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View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
View Yves Perron Profile
2020-03-11 16:54 [p.1954]
Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois has always been in favour of free trade. The free market allows for growth that would never be possible in a closed market. Quebec needs free trade agreements to help all of its economic sectors grow and innovate.
For example, after the original NAFTA was implemented in 1994, exports of Canadian fruits and vegetables and fresh fruit to Mexico and the United States increased by 396%. The majority of the exports were to the United States. It is essential that we retain this access.
The new CUSMA will ensure that businesses have continued access to the American market, and it will have benefits for many producers. We recognize that. Some producers will come out on top, in particular grain producers. The improved definition of grain is a positive.
A few minutes ago, my NDP colleague mentioned eliminating the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. That is another positive. A number of organizations are therefore calling for this agreement to be ratified quickly.
However, there are some sectors that do not benefit from the agreement. They sometimes benefit very little, or not at all, yet they are the economic mainstay of our rural areas, the pillars that support the dynamic use of our vast land. Like culture, these sectors may need an exception. As members may have guessed, I am, of course, talking about our supply management sectors.
We in the Bloc are working constructively and will be long remembered for the solutions we proposed for the aluminum industry. In fact, our Conservative colleague just mentioned that. At some point, the same thing must be done for the sectors under supply management, but we first need to focus on when the agreement will be ratified.
In this agreement, Canada agreed to allow the United States to restrict its exports to third countries. That is unprecedented. We are talking, of course, about milk by-products. I think members are starting to realize that. Milk by-products, such as milk proteins, powdered milk and infant formula, are restricted. Approximately 110,000 tonnes of these products were exported in 2019. The Trump administration managed to include a provision that limits these exports to 55,000 tonnes the first year and 35,000 tonnes the second year. That is unbelievable.
Not only is our dairy sector already losing 3.9% of the market, but all supply-managed sectors are losing market share. Furthermore, restrictions placed on our farmers make it difficult for them to make up their losses by exporting their surplus solid protein to third countries.
Something will eventually have to be done about this, but the first step is to make sure the agreement is ratified after May 1. If the agreement is ratified in April, the clause explains that the agreement will enter into force on the first day of the third month. That means it would enter into force in July.
If the agreement is ratified in May, however, it would enter into force in August. That would make a world of difference, and people need to realize that. The dairy production year starts on August 1. If the agreement starts on July 1, that means the first year of the agreement will only be a month long. Farmers will only have a month to export the 55,000 tonnes. It makes no sense. That is why we have to make sure the agreement is ratified after May 1.
This will not delay the implementation of the agreement, and I am not suggesting that we postpone the ratification of CUSMA until after this session. That is not the issue. The issue is to make sure the agreement enters into force after August 1 so that farmers can start recouping their losses. We will see what we can do after that. Everyone knows that the Bloc Québécois can be creative. We will need to find a solution to this harmful and unacceptable clause.
On another note, we were pleased to read in the news that dairy farmers have begun receiving compensation. Everybody is happy, even the farmers, although it would have made them prouder to produce milk and feed Canadians, which is all they really wanted.
However, certain sectors are still not getting compensation. They are the supply-managed sectors, including the poultry, turkey, hatching egg and table egg sectors.
Representatives of those organizations acted in good faith and were very patient. They sat down with government representatives and presented their numbers. They reached an agreement on the amount of compensation needed last April. This is now March, so it has been almost a year. Nothing has happened since, no sign of anything. There were some meetings last summer, in July and August, maybe because our Liberal Party colleagues wanted to make a campaign announcement. That certainly helps, but nothing ever came of it.
What is holding up this file? Unlike people in the dairy sector, who asked for cash compensation, people in these sectors are asking for compensation in the form of innovation programs and infrastructure upgrades. They also want the option to run a marketing and promotional campaign and funding to support it. It varies from one sector to the next. I listed the four earlier.
I have a question for the House. Is the Government of Canada in the best position to know exactly what each of those sectors needs? Would it not make more sense to give people in those sectors the right to say what they want, what their needs are and what, in their opinion, will help their industries stay competitive and ensure their long-term viability? I think the answer is self-evident: it is up to the people in those sectors to decide.
People in those sectors do not understand. The Bloc Québécois does not understand why there is never any progress. The budget will be tabled soon. We would like to see some numbers. We want to see numbers for this. We want to know what the budget for this is. The government promised compensation for all supply-managed sectors. Settling matters with dairy producers is good, but dairy is just one of five supply-managed sectors, which means there are still four more. We want answers that demonstrate respect for the people working in those sectors, compensation that offsets losses and is comparable to what dairy producers got.
During questions and comments I would like people from the Liberal Party to tell me where we are on this file, because there are some people who are a bit anxious, who are waiting and have concerns. Yesterday, I met with representatives of these sectors, together with my distinguished colleague from Joliette. We want answers. Today, I am asking for answers.
Once this compensation has been paid, we will have to reflect collectively on the importance of these supply-managed industries to the economy, to our rural areas and to the dynamic use of the land. We have to understand the direct impacts these farms have as part of our supply management system, that is, in a protected market that allows us to have quality products, stable income, and food security. We also have to understand the secondary impact on industries that supply goods to these people.
Representatives of these supply-managed sectors told me something that I quite liked, and I want to share it with you. They told me that they are thought of as privileged, when in fact they indirectly pay the rent of the vendors and purchasers they do business with and they provide stability to the economy, a stability that also translates into food security.
The system is already seeing signs of neglect. I hope no one in the House would dare say that the Canadian market is protected. Once the agreement is implemented, 18% of the market will have been ceded to foreign producers. If that is considered a closed market, then I would like to know what an open one is. I think that the supply-managed sectors have done their fare share and it is high time we had legislation to protect them.
We are happy to hear the government's promises. It has assured us that it will not back down and it will be watching Brexit and Mercosur very closely. Still, the government has made similar promises in the past. Unfortunately, public confidence wavers when the government breaks its word. The public then demands more guarantees. Those who made verbal promises but did not keep them are asked to put their promises down on paper and sign them. This paper can then be brought out again. In this case, the paper I am referring to is the bill that my colleague and I introduced to protect supply management.
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