation, food safety, and export support.
To do that, we plan to invest in food processing so that we can help processors develop new value-added products that respond to changing consumer tastes and markets.
We will also invest in agricultural research to support discovery science and innovation in the sector. We will promote Canadian agricultural interests at the national level. We will also work closely with producers and provincial governments to determine whether all farm income protection programs are meeting the needs of Canadian farmers. We also plan to introduce a new five-year agricultural policy framework. Also, in partnership with the provinces, territories, and other partners, we will help the sector adjust to climate change and better address water and soil conservation and development issues.
The agri-food sector is a powerful engine for Canada's economy. After all, we are talking about a sector that creates one out of every eight jobs in Canada and, with its industries, employs more than two million Canadians. It contributes 6.6% of our GDP, or $108.9 billion, and generates over $60 billion in exports.
That is why our government is determined to support Canada's system of supply management. Together, the dairy, poultry, and egg sectors create more than 300,000 jobs and generate an overall economic impact worth $32 billion.
The budget brought down in March contains important measures to support the Canadian agricultural sector. It includes a $70-million investment to support research and infrastructure for mitigating the biological threats to agriculture associated with climate change. It includes $41.5 million for the renovation and upgrading of agricultural research stations and laboratories in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Quebec. It includes a one-year investment of up to $1.9 million for the agricultural youth green jobs initiative to attract youth to green jobs within the agriculture and agri-food sector.
This initiative follows through on a Government of Canada commitment made in budget 2016 to provide employment opportunities for post-secondary graduates to support the agriculture sector in implementing environmentally beneficial activities.
The budget includes funding of up to $500 million to expand and improve digital infrastructure in order to provide Canadians in rural and remote communities with new opportunities to participate in the digital economy and to access government services remotely. These investments promote the establishment of a sound agricultural sector, including sectors under supply management.
Our government continues to work hard to stimulate innovation in Canada's dairy industry. Researchers from our research centre in Sherbrooke are busy developing innovative tools to keep the Canadian dairy industry competitive.
For example, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers discovered that it is easier to absorb vitamin B12 from cow's milk than from supplements. That kind of research can obviously give the industry a shot in the arm because today's consumers are particularly health conscious.
We are aware of the industry's concerns regarding the use of diafiltered milk in cheese production. Our officials are working on ensuring that the standards are clear for everyone. We are in regular contact with stakeholders in the dairy industry on this serious problem.
The Government of Canada fully supports supply management. We will also continue to defend all Canadian interests in agriculture, including supply managed sectors, when examining trade issues. The Government of Canada fully supports supply management.
By continuing to work hard, the agricultural sector will continue to prosper and to stimulate our economy, which will reach new heights. Canada is a country with enormous economic potential and an unrivalled spirit of innovation. Its farmers produce world renowned foods, which they sell on international markets that are full of opportunities.
The future is promising. Global demand for quality food is growing, and this food will be supplied by very progressive and productive farms and processors from across Canada. We will continue to work closely with all of our partners so that Canada's agrifood sector will be even more successful. We will continue to defend all of the interests of Canadian agriculture when reviewing trade files.
Mr. Speaker, I will share my time with the outstanding member for .
As I was listening to the member for , I got the impression that he regrets ever being elected because now he has to make decisions. True, it is unfortunate that the Liberals were elected, but it is a fact. Now they have to start living up to their responsibilities and stop coming up with excuses.
In the House today, we have dairy producers from Lanaudière, Mauricie, the Outaouais, Quebec City's south shore, and Montérégie. Today I had a chance to speak with producers from Saint-Boniface in Mauricie. They are very disturbed by what the Liberals are saying because the Liberals are using every excuse in the book to justify doing nothing. We do not need to change the law or even the regulations. We need a change in attitude.
When is milk not milk? It is not milk when it is diafiltered milk, of course. According to our border services, it gets through the border because it is not milk. When is diafiltered milk, milk? Well, of course, it becomes milk when it goes into cheese. Indeed, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency requires that cheese be made with milk, the same milk that was not milk when it crossed the border as diafiltered milk. That is the nonsense that the Liberals are trying to sell us here today.
However, this is understandable, because a government reveals its true colours over time. It took some time for us to learn that the Conservatives would always be against the little guy. The Liberals are showing us just how ready they are to get down on their knees before the powerful and well connected.
We saw this yesterday with the . He said it was no big deal if Air Canada did not obey the law. It is no big deal if thousands of workers and mechanics with good jobs in the aerospace industry lost their jobs. It is no big deal. Air Canada asked to have the law changed retroactively to have the violations dropped. The Liberals gave in to that request.
We are talking about the same Air Canada that systematically fails to comply with the Official Languages Act. Why? Just ask them, and they will tell you that it is not right that they are the only airline that has to comply with this legislation. The only little problem and the only little thing that Air Canada forgets in all this, is that they came begging for billions of taxpayer dollars. Canadians agreed on the condition that the maintenance is done in Canada and the Official Languages Act is respected.
