moved that the third report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, presented to the House on Tuesday, May 17, be concurred in.
She said: Mr. Speaker, it is a true privilege today to rise and speak about the Canadian dairy industry as the member for Fundy Royal, the dairy centre of the Maritimes. The farmers in my riding contribute to approximately half of the province of New Brunswick's milk production. I am also particularly proud to rise today as the granddaughter of a dairy farmer, Reg Tabor, who probably never imagined that I would be here in this House delivering my maiden speech in support of Canadian dairy farmers.
I am standing here today to raise an important issue in this House on behalf of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. As stated in the tabled report, the government strongly supports supply management, dairy producers, and the Canadian dairy industry. Likewise as stated in the report, we recognize the magnitude of the issue of diafiltered milk to the Canadian dairy industry, and recognize the industry is calling for a resolution of the problem. Our government is actively engaged on the issue.
On May 2, 2016, our government announced its intention to initiate discussions within 30 days to help the dairy industry adjust to CETA. The government has delivered on that commitment, and continues its important and productive conversations with the industry. While meeting with stakeholders, the and the parliamentary secretary discussed CETA, the issue of diafiltered milk, and sustainable solutions to modernize Canada's dairy industry.
The government is moving forward on all points in this report. I would like to point out that the government understands very well the challenges that milk producers face on a daily basis. In fact, the and the parliamentary secretary were both dairy producers. The minister's farm is in Prince Edward Island while the parliamentary secretary's farm is now in its fourth generation in Quebec.
The supply-managed Canadian dairy sector is one of the largest agriculture and food sectors in the country and is essential to a strong and prosperous Canadian economy. It supports over 12,000 farms and farm families and 200,000 Canadian jobs; and contributes nearly $20 billion to the Canadian economy. On this side of the House, support for Canadian supply management is clear. Our system is a model of stability around the world. It provides a fair price for farmers; stability for processors; and safe, high-quality products for consumers at affordable prices. Supply management preserves and sustains Canadian farmers, farm families, and rural communities across this country, including in my riding of Fundy Royal.
Recently, I have found it shameful that the Conservative leadership contestant is advocating for an end to this crucial Canadian system. That member has said that Conservative values are not in line with supply management. The Liberal Party is the party that fought for and implemented supply management. We will continue to protect and defend it for all of those who would like to see it destroyed. I would like to assure this House that Liberal values are in line with supply management and will continue to be.
The position of the member for is frankly disturbing, especially given the large number of dairy farms and farm families in his region. I can only imagine the type of feedback the hon. member will receive from the hard-working farmers and their families in his riding who depend on supply management for their future. Perhaps even more disturbing is that the Conservative deputy critic for agriculture, the member for , is the co-chair for the leadership campaign calling for the end of supply management. Not only that, but the former Conservative finance minister, Joe Oliver, has also recently spoken out against supply management. That is the Conservative record and the Conservative position. However, I want to be clear that on this side of the House we support supply management and dairy farmers. Our government is committed to supporting a bright future for Canada's dynamic dairy industry.
This year, the government announced an additional federal investment of $1.75 million in the dairy research cluster. This investment will support the work of scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in two key areas: number one, increasing the energy content of Canadian forage crops to help increase milk production; and, number two, understanding the role played by dairy-fat products, including their positive impact on type 2 diabetes.
The total federal investment in the dairy cluster is $13.75 million. Our message has been clear from the beginning: the Government of Canada strongly supports Canada's supply management industries.
I want to speak about an experience I had yesterday. I was able to visit the Bühlmann dairy farm in the riding of my colleague, the member for . What I witnessed there was a family working together, embracing technology, and planning for the future because of the stability offered to them by the supply management program.
The work they are doing not only provides Canadians with world-class milk but their farm is an economic provider in the community of St. Isidore, Ontario. This farm is not unique, it is not one of a kind. In fact, innovation of our dairy farmers can be seen from coast to coast, from Scott and Sabrina Robinson's farm in Wards Creek, New Brunswick, to the Haambuckers' farm in Enderby, British Columbia.
As the executive director of Dairy Farmers of Canada said yesterday, “It is important for elected officials to meet a dairy farm family and see first-hand the dedication and care that goes into operating a modern dairy farm.” This might be good advice for the hon. member across the way.
Innovation is critical to the success of Canada's dairy industry. Farmers are making great strides in productivity and sustainability. Canadian dairy farmers can now produce the same quantity of milk as they did 20 years ago, with close to half the number of cows and producing 20% less greenhouse gases. Canadian dairy farmers are among the global leaders of their industry when it comes to the environment. Our dairy farmers have a smaller footprint of carbon, water, and land than almost all leading dairy farmers around the world. Our farmers are taking action on the environment, but they need the resources to do so.
Earlier this year, the and the were at McGill University to announce federal funding and an investment of $27 million over five years to help producers find ways to reduce greenhouse gases on their farms. This investment is part of the Government of Canada's efforts to support a competitive, viable, innovative, and sustainable agriculture sector, and that includes the dairy sector.
To further help farmers implement green measures on the farm, budget 2016 is investing $1.9 million in green jobs for young people. Not only will this get farmers the help that they need, but it will also inspire our young people to consider a future in agriculture.
Dairy Farmers of Canada is also showing strong leadership on the environment. DFC has launched a sustainability initiative called “proAction”. This program highlights farmers' commitment to high standards of care on their farms, from milk quality to food safety, animal care, traceability, biosecurity, and the environment. Dairy farmers clearly demonstrate responsible stewardship of their animals and the environment, sustainably producing high-quality, safe, and nutritious food for consumers.
As I said, our government is fully engaged with the industry over the concerns with respect to the use of diafiltered milk in the making of cheese. Our government is working hard on this issue, in line with this report from the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. Consultations with producers and processors from all across Canada have been very co-operative and productive, and discussions are continuing on this important issue.
The minister and government officials are in regular contact with dairy stakeholders in order to find long-term, sustainable solutions to the very serious issue. Our government also understands the importance of transition support to the dairy sector resulting from the increased access to cheese under the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA.
In anticipation of Canadian ratification of CETA, we will move forward with a plan to help the industry adjust to market access concessions. Several meetings have been held with the dairy industry to obtain its views on the program and investment options for producers and processors.
Engaging with the dairy sector is crucial to developing the best options possible to help sector transition in the face of both challenges and opportunities. The result will inform our government's important work toward long-term, sustainable solutions for the Canadian dairy industry.
There are challenges that we need to address, and I appreciate the opportunity to do that here in this chamber. However, it is important to remember that the challenges also come with opportunities. The Canadian dairy industry is doing great work in growing markets through branding, collaborating with industry, and harnessing innovation.
The Canadian dairy industry is second to none. Further development of unique Canadian dairy products that meet changing consumer preferences will help sustain and strengthen demand amongst Canadian consumers. A report from Farm Credit Canada, released in April, notes that Canadian dairy consumption is projected to continue to increase by 6.8% over the coming decade. This is largely due to positive consumption trends of butter, yogourt, and specialty cheeses.
We will continue to work with the industry to help dairy farmers take full advantage of new marketing opportunities here in Canada and throughout the world.
