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View Julie Vignola Profile
BQ (QC)
View Julie Vignola Profile
2020-02-06 12:23 [p.1013]
Madam Speaker, for several days now, we have been discussing CUSMA and its advantages and disadvantages for our economy and our people.
I would like to take a look at it from a slightly different angle to try to make people understand why it is important not to take anything lightly in this matter. It is also important to be open to possible solutions that will help us implement an agreement with a genuine long-term vision, which is not necessarily the case right now.
We have been exporting our products outside Quebec since the era of New France, mercantilism and triangular trade with the French colonies in the Caribbean. Since then, we have never stopped exporting or trying to export our products and expertise. Just think of lumber exports to the markets of Great Britain in the 19th century or John A. Macdonald's reciprocity agreement, which was never really implemented but was the starting point for the FTA in 1989 and NAFTA in 1994.
The world has changed a lot in 25 years. I can understand that we feel the need to have an agreement that is in tune with the times, an agreement that reflects the current economic realities. Over the decades, we have created connections that provide consumers with access to a huge variety of products. The opening up of markets, combined with improvements in transportation and refrigeration, means that we can now have products every day that our parents only saw in their stockings at Christmas. Oranges are one example. Many of us could not imagine a morning without them. Basically, trade agreements are essential to the economies of Quebec and Canada.
In that light, CUSMA continues our history. At the same time, however, CUSMA marks a break with the past. In the past, Canada stood up to the Americans' demand that we abolish supply management. The argument we countered with was simple. If they stopped subsidizing their farmers so that they could sell their products at cost, we might consider opening up supply management.
With CUSMA, supply management takes a hit, yet we have made no demands to put an end to the subsidies to American farmers. Let me take a moment to explain what supply management is. Imagine a pie that represents Canadians' needs for dairy products. That pie is divided up among all producers, so that they can sell their products at a reasonable price, cover their costs and have an income.
Opening up supply management, as the last three agreements have done, means that we are giving a slice of the pie to foreign producers. This means the needs of Quebeckers and Canadians are no longer wholly met by our own producers, but by foreign ones too.
What that means for producers is that they must now divide up about 82% of the income instead of 100%. The situation is problematic for many producers, such as my friend Éric, who comes from a long line of dairy farmers. Now his father is trying to convince him to sell the farm because it is no longer profitable. Éric wants to keep the farm because he loves what he does. It is his life, his passion. He makes ends meet by taking snow removal contracts. He wants to keep his farm and pass it on to his children, who also love taking care of farm animals. Like any good parent, he wants a secure future for his children. CUSMA is putting a wrench in the works for Éric and for hundreds or even thousands of others.
I know very few people who would be able to make ends meet if they took a 20% pay cut today.
Consider this. How many members of this House would be prepared to give 20% of their paycheque to a U.S. senator? I am pretty sure the answer is none.
Nevertheless, that is exactly what CUSMA is imposing on our dairy farmers. The agreement hands over 20% of their income to foreign producers. It is unacceptable, unbearable, almost inhumane to do that to our own people. We need our farmers three times a day.
The concessions on supply management are not the only part of the agreement that break with our past. Canada literally punched a hole in its own economic sovereignty by allowing the U.S. President to decide how much milk protein Canada can sell abroad, besides what is sold to the United States and Mexico.
What is milk protein? It is not complicated. In the butter-making process, there is a by-product called whey that is dried to a powder. That is milk protein. Our producers sell about 55,000 tonnes of it a year.
The U.S. President decided that from now on, our producers should not sell more than 35,000 tonnes. What does that mean for our producers? A tonne sells for around $2,000. Every tonne they sell beyond 35,000 tonnes will be subject to a $540 tax. That is a quarter of the price per tonne.
By signing CUSMA, Canada is giving the United States the right to manage our agricultural economy and once again causing major income losses to our producers.
Once again, I will illustrate my point. Let's say I hold a small garage sale, and every year I sell about 200 items. Suddenly, my neighbour imposes some restrictions and decides what I can sell and for how much. If I sell more than the number he has decided on, I will pay a penalty. Would that be acceptable? As a human being, would I accept my neighbour's conditions? The answer is no. However, that is what we agreed to let the President of the United States do to our economic sovereignty.
I want to remind members that about 50% of Canadian dairy farms are in Quebec, even though Quebec accounts for only 23% of Canada's population, and 30% of the farms are in Ontario. Proportionally, Quebec is the one paying for CUSMA.
Our farmers are precious. Our instinct should be to protect those who are precious to us. In short, it seems that the concept of sovereignty is better known, applied and understood in Quebec than in Canada. Quebec seems to be two steps ahead of Canada when it comes to sovereignty.
We are the ones who should be deciding what is good or bad for our economy, not the President of the United States.
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