Madam Speaker, as this is my first time rising for a debate, I want to begin by thanking the people of my riding, Repentigny, who put their trust in me once again last October. I hope to be worthy of their trust.
I will address two aspects of this debate, namely dairy producers and, of course, aluminum.
I will talk about the lack of consideration for the dairy farmers of Quebec from a completely different perspective than people might expect. That perspective is necessary because we have to find solutions. This is imperative.
I will start by reminding hon. members that Quebec's dairy producers are resilient. They live and breathe their work 365 days a year. They look after their herd, invest in their facilities and prepare the next generation. It is not easy, because the economic outlook is something of a concern.
I invite hon. members to put the numbers aside and give a thought to the human dimension of the consequences of agreements on a top-notch nourishing industry.
The member for Mégantic—L'Érable and the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food came to a sad conclusion in the summer of 2019. They heard testimony from artisanal farmers and agricultural producers who were struggling and facing real psychological distress. If you know what rural areas are like, you know that people in the regions help each other and work together. However, when pressures, obligations and constraints increase, but protections disappear, distress is inevitable.
Would it be fair to think that, since the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food launched a campaign acknowledging that the agricultural industry is struggling, the agreement should work along the same lines instead of causing the industry any additional distress?
In Quebec, the Au cœur des familles agricoles organization has been instrumental in this area for 10 years now. Since 2016, in collaboration with the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention and the Union des producteurs agricoles, the organization has trained 1,200 industry workers to recognize psychological distress in farmers and direct them to specialized resources.
As we have said in the House, supply management is an economic model that suits Quebec well. It goes well with our culture. This economic and trade model is what allows for stability and predictability, which was exactly what the agriculture industry asked for during negotiations for this new agreement.
In its current form, CUSMA's provisions and economic repercussions for Quebec's dairy industry are troubling. The Bloc Québécois strongly believes we must condemn all of the harms that our dairy farmers will suffer. We will never stop demanding that this government and the House respect Quebec, and we will never stop calling for consistency and integrity on this file.
We have been doing this for two months now, but I will now set the record straight yet again on the aluminum industry's position on CUSMA.
The House has repeatedly heard that Jean Simard, the president and CEO of the Aluminium Association of Canada, agreed with the current CUSMA. However, Mr. Simard made his position clear to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance yesterday. My colleague from Joliette asked him straight out whether he would rather have had an agreement like the one the steel sector got. Mr. Simard answered that that was what the association had asked for and was about to get, thanks to the efforts of Ms. Freeland and her team. However, at the end of the negotiations, Mexico said yes to steel but no to aluminum for strategic reasons.
Mr. Simard gave the committee an honest answer. We know that a committee involves multiple stakeholders, detailed questions and background work, since members take the time to study the topic being debated by the committee. Mr. Simard's candid answers clearly show that the aluminum industry was hoping to get the same protections as the steel sector.
Where in Canada is there a dynamic aluminum industry with tremendous potential for expansion? Where has this industry been creating jobs for decades, well-paying jobs that allow workers to develop professionally, start a family in their region, and in turn, contribute to the regional economic vitality that all levels of government so desperately want?
Well, that place is Quebec.
CUSMA proposes an economic free trade model that will allow aluminum from China to flood the North American market via Mexico. That is what we have been saying over and over for months now.
Parts manufacturing should be done within partner countries under the agreement. However, unlike steel, the metal used for manufacturing could come from anywhere. Mr. Simard was very clear on that point in committee yesterday.
What we want to hear from the government is simply a statement from the Prime Minister along the same lines as what he said the night of his election victory.
Here is what he said: “Dear Quebeckers, I heard your message tonight. You want to continue to go forward with us, but you also want to ensure that the voice of Quebec can be heard even more in Ottawa. And I can tell you that my team and I will be there for you.”
Were those words meaningless, forgotten as soon as they were said?
The Bloc Québécois wants to work in a proactive and practical way to help Quebec's aluminum industry and obtain fair results. We want to work with the government to find solutions. We refuse to accept that this agreement is already settled and that it must absolutely be signed.
The conditions currently set out in CUSMA regarding this industry will cause serious harm to thousands of Quebec workers and Quebec's economy. Since I am our party's environment critic, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the absolutely essential manufacturing process used by the aluminum plants in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region.
Alcoa and Rio Tinto chose the Arvida aluminum plant to establish a research and development centre called Elysis, valued at over $550 million. Together, they will develop all of the technology needed to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions in the production of aluminum and produce pure oxygen. Does the Prime Minister remember when that project was unveiled? He was at the project launch in 2018.
The aluminum industry is not only changing and developing its potential with a clean, renewable and nationally-owned source of energy, but it is also producing aluminum using a zero-emission technology developed in Quebec. How many inconsistencies must we point out before the government does the right thing?
Since I am running out of time, I will not talk about the importance of concrete action to reduce GHG emissions. The aluminum industry is on the right track, and I encourage members of the House to review this issue and be honest with their caucuses about what I am saying.
Let me be clear: The Bloc Québécois is not against free trade. Nevertheless, we believe that, in any trade or other relationship, the parties must communicate, be open, negotiate and make compromises. It would be disingenuous to argue that Quebec's economy was not ignored in the CUSMA negotiations. I gave two examples of that. Members of the House of Commons who claim it was not ignored are, in my opinion, acting in bad faith or are misinformed on the agreement.
We will not ignore what industry representatives are telling us. They came to Parliament Hill last week. During the election period, Quebeckers voted for a voice that would raise their concerns here, in this chamber. That is exactly what we are doing and that is exactly what we will continue to do.