In order to capture the tremendous opportunities that lie ahead, the government has begun to discuss with industry, the provinces, and territories a new multi-year agricultural policy framework for Canada. Innovation will be a central part of that discussion as a key to helping producers and processors keep pace with changing consumer preferences and tastes.
We are reaching out to producers and all stakeholders to develop a framework that is built for the future. The Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food has launched a website designed to seek feedback from stakeholders to help shape the development of the next agricultural policy framework. This first phase of online consultation will provide stakeholders and Canadians with the opportunity to share their views on Growing Forward 2, the current agricultural policy framework, as well as to offer input on what they would like to see included in the agricultural policy framework of the future.
Additional consultation activities will be ongoing in the coming months to gather feedback and will help form the next framework. In July, the will begin meeting with provincial and territorial colleagues to begin discussions on the direction of the new framework for agriculture. As well, our Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food will also be examining the agricultural policy framework, and I do look forward to getting started on that important study very soon.
These open and transparent consultations with Canadians will help shape the direction of future policy and programs to meet this objective. The goal is to help the agriculture and agrifood sector be more innovative, safer, and stronger.
Within the dairy industry itself, a constructive dialogue is under way between farmers and processors on ways to make the industry more competitive and innovative. There is no doubt that collaboration with the industry is the best way to address broader challenges facing the dairy sector.
To close, meeting challenges and capturing opportunities will take a lot of hard work and collaboration. Our government will continue to partner with the Canadian dairy farmers and food processors to grow a great future for the Canadian dairy industry.
We will continue to protect, preserve, and defend Canada's supply management system. That is why I am pleased to say that the government concurs with this, the third report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.
There is an old saying that I would like to remind the House, as well as all Canadians, about, “If you have eaten today, thank a farmer.”
Madam Speaker, nearly two months have passed since April 20, and here we are once again debating the subject of diafiltered milk. Why? Because this government does not take action. The facts have not changed. They are the same. The government has neither taken our recommendations into consideration nor changed its position.
To help the get a clue about the situation and to remind him that his inaction is costing our cheese producers hundreds of millions of dollars right now, I would like to lay things out clearly.
Supply management is like a three-legged stool. Each leg, or pillar, is equally important. The first is farm gate prices, which ensure that the price dairy producers get for their milk takes into account production costs, including capital and labour costs, and overall Canadian economic conditions.
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. That is the first pillar, and it is currently being undermined by diafiltered milk. Indeed, farmers are facing a drop in milk prices specifically because diafiltered milk is being allowed into the country. The first pillar is therefore under attack.
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.
That is the second pillar of supply management, and it is also being undermined by diafiltered milk, because Canadian dairy farmers have seen a drop in their production capacity, given that diafiltered milk is replacing Canadian milk. This means that two of the three pillars are being threatened by diafiltered milk.
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.
The third pillar is also very threatened by the import of diafiltered milk to Canada because diafiltered milk bends the rules related to American milk's access to the Canadian market.
The three pillars of supply management are being threatened by diafiltered milk. I hope that the government fully realizes that.
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, as all three currently are, it can jeopardize the whole system.
This brings me to the reason why we are here today, namely 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 yogourt.
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 type of cheese to another. For example, at least 80% 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 in Canada, thereby altering the competitive context and undermining the revenue of dairy producers.
The importing of milk protein isolates has been growing exponentially since 2012. 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.
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.
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 have 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 serious 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 the composition of its dairy products. As I said earlier, diafiltered milk was created to circumvent border rules and manufacturing rules.
I was able to confirm, when one of my questions was answered in the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, that no one in the United States was making cheese using liquid protein concentrates, whose protein content is 85%. Processors do not do that. That does not exist in the United States.
In Canada, processors use that product now for competitive reasons, that is, for the sole purpose of reducing their production costs. However, that makes no sense, because those savings cannot benefit Canadian dairy farmers. In the end, the processors do not benefit, either. It is profitable downstream from the processing stage.
Frankly, this situation must end, because the whole industry is doing it to the detriment of supply management. As long as the issue of imported diafiltered milk remains unresolved, we can be sure the processors will use every means possible to reduce their production costs. We want the rules of the game to be fair for everyone, and we urge the Liberal government to take action on this matter.
The processing industry in the United States produces cheese without using diafiltered milk. Hence, Americans are eating cheese made without diafiltered milk. Canadians should not be eating cheese made with American diafiltered milk. There is no justification for it, because there is no economic incentive to do so. There is no reason to act in this manner.
The only thing driving Canadian processors to import diafiltered milk is that that ingredient is cheaper, because it is not subject to tariffs and can be used in production with no restrictions. That is the only reason.
With regard to imports coming into Canada, what quantities do we need to meet market demand? We do not need any, because in Canada there is an abundance of skim milk that can be used to produce those ingredients.
If the government decided to control the use of those ingredients, we would produce them in Canada at a competitive price, and we would use them here. We have no need of those imports, since we have an abundant quantity of skim milk at our disposal.
Whether it is imported or produced in Canada, the product used by many processors is composed of milk protein substances containing at least 85% milk protein. That is consistent with the definition of ultra-diafiltered milk. According to the regulations, there are no restrictions on the use of ultra-diafiltered milk in ordinary cheese and other dairy products.
With no control of imports, it is impossible to manage supply so that it matches demand. Failure to control imports would inevitably lead to overproduction and instability in our supply management system.
Moreover, it is not enough to have the right regulations in place; the validation and audit process and the enforcement of those regulations are just as important.
At the moment, people who might want to circumvent the rules are fully aware that when it comes to dairy products, Canada is not enforcing the existing border controls consistently and uniformly.
It is therefore essential that laws be enforced and audits be performed properly to discourage those who might try to exploit those loopholes. People can be very creative when it comes to circumventing tariffs and quotas. The problem of pizza toppings is an excellent example.
The Canadian dairy system is unique and has proven its worth. It provides dairy farmers with enough income to cover their costs, and it provides processors with a stable environment. It helps maintain the social fabric and support the economic development of our communities, while providing consumers with high-quality products at a competitive price. To us, therefore, it seems clear, justified, and more important than ever that everyone involved must work to support supply management.
In recent trade agreements, the Conservative government succeeded in keeping high tariffs at the borders. That is a vital pillar in maintaining our supply management system. We hope that the Liberal government will not tear down what the previous Conservative government built up to protect the supply management system.
With regard to controlling the borders, at least four departments are concerned with the issue of effectiveness. The Department of Finance is concerned with the payment of tariffs, while 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 agricultural policy is involved, and the foreign affairs department, when we have trade agreements and we have made commitments to our partners. Our trading partners also have agricultural policies and specific requirements.
In conclusion, by doing whatever has to be done to solve the problem of diafiltered milk and other dairy substitutes crossing our Canadian borders, we will restore balance in our supply management system, thus benefiting the entire Canadian dairy industry. We will also restore harmony in the entire industry, from farmers to processors and distributors, so that products can be delivered to 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 climate that maintains supply management and the three pillars that are currently being threatened by diafiltered milk, including producers' revenue. At the same time, it must provide flexibility for primary and secondary processing and the value chain and support the development of new capacity through technology and cutting-edge manufacturing processes that also boost productivity.
In closing, I can assure my colleagues that we will do everything in our power to support the vitality of Canada's dairy industry for future generations.
