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View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Yves Perron Profile
2019-12-12 10:29 [p.311]
Madam Speaker, I want to start by mentioning that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Salaberry—Suroît.
As Bloc Québécois critic for agriculture, agri-food and supply management, I will be talking about agriculture today.
We were pleased to see that the compensation that had been promised to dairy farmers before the election campaign was included in the Speech from the Throne. The government can be assured of our full co-operation for the follow-up.
However, I want to point out to the government that much of the compensation promised when the trade deals were signed has failed to materialize. Chicken, turkey, hatching egg and table egg farming are not covered, and no agreement has been reached yet between those farmers and the government.
We therefore call on the government to act diligently and as swiftly as possible to resolve this matter. It must make good on all of its commitments and promises of compensation. The financial health of our farming businesses depends on it.
There was also no agreement for the dairy processing sector. Not only has no compensation been determined for that sector, but also all the contingency plans, such as import permits, have yet to be definitively established. We have one concern about that particular issue. Regarding the agreement with Europe, we were told that a permanent determination of import licences would be announced in January. We have no other information at the moment.
Quotas were provisionally set at 55% for retailers and 45% for processors. However, it seems that this ratio is harmful to Quebec's industry. Retailers are taking advantage of the situation to import substantial amounts of cheese, even though the same cheeses are produced here at good prices. Those products are replacing local products on store shelves and causing Quebec producers to lose out.
Accordingly, for the optimal benefit of our local production, that ratio must be amended immediately, with the processors' share increased significantly. When processors are licence holders, they import products that complement the local production, which makes sense. This means less competition for our local producers. This distribution is also better for consumers, who will have access to a broader range of products. It is a win-win.
Therefore, today I am asking about the government's intentions in this regard. Producers, processors, consumers and we, the members, need a clear answer.
That is what I wanted to say about compensation. Although the compensation is necessary and our agricultural producers now want it, it is not their preferred option. Quebec farmers are proud people. They do not want government handouts. What they want is to work. What they need to do that, now more than ever, is for the government to take action and to put in place permanent and unequivocal protections for the supply management system.
We will not be satisfied this time with a commitment or a simple motion. What we want is legislation that protects our supply management system so that it will never again be amputated. This system is unparalleled in the world. It results in a quality product, a stable price and a decent standard of living for our producers. This system should not be cut up into pieces. Instead, we should maintain it and promote it abroad. This system works well. Furthermore, it requires no government subsidies. It is surreal to see this innovative system be gradually replaced by a system of compensation, in essence by subsidies.
The Bloc Québécois wants a firm commitment from this government. Is the government prepared to step up and protect the way we manage our agricultural sector?
NDP members have said that they will support our efforts. Conservative members have been talking a lot about agriculture since we returned, and the opposition leader has spoken in favour of our supply management system in the past. I would imagine, or at least I would hope, that his party will also support our request.
How about the government?
I listened carefully to the statement the minister made on December 3 at the Union des producteurs agricoles congress in Quebec City. The minister was trying to reassure farmers under supply management and guarantee that his government would protect the system and not give away any new market shares. I can only assume that the government will agree to enact legislation that will truly protect our supply management system.
If that is indeed the case, we will have a very strong consensus in the House and our supply management system will forever be off the table in future international negotiations. This is of vital importance. Mercosur negotiations and the likelihood of Brexit are forcing us to move faster. I am urging all MPs to act swiftly.
I would also like to talk about the recent propane crisis, which had a very negative impact on the agricultural sector. After a year of terrible weather, a late, rainy spring and early snows and winter, the sector was hit by the CN strike. The 2019 season was bad enough for grain producers, and all those factors made it even worse.
The propane supply was interrupted from day one. The company gave no notice. Producers were left with silos full of wet grain they could not dry and snowy fields they could not harvest. They had no choice but to watch the grain rot in the fields because they did not have fuel to dry it.
This situation is unacceptable. The Bloc Québécois called for action from the start. We wanted CN to make shipping propane a priority so farmers would get the supply they need. The service interruption doomed many crops.
According to Mr. Overbeek, the president of Producteurs de grain du Québec, many businesses will not make it through 2019. On top of that, when rail service resumed, farmers were subject to an unconscionable increase in the cost of propane. It is disgusting to see one industry profit while another suffers. On Saturday, farmers in Saint-Barthélemy, in Berthier—Maskinongé, told me about all of the problems they have faced this year and struggled to control their emotions. Some are still trying to salvage some of the grain by harvesting it at night, because the conditions are better. A number of them have given up. Our grain farmers need a sign. They need real action to know that their elected officials support them.
The federal government has little control over the price of propane. However, we must take action when possible. In the short term, we are talking about compensation. Will the federal government commit to follow the Government of Quebec's lead and show our farmers some extraordinary support, in light of the exceptional crisis they have just experienced?
Long-term action is needed as well. Is the government prepared to reflect on how it can guarantee farmers a basic energy supply? We in the Bloc Québécois believe that what our farmers went through was unacceptable and must never happen again. We need to take steps.
The subject of our relations with China has come up in this debate. In that case too, farmers are getting shafted. Pork exports have recovered, but our farmers suffered major losses they will have to be compensated for. We also believe that an emergency fund should be established to support any farm sector that is affected by future diplomatic crises. Our canola farmers have also been hit hard. We need to help them.
We must bear in mind that other countries do not hesitate to support their farmers. That gives foreign farmers an unfair advantage over ours. We should also ask ourselves what kind of support we can offer to our cattle farmers. With regard to the transportation standards that are set to take effect in February, the minister has announced a two-year delay before penalties are enforced.
We should use that time to think about how we can help our farmers and establish reasonable standards that do not jeopardize our agriculture industry.
There were a few other topics I wanted to address, but I will wind up my remarks now and come back to them in my answers. The agriculture industry has been under a lot of strain over the past few years. Rural folks need help and recognition. They need us. We must never forget that agriculture not only provides our food supply and our food sovereignty, in other words, our security, but also ensures the full, dynamic use of our land.
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