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View Caroline Desbiens Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Speaker, I have been listening to the House debate on CUSMA for a few weeks now.
The Bloc Québécois promised to speak on behalf of Quebeckers here in the House, to ensure that our people, our industries and our investors are represented, heard, protected and served in this Parliament. Quebeckers make significant economic, social, cultural and environmental contributions to Quebec and to the world.
It is for that very reason that I am rising in the House today. It seems clear to me, based on our debates and the results, that Quebec is Canada's favourite bargaining chip to use in economic negotiations with the United States and Mexico. That is obvious. The clean aluminum that Quebec is so proud of will probably be sacrificed in this agreement.
How many times have we shown our colleagues opposite how disastrous this will be for Quebec's economy? A serious, in-depth study showed that this could cause Quebec's aluminum sector to suffer more than $6 billion in actual financial losses. The federal government has not proposed any economic studies on the new provisions in the agreement. We, along with the Conservatives, are still waiting.
Let me also suggest something to think about. Try to imagine how angry Ontarians would have been if the steel sector had been sacrificed instead of Quebec's aluminum sector. Would Ontario have reacted with diligence and resilience, agreeing to sacrifice a large part of its steel economy with the virtuous idea that what is good for Canada must take precedence over what is good for Ontario? I highly doubt it.
That is not the case, since Quebec is making the sacrifices. This clearly shows why Canada is so keen on keeping Quebec in its ranks. An independent and sovereign Quebec would deprive Canada of an important and valuable bargaining chip to use in negotiating economic agreements like CUSMA.
I come from the hospitality industry, where food services only exist because of farmers and dairy producers. Just think of the famous and delicious Migneron, Fleurmier and Saint-Fidèle cheeses, as well as the tasty Paillasson de l'Isle d'Orléans. I encourage hon. members to sample them if they have the opportunity.
Quebec no longer takes second place to anyone in terms of quality of agricultural produce. Organic farming, another source of great pride for Quebec, is also a growing industry. In my constituency, 37 small and medium-sized dairy operations are prospering because of supply management. For many of the crown jewels of Quebec's agricultural economy, this ingenious system has proved its usefulness again and again.
Supply management is great for Quebec. Not only does it foster balance and regulation in agricultural production, but it also works in harmony with the environment. Supply management encourages consumers to be aware and buy local, thereby reducing the environmental footprint caused by transportation.
Our system is a model for the world, yet Canada persists in knocking major holes in it. Those holes will end up endangering the very foundations of Quebec's economy and our supply management system. All of our success and competitiveness are systematically compromised when the dairy and agricultural sectors are undermined. In macroeconomics, that is known as the ripple effect.
Let's talk about milk, then. Let's talk about two of the loopholes that are hugely important to our dairy producers.
First, there is the elimination of class 7, which was for surplus milk protein. It became a significant economic vector for exports for our dairy farmers. Class 7 allowed farmers to offset losses caused by the influx of massive amounts of American diafiltered milk into the Canadian market.
Worse still, CUSMA gives the Americans control over exports of Canada's milk to other countries. Dairy farmers may end up with surpluses caused by Washington, which reserves the right in CUSMA to limit sales of our dairy protein products to the rest of the world.
Clearly, dairy farmers, 50% of whom are in Quebec, have also been chosen to be part of the sacrifices that Quebec is being forced to make, very much against its will, in order to save NAFTA, now known as CUSMA.
The government is buying their silence with financial compensation. Let's talk about that. What is financial compensation in the context of a dynamic and prosperous economic mechanism complete with development and investment plans that play out over decades?
This is financial compensation for business people. My father, who was a businessman, would say, “Financial compensation? Government subsidies? Those are like band-aids on a wooden leg, my dear.”
Who is going to pay? The agreement will weaken Quebec's economy as a whole in many ways, adversely affecting employment, investment, Quebec's finances and, thus, taxpayers, the same taxpayers who placed their trust in me and my Bloc Québécois colleagues, who hope that we will make the case for what we believe so we can protect Quebec from the Canadian government's lacklustre efforts to stand up for Quebec's interests. The government really wants to use Quebec's major economic levers as bargaining chips in trade treaties like CUSMA. Taxpayers are counting on the Bloc Québécois to ensure that does not happen.
Like my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou, I have met with dairy producers in person. They are bright, proactive, in the know about the best production and marketing strategies. They care about and promote environmental preservation and animal welfare. They are experts on the subject.
I am very proud to be able to sing their praises here. However, what would make me really proud is if the concerns of aluminum workers and dairy farmers were recognized, listened to and taken into account in a fair way in the provisions of the agreement in question.
We are well aware that, even after the agreement is signed, provisions can be put in place to remedy the situation. The government is saying that there will be checks and balances to prevent an abundance of Chinese aluminum from being used in auto parts manufactured in North America. Why are these so-called checks and balances not included in the agreement? Perhaps that is something we could work on.
I am convinced that nothing that we are asking for is impossible if we have a real desire and the creativity needed to come up with clear solutions so that the same people, namely Quebeckers, are not always being penalized. What a great opportunity this could be to stop fuelling the cynicism toward government election promises.
The Bloc Québécois believes in free trade. That position has not changed even though the government is trying hard to lead members to believe the opposite. What does need to change is the bargaining chips used in these agreements.
How are we supposed to believe that all of the measures that have been put in place are for the good of the agreement?
The government is not going to persuade a nation like Quebec to quietly sit back and let it do what it wants to the aluminum and agricultural industries just because it included some provisions protecting Canadian culture.
It is not too late for the government to put its best foot forward. The government has the power to turn the situation around. It is up to the government to show its goodwill and to prove that, this time, it really is listening to Quebec.
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