Madam Speaker, it is my great pleasure to rise once again in the defence of our dairy producers.
It seems that government after government is taking pleasure in making their lives difficult.
I must admit that I am very frustrated by the fact that we are still talking about this issue. There has been consultation, and once again, no action on the part of the Liberal government.
Two years ago, I introduced a motion in this House that was unanimously adopted. Past Conservatives promised to compensate producers for the concessions they made in the agreement with the European Union. In this agreement, the Conservatives gave away 17,000 tonnes of new cheese import quotas to the Europeans. These 17,700 tonnes are on top of the 13,000 tonnes the Europeans can now sell to our supermarkets. This crack in our supply management system will cost our producers millions and millions of dollars.
A similar situation happened in October when the Conservatives negotiated the TPP in secret and gave away 3.25% of our dairy producers' market share. This is another attack and crack in the system, which hurts our producers. Being good players, they said that they were open to both agreements as long as other industries were not potentially profiting at their expense.
As the NDP and all parties voted in favour of the motion, the producers believe that they should be adequately compensated for their losses under CETA and TPP.
Negotiating and signing these trade agreements has created uncertainty for the industry, which continues to see negative impacts. What is more, while the Conservatives had announced compensation for those agreements, the current Liberal government has backtracked and has made more uncertainty for the industry.
The said that she did not feel bound by the plan the Conservatives announced and wanted to hold consultations.
After more than seven months in power, the Liberals still have announced nothing, apart from consultations. The prefers to announce that she is focusing on the coming into effect of the comprehensive economic and trade agreement, CETA, between Canada and the European Union in 2017, instead of reassuring producers with a compensation plan.
By and large, since coming to power, the Liberals have only compounded the uncertainty for the dairy industry. They are of course profuse in their use of the word of the year, “consultation”. They say they are defending supply management, but when one looks at the tangible measures they have taken for the dairy industry, the real impression is that they want to put an end to supply management. They are only aggravating the situation with their inaction.
I will always be here to remind the government of the importance of the dairy industry and need for our supply management system to function smoothly. For two years, our supply management system and the producers who work under it have been threatened by another type of breach.
Supply management is supported by three pillars. The first pillar is production management or discipline, which means that the quantity produced is regulated by quota. Producers agree to produce what Canadians need, and if they overproduce, they are responsible for those costs. The second pillar is producer pricing, negotiated based on production costs. Last but not least, the final pillar is one entirely in the government's hands, which is control over imports.
Based on these three pillars, supply management is like a three-legged table or chair. If one leg is unstable, the entire system is unstable. That is exactly what is happening.
For more than two years, the government has not been playing its role of import controller, and a milk product known as diafiltered milk has been pouring across our borders. This product was created for the sole purpose of circumventing the tariff rules, and in 2015 it was responsible for losses of over $220 million for Canadian producers. From what the industry is saying, the losses in 2016 will be even more substantial.
In response to the industry’s appeal during the election campaign, the NDP and the Liberal Party pledged to resolve the problem quickly, once they were in power. We all know the October results. I know that we are debating this issue in the House, but I would still like to offer a little history on it.
Since last December, I have been hounding the government to tell us when it will finally resolve the problem of diafiltered milk. The inaction of this new government has forced us to remind it of its commitment and the importance of acting on this matter for the vitality of our dairy industry and the proper operation of our supply management system.
At first, the Liberals said that they wanted to consult the industry and they were abreast of the file. In February, there was a little glimmer of hope for our producers when the minister told them there had never been any question of diafiltered milk being used as milk in the cheese compositional standards. In fact, it must be remembered that at present, in Canada, diafiltered milk has a dual identity, courtesy of the Conservatives, and now courtesy of the Liberal Party as well. This product crosses our borders as duty-free milk protein concentrate, making it advantageous for processors. Then it is considered as milk by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, even though it is nothing like the milk we pour on our cereal.
As a result, processors have no specific limits in their use of diafiltered milk, in contrast with other milk protein concentrates. That explains the growth in imports over the last few years. Furthermore, remember that the Americans do not use diafiltered milk in their products. It was designed specifically and exclusively to get around the Canadian rules.
Let us now get back to where I was today on this issue.
In February the minister told us that diafiltered milk should not be used like milk and he was going to make sure that all processors were made aware of that.
At the standing committee on agriculture, we heard representatives from across the dairy industry who, for the most part, believe that diafiltered milk should be considered as a dairy protein concentrate rather than milk. After that the minister repeatedly stated in interviews that diafiltered milk should not be used as milk.
Based on those statements, the producers and I were at least a bit reassured that the government would understand that the ideal solution would be to consider diafiltered milk as DPC and to have the cheese compositional standards apply to all processors.
We naturally remained concerned about how quickly the government would move to finally apply this solution, which did not seem to be a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, a few weeks later, as we have come to expect from the Liberals since the start of their mandate, they changed position overnight. Another complete 180-degree turn from the Liberal Party of Canada. Now the and the government went back to square one by launching consultations again, as if they didn’t know the solution. Indeed, I do not like the word “solution” because applying its own standards to everyone is not a solution. It is the least one can do; it is simple common sense.
In other words, having said that they were making sure the standards were clear for everyone and they would apply to everyone, the Liberals backtracked once again. They began giving us the same response again and again: they were protecting supply management, they were in discussions with the dairy industry, and they were aware of the problem they had inherited from the previous Conservative government.
After weeks and weeks of hearing this in the House, to ensure the well-being of the industry and to protect our family farms, my party and I decided to debate this issue of diafiltered milk another time, on an opposition day. The motion I tabled on that day asked the government to resolve the problem immediately by enforcing its cheese compositional standards, while recognizing that every day it did not do its job, producers were suffering substantial financial losses and many family farms were disappearing.
We know the rest of the story. The Liberals voted down our motion. They promised to consult the industry in the next 30 days to find a long-term solution. Yes, that is right: more consultations to buy more time. Now it was a matter of finding a long-term solution for the entire industry. These are fine words, but on paper and in real life, their search for a long-term solution is leading to the disappearance of many family farms and the loss of thousands of dollars for our Canadian dairy producers.
These producers are losing between $15,000 and $20,000 on average a year. That is shameful. Meanwhile, U.S. producers are getting rich at the expense of Canadian producers. It seems to me that U.S. producers are already well subsidized by their government and that they do not need additional help from the Canadian government.
The search for a long-term solution led more than 3,000 producers to protest on Parliament Hill last week. They wanted to remind the Liberal government that it has sole control of one of the pillars of supply management and that, at present, it is not doing a good job of controlling imports of diafiltered milk under the duties relief program.
Over the course of one year, dairy producers have been forced to protest on Parliament Hill twice because the Liberal government has not shown them any respect, as was the case with the previous Conservative government.
During the House debate on our motion and on the Facebook pages of several Liberal MPs, some have said that the solution lies in investing in processing facilities. Others have even said that enforcing the current standards would simply be a Band-Aid solution. However, not one of them could explain what was preventing the government from enforcing the standards and then looking forward to another long-term solution.
