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View Marilène Gill Profile
BQ (QC)
View Marilène Gill Profile
2020-05-13 17:34 [p.2307]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.
I would like to begin by thanking my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé for standing up for Quebec farmers, of course. All the comments we have heard throughout the debate clearly show that all farmers in Canada are affected. One thing we keep hearing over and over again, in both French and English, is that this is not enough and it is not coming fast enough. We keep hearing that. I want to thank my colleague for standing up for our farmers.
We are here today to debate Bill C-16. Of course, there are other bills worthy of study in the House, such as Bill C-216, which was introduced by the Bloc Québécois and also addresses the aspect of “not enough”.
I remind members that the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-16. In fact, I would have liked to have seen it go further, because we are talking about the COVID-19 crisis and I heard all my colleagues talk about going beyond what is offered in this bill, which we obviously agree with. This crisis has shown just how essential the agricultural sector is. Of course, it is also essential in normal times. We can also see how fragile this industry is. This fragility was evident last year, in particular with respect to the consequences of agreements.
It was assumed that these agreements would come with compensation, but such compensation was never received, which has hurt our farmers. Add the effects of the crisis on top of that, and it becomes even clearer that farmers urgently need our help. We support what Bill C-16 does. We are absolutely in favour of it. However, I want to join my colleagues in saying that it is not enough.
The subject I want to talk about in the House of Commons today is food sovereignty. We are discussing Bill C-16, which is about milk and our dairy farmers. I represent a very remote region, a rural area in Quebec whose agriculture sector is also suffering. My farmers' presence in the dairy and vegetable sectors has shrunk to almost nothing. Regarding what is being said in the House today, I have to say that it is also urgent for outlying regions or regions that are not normally thought of as farming regions. Since food and sovereignty are issues we want to bring to the fore, the fact that we have farmers in our area is important to me, because our farmers' presence is dwindling.
There is another topic I would have liked us to discuss in the House today. We are talking about agriculture, but we are on the COVID-19 committee. With all due respect to my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent, I would have liked us to be able to discuss related topics that would inform the debate and the proposals. Debating a subject that we all agree on is one thing, but we also need to know how to make proposals so we can push things further.
When it comes to food sovereignty, the whole issue of the fishery has not been addressed in the House since the beginning of the crisis. We finally have access to Parliament via the COVID-19 committee. I am seeing major parallels. When it comes to agriculture, for example, we are talking about the market. There is a surplus on the market and it is hurting producers' income. They are uncertain. Doubts remain, and producers are concerned. We are seeing exactly the same thing in this other industry, which is also a food sector. Mariculture and fishing are part of it. These sectors are hurting because, like farmers, they will not be able to dispose of their stock and they will have additional costs.
They will not be able to invest. It will take years for businesses in the fisheries and agriculture sectors to pay off their debts.
We need to talk about debt. I know there are people in my riding who are worried about going bankrupt and who are acutely aware that they are operating at a loss right now. We will have to support them after this is over.
I talked about shrinking to almost nothing. Here, we talk about things and make decisions. Yes, we need to pass this bill, but we need to do more, and we need to do it faster. The future is riding on this.
I do not know if my colleagues feel the same way, but I suspect they do. When an industry is under pressure like the agriculture sector is now, whether it is because of treaties or a public health crisis like this one, we need to think about the next generation. We want food sovereignty, but we have no guarantee whatsoever that there will be a next generation.
The message being sent to young people who want to get into farming or fishing is that no one knows what lies ahead. We need them, but they will not get paid. They will not get any support when they need the government. It will always limit their power and what they can do. The government will not be there for them. This is what I heard earlier, in every language: We will not support them. That is the message. This raises the whole issue of the next generation.
I also want to talk about initiatives and adjustments based on needs. Certain images come to mind. For instance, we were talking about livestock earlier. There are a lot of regulations around animal welfare. That is excellent, but it can cause problems for regions like mine, for example, where we no longer have an abattoir. That is one concrete example.
A farmer from back home comes to mind. He lives in Longue-Rive. A few times over the years, he has thought about simply quitting. He cannot do it anymore, given all the regulations and all the assistance that is out of reach for him.
I am also thinking of all the fishers. It is the same thing. There are fish quotas. They will have to buy equipment, a boat or assorted fishing gear and repair nets. There are a lot of expenses to cover for an industry that is not being supported either, not in the regions or anywhere else. My colleagues in British Columbia or my colleagues in Atlantic Canada might say exactly the same thing about this industry that might not have a big enough next generation.
All the discussions we have here, all the recommendations we hear, all that delays our providing help—all of this stalling—only make these sectors of the economy even more fragile.
I wanted to symbolically include the issue of fishing, which is related to agriculture. To me, these sectors are in similar situations.
Yes, of course we have to help the dairy industry, but we also have to help all the other industries, including the pork, turkey, poultry, egg, fishing and mariculture industries, to ensure that we have true food sovereignty. True food sovereignty requires a next generation that we must support.
I would like our debates to cover broader subjects than just agriculture, the focus of Bill C-16. We are here to help people cope with COVID-19. This will have repercussions for years to come.
I would like us to eliminate these silos—these issues are interrelated—so we can help our farmers, fishers and, above all, our communities.
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