It took a Liberal government to explain to us that even though Air Canada did not obey the law, there are two laws in Canada: one for the little guy and average Canadians, and another for the all-powerful friends of the regime. That is the Liberal government.
When I hear the drivel and rhetoric coming from the hon. member for , I feel sorry for the people in his region. Many farmers in his region are very worried, as are many people in Abitibi—Témiscamingue. The hon. member for that riding is going to talk later about her riding and the farmers in her region.
This is an unbelievable situation where we lost $220 million last year.
In English, we will often talk about a catch-22. When is milk not milk? It is when it is diafiltered milk. Therefore, the American producers of this product do not have to pay customs duties. That is what our border services have decided. The same government, the same product, and it becomes milk, because the food inspection people say it is no problem. There has to be milk when making cheese, but this stuff is milk. It was not milk when it crossed the border when it would have been taxed, but now it is milk when it is put in cheese. It is not a catch-22; it is a catch-$220 million. That is the problem.
I wish that some of the brain trusts on the other side, like the member of Parliament for , would actually speak to some of the milk producers. They would understand that the banks in this country are holding back investments for these producers. Why? It is because they do not know whether they are going to be paid back. That is the insecurity in the lives of farming families. That is the insecurity in their communities. That is why the NDP is standing up to fight for the government to start enforcing these laws.
All I heard from the member from New Brunswick, who spoke earlier, and the member for was empty rhetoric. It boggles the mind. We hear “the government's action plan”, “the policies”, “the financial tools to support”, and blah, blah, blah. Hang on.
Producers have financial tools. We call it the supply management system. We have to maintain it and enforce it. They are not asking the Liberal government for favours. They simply want respect for the law and for themselves.
The financial tools will take care of themselves. The banks will resume lending money to producers. However, as we saw once again, the banks can read this government's intentions.
The spends more time supporting American positions than defending Canadian producers. That is her record. She is always looking to curry favour with the Americans.
This same said that we should have let Canada's auto industry go bankrupt. She does not seem to be concerned about job losses or families that are struggling and can no longer make ends meet. She is above all that. However, the agricultural producers are told to always obey laws that are often complex.
I was an environment minister, and I can assure members that agricultural producers are familiar with the regulations and legislation, since they are required to abide by them at all times, and that comes at a price.
However, if an American producer wants to cross the border, it comes up with some kind of flim-flammery and looks for a government that is just naive enough to listen. This is the kind of thing that we need to stop.
Can we stop introducing cracks into the supply management system? Can we also stop listening to neo-liberal siren songs from people like the , who refuses to defend the supply management system because the Americans do not have such a system?
Earlier, I heard the member for say that milk was expensive and that people back home were poor, as though the supply management system were responsible for price increases.
Let us look at the situation in the United States. Producers receive direct subsidies, and these are not reflected in the price of milk at the corner store. However, it is even worse than this, because everyone pays taxes, whether you consume dairy products or not, and these taxes subsidize agricultural production.
Canada's system is much fairer. It is based on the user-pay principle, and production is protected. As a result, the families who own these farms, many of which are in Quebec, have been able to retain ownership of their farms literally for centuries. However, they are worried.
We are talking about human beings, families, and communities who are worried. The Liberal government could eliminate these concerns if it had the courage of its words and convictions.
During the election campaign, the Liberals made all kinds of promises, including a promise to uphold the supply management system. They promised to find a solution to the diafiltered milk problem. It is not a complicated solution. It is simply a matter of enforcing the law equally for everyone. Everyone would benefit.
I have listened to Liberal after Liberal try to justify the unjustifiable. There is a very simple solution here: apply the law equally to everyone.
This diafiltered milk is being allowed in to the tune of $220 million a year now, and it is only going to increase. They cannot have it as milk when it is put into the cheese. They say it is milk, and then it is not milk when it crosses the border. It is milk. It should be under our system of supply management.
We have to start protecting those dairy farming, poultry farming, and egg farming families that have been able to hold onto their farms, thanks to a very fair system of supply management.
Stand up. Defend that system. Start enforcing the law to these American companies.
Mr. Speaker, the easiest way to understand the problem is to understand the dynamic it has created. I will therefore read a message I received from a producer at the end of March. “I am sending you this message today to ask that you speak to the government on our behalf. Let me introduce myself. My name is Genevieve Audet. I am the owner of Ronick farm, a beautiful family-owned dairy farm in Ste-Gertrude. I need your help in defending supply management, a world model of responsible production that requires no subsidies, and which is suffering greatly as a result of the importation of milk proteins from the United States. The futures of many dairy farms are in jeopardy as a result of the significant drop in the price paid for milk at the farm, which does not cover the production costs, according to the Canadian Dairy Commission. The government needs to enforce its laws at the border to prevent these proteins from entering the country. They do not meet Canadian standards, they favour processors, they mislead consumers, and they hurt our economy. I hope I have made the right choice, Madam, and that you will choose to defend us”.