The same applies to investing in processing facilities. This would not prevent or control the quantity of diafiltered milk coming into Canada. Nothing is preventing the government from considering diafiltered milk as DPC and enforcing cheese standards, while also investing in processing facilities. Nothing is stopping that. I know the Liberals have not always been unanimous on supply management, and there sure has been a lot of discontent and dissent, but I simply do not understand why it is taking the government so long to act and stand up for family farms, unless it just does not want to do it at all.
What I have to say is even more troubling. Why are the Liberals not being honest with Canadians and producers and telling them what is really going on? There is no difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives with respect to producers. They keep them in the dark and in limbo until the last minute. If the Liberals have a good reason for not addressing the problem of diafiltered milk, why will they not explain that to producers? Why will they not explain that to us in the House? Why are they not fully compensating producers for their losses? This would not be the first time the Liberal government has sacrificed the dairy industry for another sector, but at least our producers could get on with their lives and make do with this compensation.
Perhaps the government would come to its senses more quickly if it realized just how many farms have disappeared. To make sure that I have made myself understood I will repeat that the NDP continues to believe that the law is the law and that it applies to everyone.
The classification of diafiltered milk as a milk protein concentrate by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the application of cheese compositional standards to all processors is the solution that we would have implemented within 100 days, had we become the government.
I am really tired of watching as our producers close their doors. I am discouraged for dairy producers. I tell myself that perhaps the government would be open to compensating producers for its inaction because we should remember that, right now, the producers are paying the price for the Liberal Party's poor management and the government's irrational decisions.
If the government does not do something quickly, the future of many farms, our region's economies and, even worse, the supply management system will all be at risk.
Considering what is happening around the world, I am lucky that there is a supply management system in Canada. I sincerely hope that the Liberals will keep their election promises, stop spouting empty rhetoric and will take action on behalf of Canadian producers.
Madam Speaker, I would like to note that I will share my time with the member for .
I would also like to thank the member for raising this important question on behalf of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.
On this side of the House, our intentions towards the industry under the supply management system have always been clear. Supply management provides consumers with a safe, stable local market and allows the farming families that benefit from it to make a living from their calling with dignity.
Forty years ago, the Liberal Party fought to introduce this system, and we will keep fighting to preserve it against those who would dismantle it.
The government realizes that dairy farmers are suffering economic losses due to the use of diafiltered milk in cheese making. The industry’s concerns are a priority for us, and we are paying special attention to the industry’s call for a solution that will ensure the sustainability of the system.
We promised to listen to the needs of the various stakeholders in the industry, and that is exactly what we are doing. The and his team, along with the entire Liberal caucus, are in constant communication with the players in the industry.
While our colleagues in the Conservative Party are holding forums on abolishing supply management, our government is working to ensure that dairy farmers are in the best possible position and that the industry remains at the cutting edge of technology to stay competitive in a constantly changing global economy.
For that reason, last month, the minister and the parliamentary secretary met with dozens of important players in the industry, such as the Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Canadian Dairy Commission, the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec, milk producer associations across Canada and dairy processor and farmer associations. Those discussions have been very productive and will help us develop a long-term sustainable strategy for the dairy industry.
While my colleagues focus on the contribution of Canadian dairy farmers, I would like to draw their attention to Canada's processing industry. A source of pride for Canadians, the food processing sector produces a variety of delicious foods of the highest quality. The sector stimulates our economy by employing nearly 300,000 Canadians across nearly 6,000 facilities in every part of Canada.
What is more, this sector is a significant contributor to Canadian GDP, with sales of over $100 billion, including $17 billion in dairy processing. A strong dairy processing sector is therefore essential and vital to the industry, and for that we need a sustainable, long-term strategy.
We promised to support the food sectors in a way that allows them to remain leaders in job creation and innovation in Canada.
As indicated in the minister's mandate letter, we will make every effort to ensure that the food processing industry remains focused on innovation and that it has all the tools it needs to compete. The minister also has a mandate to invest in an agri-food value-added investment fund in order to attract investment and create high-quality jobs in the food processing sector and keep processors on the cutting edge of technology. This will open the doors to new trade opportunities for the industry.
Thanks to our supply management system, our Canadian producers, and our food processing industry, when Canadian families go grocery shopping, they know that the delicious dairy products are made in Canada from milk from Canadian producers.
Over the years, the supply management system has served farmers, processors, and consumers brilliantly. It enables producers to remain competitive, while drawing a stable and fair income from their work. The supply management system has been providing Canadian consumers with superior-quality products at stable, predictable prices for over 40 years, thus avoiding all unexpected fluctuations.
We, on this side of the House, are dismayed that the Conservatives want to destroy this program, which has proven its value to Canadians for more than 40 years. We are also disappointed that our colleagues in the official opposition have failed to take a clear stand. One day they say they are defenders of supply management and, the next, they decide to campaign to abolish it.
The hon. member for is a good example. When he won the election in his riding, he promised to protect supply management. Now, he has changed his plan and is co-chairing a campaign against it. Confusion or a false election promise? One has to wonder.
In reality, we are the only allies of Canadian producers, and we will fight to ensure that their concerns are heard and taken into consideration.
I am a fourth-generation milk producer myself. I have worked the earth, tended my cows, and cultivated my land all my life. When I say that this issue is close to my heart and that we will make every effort to find a sustainable, long-term solution, that is not the politician talking, but the farmer in me. I have no doubt that our common efforts and our investments in innovation will position the Canadian sector so that it can realize all of its potential, while helping our economy to reach new heights.
Today, I want to tell all of the stakeholders in Canada’s dairy sector that they can count on our government to act in their best interest. We recognize how valuable their sector is to the Canadian economy and the well-being of Canadian families. We will be sure to make every effort to defend our supply management system.
Madam Speaker, it will be a 10-minute speech. I will pick up where I left off.
How can the Conservatives claim to defend our Canadian producers while questioning an innovative system that guarantees them a fair income to feed and house their families while they do work they love?
Agricultural land accounts for 75% of my riding, and 15% of our jobs are directly or indirectly related to the agriculture and agri-food industry. My constituents realize that they cannot put a lot of faith in that kind of doublespeak.
The Government of Canada is determined to promote research and development so that our dairy industry can prosper in a constantly evolving global economy. The Government of Canada even invested $19 million in the dairy research group. The group is responsible for 23 research projects and employs over 100 scientists from 15 institutions and eight government research centres in Canada, including the cutting-edge facility in the Sherbrooke area.
In its leadership role, the dairy industry focuses on a certain number of key fields, such as the nutritional profile of dairy products. These sizeable investments will also support the research being done by scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in two key areas: improving the quality of forage crops in Canada, which will help increase our milk production capacity, and understanding the role played by dairy-fat products, including their positive impact on people with type 2 diabetes.
We support this report. We are quite aware that diafiltered milk is not the only concern here: we also have to ensure that our supply management system functions effectively and over the long term in a global economy that is constantly changing.
To fully understand the sector’s concerns, we promised to consult with its various players, and that is exactly what we have done.
While others are working to abolish supply management, the system that allows farm families to earn a fair and dignified living from their calling, our government is making every possible effort to protect it.
In recent weeks, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada officials, the minister, and his parliamentary secretary have held discussions with representatives from all dairy sectors, ranging from small farmers to the bigger producers, processors, and the provincial and national producers’ associations.