Other comments received afterwards clearly show how dairy producers feel.
“For some years now, we feel as though the government has turned its backs on us. Agricultural funding keeps getting slashed as our revenues dwindle, and all these agreements we are entering into only serve to open our borders ever wider, leaving us at the mercy of market forces...We have the potential to be a great economic force, but the government does not seem to realize it...I do not know whether you are aware of this, but many start-ups are struggling to such a degree that they are on the verge of selling, and their creditors have all but lost faith in the industry...Agriculture feeds the world, which is why I cannot understand why nothing is being done to remedy the situation. What will we do when there is no one left to feed us? Thank you very much for taking the time to read my words...I appreciate it a great deal and hope you will be able to share them with others today”.
That pretty well sums up what several producers in my community are going through. From 2007 to 2016, the number of dairy farms in Abitibi—Témiscamingue dropped 24%. There are only 114 left, compared to 150 10 years ago. The industry accounts for some 1,200 jobs in my riding alone. Of those, 826 are employed by dairy farms and 493 by food processors. I have a specific example in mind. Many cheesemakers have opened shop. Some of the top-quality cheeses they produce have even claimed awards on the world stage, like the Cru du Clocher.
Every year, the Conservative government's failure to act has resulted in shortfalls of $12,000 to $15,000 per farm, and now, it is the Liberals' turn to sit on their hands.
Do members truly believe most people have the means to fill a $15,000 hole in their budget? Several Liberal MPs are not earning the same salary as they once did. Though that may be the case, most people still have a hard time absorbing a $15,000 loss.
In Quebec, this industry accounts for 80,000 direct and indirect jobs, contributes $6.2 billion to the GDP and brings in $1.29 billion in tax revenues—$678 million to the federal government and $454 million to the province. There are 5,856 dairy farms producing almost 3 billion litres of milk annually. Revenues for these farms total more than $2.4 billion only in Quebec.
Failing to protect an industry that is so vital to our economy by not making sure that existing regulations and rules are enforced is absolutely appalling.
That is what is so shocking. Everything is already in place; all we have to do is get up one morning, roll up our sleeves, stop pretending that the problem does not exist and make sure that producers are not losing money. Milk is milk, that is all. Nobody here is going to tell me that a cow in the U.S. does not produce the same milk as a cow in Canada. Of course, the controls are not the same, but still, milk is milk. It is not hard to understand.
If it is as simple as that, it should be easy for this government to call the Border Services Agency and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and get them to talk to one another and agree on a single definition of what “milk” is, and to keep Americans from circumventing our laws to bring in diafiltered milk.
This basically means that this government, if it had a sense of what it means to act with communities in mind, could settle the issue in less than a week, because no legislative change is required. All the government has to do is to get a move on. It boggles the mind that we are forced to tell the government to do its job. I do not think that I should have to talk about this. This issue should have been at the top of the government's agenda, especially after an election. The Liberals cannot pretend that they were not aware of the problem, because we talked about it during the campaign.
It feels like there was a breach in the space-time continuum for the Liberals. They do not remember what happened during the campaign. For them, it is like 50 years have passed, like they went through a black hole and forgot everything that was discussed during the election.
What I am asking the government to do is simple. I am asking it to protect the farms in my riding. I am asking it to ensure that the young people who decided to become dairy producers do not regret their decision, although they realize that there are some serious challenges, especially with respect to collecting the money required to buy back quotas. The government will have to ensure that in my riding people can continue to produce high-quality dairy products, such as cheeses. It must ensure that producers have the financial flexibility they need to put money aside, so that they can pay for their children's education.
I remind the Liberal government that operating a farm is not like it used to be. In the past, someone could run a farm after finishing grade two. Now, that person needs a lot of knowledge. They need knowledge of management, administration, and agronomics. Often, if they want to be successful, they need to seek out training and information. Even if producers want to pass on the farm to their children, they need to be able to afford training for these children so that they can properly hand over the business. We are talking about keeping up with something rather simple, which is feeding our communities. Canadians need to be able to feed Canadians. That seems logical to me.
I hope that the government realizes that it is possible to take action in very short order. I hope it will decide to climb out of this black hole it has jumped into and that it will follow through with what it said during the campaign. I hope that the Liberals will leave here and visit their ridings during constituency week, that they will do what they need to do, and that they will fix this problem. Too many family farms have shut down. I hope the Liberals will fix this, because the inaction we have seen so far is truly shameful.
Lastly, I hope that there will be good news in the next few days for the dairy producers in my riding.