These consultations have been very productive. They have enabled us to collect quality information that will help us build solid long-term bases for our dairy sector and for our supply management system.
Let us turn now to the future of agriculture in Canada, a promising future filled with opportunities for expansion, given the constantly growing global demand. More and more Canadian consumers are choosing Canadian dairy products because of their quality. To help our agricultural and agri-food industry seize these opportunities and build a solid, promising future, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments have committed to developing the next agricultural policy framework, which will guarantee better results for the sector.
This framework will be more focused on innovation and on strengthening the sector’s competitiveness, while aiming to improve sustainability and opportunities for the various links in the agriculture and agri-food supply chain.
The next policy framework will also enable the sector to properly manage risks in a productive manner, in order to provide farms with more stability. We are currently meeting with industry representatives to discuss the challenges before us.
In closing, productive and effective consultations, huge investments in R and D in the dairy sector, and the development of the next agriculture policy framework, which will focus on innovation, marketing, and risk management, are all measures our government is taking to protect Canadian agriculture.
I am confident that all the effort and energy that our government is putting into this in the interest of Canadian farmers will result in a strategy that will ensure the long-term sustainability of our supply management system.
Supply management helps provide farmers with a fair and stable income in return for their dedication, while allowing them to remain competitive. This system also helps ensure that Canadians receive the best-quality products, produced by farmers in our own communities, processed in our communities, and at stable, predictable prices.
We on this side of the House will denounce anyone who would abolish such a system. Unlike the Conservatives, who say that the fundamentals of supply management fly in the face of their fundamental values, to the Liberal Party, those values are in our DNA. We fought to introduce supply management 40 years ago, and today we will do everything we can to protect it.
As the government, we want to ensure that our farmers are in the best possible position and that our food processing sector is on the leading edge of technology, and we will defend supply management against anyone who wants to eliminate it.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased, yet rather surprised, to have to once again rise in the House to talk about the diafiltered milk issue. Everyone has been aware of this problem for months now. The problem is growing because nothing is being done. The problem is getting bigger and it is blowing up in our faces, here in the House of Commons, since 3,000 dairy producers came all the way to Parliament Hill to protest and express their frustration.
Dairy producers were not just here to mark World Milk Day. I heard a government member say that a few moments ago and it made me smile. Does the government really think that dairy producers took a day of their time in the middle of forage crop season to come say hello to their MPs in Ottawa, tell them that it is World Milk Day, and celebrate with them? Let us be serious here. Dairy producers did not come to Parliament Hill to celebrate World Milk Day. They came to protest against the importation of diafiltered milk. It is important to point that out.
I heard the previous speaker talk about a new government approach. The government is now taking the time to listen and talk.
This is not a new approach. Listening and talking is what the government has been doing for seven months. There is never any action or anything tangible. This is not a new problem. There was an election on October 19, and we had a change in government. It just so happens that during the election campaign, dairy farmers decided to meet with every candidate. What was on their minds? They asked us to resolve the problem of diafiltered milk. This was an existing problem and all the parties said they would take care of it, that they would resolve this problem once they were in government. We said the same thing. When we were in the previous government, we started working on resolving this problem. The Liberals came to power having made this big promise to our dairy farmers that they would resolve the problem. Seven months later, the Liberals are saying that they are going to consult, they are going to discuss, and they are going to negotiate.
Will the problem be resolved with the motion before us? It says that the problem is recognized. It is rather surprising that it took the government seven months to start recognizing that there is a problem. The motion says, “That the House recognizes that the government strongly supports supply management”.
The government needs a motion telling it that it recognizes a problem. I have never seen that before. I never would have thought that the government would need the House to tell it that it recognizes a problem. Unbelievable.
There is more. The motion calls on the government to recognize “the magnitude of the economic losses to Canadian dairy producers”. Producers lost $220 million in 2015. It is done. It is over. There were complaints; there were losses.
The motion also urges the government to “recognize that the industry call for the problem to be resolved rapidly”. It seems to me that we have been hearing this for seven months.
Then, the motion urges the government “to meet with dairy producers and Canadian dairy industry, within the next 18 days”. First, there was a 30-day deadline, more than 30 days ago. Now, the motion calls for another 18 days, which will take us right into the summer, when producers will no longer be mobilized and will no longer be able to come and meet their members of Parliament in the House, because we will all be back in our ridings. This is a way of watering down the problem and spreading it out across Canada. This is yet another deadline with no action.
Further on, the motion urges the government “to propose a sustainable solution toward modernizing the dairy industry”. That is all we want. The government was not ready. It got elected on false promises. I am not just talking about diafiltered milk, but most of the files that the current government has brought here to the House.
This government said it had a plan, but we are realizing that it was not a plan to govern, but to prepare for its governance. That plan was to consult people to determine how it should govern. If that had been presented to the voters, I am not sure the result would have been the same. However, that is how the Liberals chose to present themselves to the voters and, of course, to get themselves elected under false pretences. The diafiltered milk case is rather telling in this regard.
The farmers who came to the Hill last week were from every part of Canada and Quebec. The farmer who made the biggest impact on me was in the aisle opposite the front door of the House of Commons. I was talking to the farmers and, at one point, I saw about eight pairs of boots on the ground. I went up to the farmers and asked them why they had put their boots on the ground. They replied that it was to make the government realize that it needed to walk the talk. They said that, since the government was all talk and no walk, they were going to provide some boots. In other words, they said the government was not keeping its promises.
I hope that government members will use those boots so that we can finally find a solution and implement the solution that has already been proposed many times by the dairy farmers. By the way, I salute those who gave up a day’s work on the farm to be here and give that message to the government.
When I walked around among the farmers, they said they did not understand why the government still had not taken action. However, the solution is quite simple: treat diafiltered milk as a dairy ingredient, period. The farmers are telling us that if that were done, they would no longer have a problem. So why are we not doing it? It seems simple, but you have to understand that it is complicated.
Since we started asking this government questions about agriculture, and particularly about diafiltered milk, we have not seen much action. The himself is mostly absent from the debate on diafiltered milk. His parliamentary secretary has answered most of the questions, probably because the minister is not very familiar with the diafiltered milk issue.
In fact, the Minister does not seem very interested in agriculture. In another bill that we are studying here in the House, Bill on the budget, there is nothing about agriculture. There is no mention of agriculture in the last budget, which we are being asked to pass and for which the government was forced to use a time allocation motion to prevent us from talking too much about it and from pointing out the budget’s flaws.
When we ask the government why agriculture does not come up in Bill , we hear that it invested to improve Internet access. That does not really feed Canadians. Yes, we need it in our regions, and it is an extremely important issue for all of our rural communities, but why does the government talk about the Internet when we are talking about agriculture? The government seems to have a profound lack of knowledge about agriculture.
I did a little research in Hansard online. I discovered that the deigned to reply at least five times to opposition members' questions about the diafiltered milk problem. Here is a sample of the minister's answers:
In May 2016, he said, “...I appreciate [his] concern. We recognize the importance”.
On May 11, 2016, he said, “We recognize that this is an important issue for dairy farmers, and we are working to reach a long-term solution”.
On May 3, 2016, he said, “Mr. Speaker, I can assure my hon. colleague that this government supports supply management, and we are fully aware of the industry's concerns about the use of diafiltered milk”.
On March 11, 2016, he said, “Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's question... I can assure him that I have met with many sectors in the agriculture industry, including the dairy farmers”.
Another contradiction: the Liberals were aware of the issue, yet they are asking us for 18 more days to resolve it. Today's motion requests 18 more days to meet with people again. What does the minister not understand? Why does he need more meetings? Is the solution not simple? We have put it to the House and to the committee a number of times.
In March 2016, the minister answered a question as follows:
|| Just to make sure the record is straight, I am not negotiating with anybody. It's the industry and the manufacturers that are in discussions, but I am not negotiating with anybody. My job is to make sure that both sides understand the regulations.
We understand why the Liberals are not doing anything; it is because they do not want to. They are trying to teach us something. They are trying to explain why they do not have a solution and explain the regulations. The cat is out of the bag. They are not interested in negotiating or coming up with a solution. They want to make sure that farmers become fed up, and they are waiting for the parliamentary session to end so that they can avoid taking a position and have a nice, quiet summer. They will not get the chance, because we will not let them get away with it. They can count on all the opposition parties to ensure that that does not happen.
The parliamentary secretary is the one who has answered most of our questions on diafiltered milk. In fact, he has answered our questions 16 times, so here is the score: parliamentary secretary, 16, and , 5. We see the importance the government places on the diafiltered milk issue.
What did the parliamentary secretary say on June 2, 2016? He said, “With respect to our commitment, we are still listening to the people in the industry...we are aware of the industry's concerns about the use of diafiltered milk in cheese production.”
The message was more or less the same as the minister's message.
On May 19, he said, “We are in regular contact with industry stakeholders, and we are listening to what they have to say about compensation. We are aware that compensation is important to the supply-managed sector.”
There is something I do not understand about that statement, but let us move on.
The parliamentary secretary answered 16 questions about diafiltered milk, while the minister answered five questions. We get the picture quickly of what this means. The best was when the parliamentary secretary said that he wanted to “act quickly”.
On May 9, he said, “I remind members that last Tuesday we committed to consulting with [the entire] dairy industry in the next 30 days”.
That was in early May and the deadline has now expired.
On April 21, he said, “We need to take action quickly. That is what we want to do, but first we need to take the time to come up with a lasting agreement...I understand the time crunch, but we are holding discussions.”
Blah blah blah: I just summed up in a few syllables what the Liberal government has to say about diafiltered milk.
I sincerely think that the government needs to take action. It needs to grab a pair of the boots that were left on Parliament Hill last week, put them on, and get to work. The government has to walk the talk. It needs to understand that this is urgent.
I could have shared the concerns of all the dairy farmers in my riding, and those from all the ridings in Quebec and Canada who talked about their major financial problems. The equivalent of their annual income is on the line.
These are not rich people, contrary to what many are implying. That money goes toward their wages. The dairy producers are often the only economic engines in our towns. While they struggle to make ends meet, the government spews its empty rhetoric.
It is important to remember that, basically, what we want is not complicated. We want the government to acknowledge that, in producing cheese, there is good cow's milk and there are dairy ingredients. The dairy ingredients have all sorts of names: concentrates, powders, isolates, diafiltered milk. That is clear. These are all ingredients produced from milk. It is not that these products are bad, but consumers have the right to know what is in the products they consume.
Unfortunately, this changes in the case of diafiltered milk, because at the border diafiltered milk is considered an ingredient. When it arrives at the plant, however, it is considered milk.
In front of the crowd of producers last week, the president of the Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec, Mr. Letendre, challenged all those in attendance and all parliamentarians to sample a glass of diafiltered milk to see if it was really milk. He said he was sure that after trying it, no one would doubt that diafiltered milk is not milk. Milk is milk, and diafiltered milk is dairy ingredients. That is the way it is.
Once again, I will make myself the producers’ spokesman and invite the government members to sample a glass of diafiltered milk and take up the challenge launched by Quebec’s milk producers. They will tell us if diafiltered milk is milk. I advise putting it in the refrigerator for a few minutes before trying it. That might improve the taste a bit, but it will still be diafiltered milk all the same.
When we buy cheese and the label says that it is made of milk ingredients, we know exactly what we are getting. When we buy cheese that was made with diafiltered milk, the label merely indicates that the product is made of milk. The label does not indicate that the cheese was made with American proteins created to dispose of any surplus of American milk, which contains growth hormones that we do not want here in Canada. That is the reality and that is what Canadian consumers have the right to know. If we deal with this small problem, then we are resolving a big problem for consumers and a very big problem for dairy producers in Quebec and Canada. That is what the government needs to understand.
Many cheese factories in Quebec are currently having trouble competing and that is because of the unfair competition created by those who use diafiltered milk. There is a small cheese factory called La Bourgade in Thetford Mines in my riding. It uses only milk, which supports our dairy producers. The company is really proud of its cheese, but it costs $1 more at the store than the cheese made by producers who use diafiltered milk. One dollar does not seem like much, but it is a lot at a time when everyone is doing everything they can to keep money in their pockets.
In conclusion, enough with the Liberals' empty rhetoric. Let us take action now, not in 18 days. We are pleased that the government is being told by the House to recognize the problem. We did not think that the government needed a motion in the House to recognize a problem like this one. We will obviously support this motion, but I do not think that the producers, who are back home working hard on milking their 30 or 50 cows, understand the nuances of the motion before us.
Why did the government need a motion to recognize an existing problem? That is the real question. The government is not listening and is looking only to get an extension to find and implement a solution. I am reaching out. I am asking the government to act now and not to wait 18 days. Everyone, all the parties in the House, and especially all Canadian dairy producers will be pleased with the solution and the government's response.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my speaking time with my colleague from .
I thank the members for raising this important issue on behalf of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.
We fully support the committee's report, and as a member, as part of the government's strong support of Canada's supply management system.
While I will be speaking specifically to Canada's supply-managed dairy sector, please understand that the Government of Canada fully supports Canada's entire supply management system. Supply management plays a tremendous role in Canadian agriculture and our government is proud to have such a strong and vibrant dairy sector in this country. Canada's supply management system is a model of stability, providing high-quality products at a reasonable and stable price, without any taxpayer or government subsidies.
Unfortunately, recently, we have seen members on the opposite side of the House speak against supply management. The member for , for instance, has called this model of stability a “cartel”, which is fundamentally unfair for farmers.
He also said that supply management impedes innovation. Either he does not take the time to visit dairy farms in Beauce or he is completely unaware of the facts. For us, in , a region that has more than 300 dairy farmers, innovation is very prominent.
Yesterday, together with a few other members, I visited the Sonibrand farm. The farm’s primary goal is to produce high-quality milk. To do so, the owners have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a robot that milks the cows in a manner that is more efficient and healthier for the animals.
Because of this investment, animal care has gone down 30%. Each day, they save three hours of chores related to milking and all cows are free-roaming in this barn. Because they are saving three hours a day, this saved time is spent on improving animal welfare. In fact, this farmer designed hay with less potassium, which is meant to improve hoof care or foot care for cows.
The member for believes that supply management impedes innovation, which is completely false. I respect his position. It is nice to have principles, but those principles also have to be backed up by true statements.
I am proud to stand here and say that every member of this caucus supports supply management and that our Liberal values align with supply management.
My colleagues can rest assured that the is deeply committed to supply management and is working with the dairy sector to ensure we find a long-term, sustainable solution that works for the whole Canadian dairy sector. Having been a dairy farmer himself, the minister appreciates how important supply management is to the sector and to Canada's economy.
In early May, our government announced our intention to initiate discussions within 30 days to help the dairy industry adjust to CETA, as well as work together on the issue of diafiltered milk.
We have delivered on that commitment, and we continue to talk to the industry. The minister and parliamentary secretary have held many co-operative, productive, and important discussions with Canadian dairy producers and processors from across the country over the past week.
I am constantly communicating with our dairy farmers, so that I can defend their interests. I know that the minister and his parliamentary secretary are as well.
I will provide an example. Yesterday, I talked to a dairy farmer. I later ran into the minister. The minister immediately telephoned the farmer to speak to him directly. Our minister is available to the dairy farmers.
The and the had a very productive meeting with the organizers of last week's rally in support of supply management. Together, our government will work with our stakeholders to ensure the best possible outcomes are reached and opportunities for the future are achieved. The dairy industry provides over 200,000 jobs for Canadians, supports 12,000 family farms, and contributes nearly $20 billion to our GDP. If we were to listen to Conservative values, we would lose a large portion of that contribution to our economy and our rural communities across the country. Canadians rely on dairy farmers to deliver the high-quality dairy products they feed their families.
The industry is doing great work in growing markets through branding, collaborating with industry, and harnessing innovation.
I would like to speak to the importance of innovation once again to this sector, to place the trade issue we are considering today in a broader context.
Innovation technologies and practices are opening new horizons in the dairy sector. The government is proud to support this innovative industry. Total federal investments in the dairy research clusters have reached $13.75 million over five years.
Our budget also announced significant measures to support Canadian agriculture, including supply managed sectors. Investments of $30 million over the next six years will support genomics research. Over $40 million will support the modernization of a number of research centres across Canada.
Budget 2016 highlights a new innovation agenda that supports Canada's innovators, including those in the dairy sector, so that they achieve success. Our government is committed to ensuring that this innovative trend continues and that Canada's dairy industry remains vibrant.
We realize the importance of further investments in the dairy sector to help it reach its full potential. Recent discussions have helped shape the collaborative approach our government is taking to work towards an appropriate mitigation package as part of the comprehensive economic trade agreement.
Canada committed to ratifying the Canada-European comprehensive economic and trade agreement. CETA will open markets for key Canadian agricultural exports, such as beef, pork, grain, and oil seeds, fruits and vegetables, and processed food. We will absolutely continue to advance all Canadian agricultural interests as we consider trade matters, and that includes the supply management sectors.
The Government of Canada wants to ensure that we find long-term, sustainable solutions that work for the whole Canadian dairy sector. That is why we are meeting with industry stakeholders and obtaining their views. There are tremendous opportunities for domestic growth in markets for fine cheese, yoghurt, and butter, for example, due to increasing consumer demand.
There are also technological advances to improve efficiency and to develop innovative new products. Taking advantage of these opportunities may require improvement in the competitive position of the dairy value chain. It will be a collaborative process, with government and industry working together to help dairy farmers capture these opportunities.
I must reiterate that the Government of Canada fully understands the importance of transition support for the dairy sector. In anticipation of Canadian ratification of CETA, we will move forward with a plan to help the industry adjust to market access commitments.
I will say it once more. We will move forward with a plan to help the industry adjust to Canadian market access in anticipation of the Canada-Europe free trade agreement.
The Government of Canada is working with the dairy industry on the diafiltered milk issue. There have been a number of productive meetings with diary producers and processors in order to find long-term solutions that will help not just today's dairy producers, but also their children and grandchildren.
Therefore, I am proud to say that we concur with the report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.
During the election, I was on the Hill with the dairy producers from my region, and I was on the Hill with them last week. I will always be there with them, and I will always defend their interests.
Mr. Speaker, to start off, I will take it upon myself to remind some of my colleagues what supply management is and what benefits it has.
The dairy sector, as well as the poultry and egg sectors, operate under this system. Supply management is based on a number of basic principles that prevent overproduction and shortages thanks to a production quota system designed to fully supply the domestic market without creating surpluses.
This system allows producers to cover all production costs and earn a decent income. With supply management, governments do not have to subsidize the industry. That is not the case for the U.S. My colleague from will like that. I understand that he supports cutting the size of government. However, I think that he is having difficulty understanding what is at stake because he wants to abolish the current system. I would advise him to go back to doing what he does best, which is election campaign jingles.
On May 16, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food adopted a motion urging the government to do four things: recognize the problem and recognize that the industry is calling for the problem to be resolved, meet with stakeholders in the dairy industry, propose a sustainable solution, and present a plan to the committee.
The government has been telling us for a year that it has a plan. I hope it will tell us what that plan is, because we cannot wait to hear it.
The Liberal members on the committee felt the need to adopt the motion, to encourage the government to recognize that there is a problem. That is a start. Since they have a habit of saying nothing, this meaningless position is already an improvement. At this rate, they may get the job done in 40 or 50 years.
Incidentally, 40 or 50 years is about how much time has passed since the Liberal government expropriated 97,000 acres of agricultural land in my riding for an airport that is now being demolished. Parliamentarians who live in Quebec see this historical fiasco every time they take highway 50 to get here, to Parliament.
The diafiltered milk problem could have been a major issue for the thousands of families that were kicked off their land, but since the government stole this land from them nearly 50 years ago, the only issue for these families is the return of the expropriated land.
Let us come back to the committee. The report is really weak, toothless, and ineffective. Rather than calling on the government to recognize the problem and continue to discuss it, the committee should have called on the government to enforce its own regulations. That is what likely would have happened if the Bloc Québécois had been a part of the committee, because we are not in the habit of kowtowing to the government like the Liberal members from Quebec sitting on the other side of the House. All they do is repeat the government's talking points.
It is important to remember that an MP from a pan-Canadian party is not very reliable when it comes time to stand up on a major issue for Quebec. The energy east pipeline and the oil sands make for a good example, but that is not what we are talking about here, even though that remains a major issue.
What we are talking about here is supply management. Most of Canada's agricultural production occurs in the western part of the country on farms that produce one crop for export. That is the opposite of what we do in Quebec with our food sovereignty model. The federal government wants to open the borders to make western Canadians happy. It opens them a little from time to time: 5% under the WTO, 7% under CETA, and another 4% to come under the TPP.
Every time negotiations are held, western exporters gain foreign market shares and Quebec loses domestic market shares.
Pan-Canadian MPs are torn between supporting western Canada and supporting Quebec, and they go through the motions of signing this type of agreement even if they are not truly convinced that it is a good idea.
That is why we have such a weak report before us today. I do not see any other reason for such a weak report when the regions came to Parliament Hill last week to express their outrage and were ignored by the government and by a minister and his parliamentary secretary who have clearly chosen to forget where they came from in order to further their careers.
Earlier, the parliamentary secretary gave a lovely speech. I liked the way he spoke about himself in the third person when he talked about meetings with dairy industry representatives.
There are three theories here. One, the parliamentary secretary has become really full of himself. Two, he is not the parliamentary secretary and did not attend these meetings. Three, he is only reading the lines his party gives him. I will not ask him to choose among these three options, but none of them is very positive.
I would have liked to see the Liberals march with us in the rain last Thursday, with my colleague from and my many colleagues who were there on the Hill. I would have liked to see them trade in their dress shoes for work boots and stand up for their people, like I do every day when I come to Parliament. I would have liked that, but that is not what happened, because they were too busy taking limo rides.
Power corrupts, and since the Liberal Party did not change its corporate culture during its 10 years in opposition purgatory, the minister and the parliamentary secretary have let power go to their heads.
The Bloc will support today’s motion because one cannot be against the right thing. However the motion remains totally trivial and void of value because the government has not the courage to enforce its own regulations and follows the whims of the American market, which decides what it does. At this time, the government is thus nothing but the puppet of the American government.
The Liberals have no interest in defending the agricultural industry as a whole. All they do is neglect the families that feed us and bring them to bankruptcy. That way they will not have to buy back the quotas before abolishing supply management. This is in fact what will come of their economic liberalism. With this sort of Liberal colonialist policy, Canada simply proves once again, as it did in numerous files, that Quebec and its agriculture would be much better served if Quebec controlled its own laws, taxes, and treaties itself. Canada is simply proving, once again, that Quebec would be better off free and independent.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to share with the House something that happened to me last week, if I may.
Last weekend, I was in my riding after having issued a press release the week before stating that I support supply management. I had supported it in the past and I promised to continue supporting it in the election campaign.
I wanted to issue the press release in order to clearly make the distinction between that and a visit to my colleague's riding, , for the kick-off to his campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party. I attended the event as the Quebec caucus chair.
If five candidates from Quebec ran for the party leadership, which I would love to see, by the way, I would attend all five events, regardless of the policies the candidates proposed, as the candidate from did on supply management. Indeed, I would be there regardless, because I think it is important to support our colleagues who want to run in a contest to represent Quebec in Canada.
That being said, I was at an event this PAST weekend where I happened to meet quite a few farmers who were also there for Relay for Life. Those farmers are part of our everyday lives in the regions. They are part of our regional realities because they participate in everything. They sponsor events and are very involved in our communities. We started talking about this and that, and naturally, we ended up talking about diafiltered milk, an issue that is having a serious negative impact on those farmers, especially dairy farmers, most of whom are in Quebec.
We promised to address the diafiltered milk issue if we were elected, but unfortunately, that did not happen. The Liberals are the ones in power now, and they made that same promise to address the issue quickly.
Seven months have passed, and it has been 30 days or more since they got the consultations they were after. They consulted a whole lot of industry stakeholders. Now, according to the resolution they themselves put forward, they want another 18 days.
It is truly incredible to see what this motion says. The government is saying it has a problem in its own motion. This motion was not drafted by the Conservative Party, the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, or the Green Party. It is a motion in which the Liberals are telling themselves that things are not going well in agriculture. We do not need for a motion to see that there is a problem. I honestly do not know where we are going with this, but it does not look good.
Life is tough for these farmers these days because they are losing income. They invested in equipment and in their farm to increase productivity. They did not anticipate having to compensate for a loss because of something else, a problem that the government is not fixing. They made those investments to increase their farms' productivity, to have a bit of extra money in their pockets and to be able to reinvest.
Farmers know they have to constantly reinvest. It is impossible not to invest. A farmer who does not invest in his facilities or his productivity is bound to fail and possibly lose his farm.
When farmers invest $100,000, $200,000, $300,000, and even more in their own farm to ensure that they increase productivity, they are not trying to make up for their losses.
At present, diafiltered milk is costing them tens of thousands of dollars. As recently as April 13, the president of the Union des producteurs agricoles said that farms are losing between $15,000 and $18,000 a year. That is a lot of money for a dairy farm with 40 or 50 cows. That is a lot of money for these producers, who have to invest in relatively short periods of time.
As a business person, I know that the reality is that any investments should be amortized over the shortest possible period because technologies change very quickly.
That now also holds true for agriculture. When farmers invest in milking machines, the amortization period must be as short as possible because the machines will inevitably become outdated, just like the methods they replaced. Technology is constantly changing and therefore being replaced.
I spoke to a woman who said she was tired of fighting. Dairy producers have been fighting for decades against all sorts of things like the climate, changes, the increase in farm productivity needed to ensure their financial viability, and environmental constraints that are imposed on them.
They have to constantly invest in their own farms. When a problem arises, such as that of diafiltered milk, which has become a huge problem in recent months, the financial losses are discouraging for producers.
I sincerely believe that the human aspect, which we have not discussed today, is important. In the past five years, in Quebec and Canadian rural areas, there has been an unprecedented number of suicides in farming communities. This is the result of the pressure on the agricultural sector in general.
Producers are being asked to produce more and more and to find more environmentally friendly ways of doing so. They are being stretched to the limit. They are under unbelievable amounts of pressure. Many producers who would like to hand down their farm ultimately decide to shut it down or sell it.
Just last week, a woman was telling me that the president of Les Producteurs de lait in the Bas-Saint-Laurent region said that there had never before been as many active farm sales in Quebec as there have been in the past two years. That is because producers are exhausted.
They are not able to cope with governments that do not keep promises, especially the current government, which promised during the election campaign to fix the problem quickly but is still conducting consultations seven months later.
As my colleague said earlier, there is a lot of blah blah blah, but there is also a lot of meh. Nothing happens. The government does not understand farmers. Unlike what the Liberals have been saying since this morning, they are way out in left field. They could fix this problem very quickly and they committed to doing just that. I do not think that seven months is very quickly. This problem could be fixed in two days. I do not know why they will not do it, but it should have been done a long time ago.
Agri-food research is being done in La Pocatière, in my riding, and there needs to be a kind of balance. Farms do not increase productivity simply by purchasing equipment. Research and development in processing and in the dairy industry are important as well. Everything is important.
The Liberal Party seems to be defending only the processing industry, but this industry needs the milk in order to process it. If there is no milk to be processed, where will it get the milk from? We want Canadian products and we want people to buy local.
People in Kamouraska have been talking to me about this for 20 years. I was mayor of La Pocatière from 2005 to 2009 and an RCM of Kamouraska councillor. People talked to us about processing and buying local. If people want to do that and make it possible for farmers to process food locally, they have to be able to make a living at it. Right now, they are definitely having a hard time making a living at it.
Farmers are having a hard time coping with and justifying this reality. Once again, these people are having a hard time getting through this. The government's delays are costing them $10,000, $12,000 or $20,000 per year, and at the end of the month, those losses make it hard for them to balance their budgets. The added pressure makes them want to quit farming. The government has to give farmers every possible advantage, and some impossible ones too, especially dairy farmers who are going through tough times because of diafiltered milk.
The government must understand that it needs to fix this before the summer. Today is June 7, and I think it is important to deal with this before the summer so that farmers can go work in their fields with a load off their minds. Right now, all farmers are having a terrible time getting by. The government has the answers and needs to act. As my colleague said earlier, the government has to walk the talk.