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View Julie Vignola Profile
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.
View Julie Vignola Profile
View Julie Vignola Profile
2020-02-06 12:32 [p.1014]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question.
As I said at the start of my speech, some aspects are interesting. Still, the fact remains that reducing the amount of powder that our farmers are allowed to sell is, in my opinion and in the opinion of the producers I know, an unacceptable and dangerous violation.
Canada is setting a precedent that could benefit the United States. We need be careful about that.
View Caroline Desbiens Profile
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.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill.
I would like to take a moment to thank the managers at the Montérégie-Ouest CISSS. When I was part of the management team overseeing senior support services, they gave me a chance to fulfill my passion and my dream and put the right conditions in place for me to do the work that I am doing right now in the House of Commons. I want to thank all the managers who made it possible for me to enter politics. These female managers enabled a woman to enter politics. They walked the talk.
That was a short digression to say that I am very pleased to rise. Quite frankly, what I am really interested in today is talking about the situation affecting dairy producers. What we have seen, and this has been mentioned on numerous occasions, is that there are always winners and losers when a trade agreement is signed. It is important to recognize what the losers are losing. It is important that they have a voice and that we understand them. We need to debate these issues among parliamentarians. The Bloc Québécois intends to debate these issues for as long as possible and to continue the debate in committee so that all the witnesses, individuals, companies and industries that want to have a say about this agreement have the opportunity to do so.
In the latest trade agreements, Quebeckers have been the big losers. In the agreement that we are debating today, we are talking about the aluminum industry, a key industry for Quebec, as well as the supply managed industry. All dairy, turkey, chicken and other poultry producers were victims of the agreement.
Over 3% of our market will be open to American dairy products, which represents an annual loss of around $150 million. It is not just one loss in one year. For Quebec's dairy farmers, it is a market lost for life.
I represent a riding where more than half the dairy farms in Montérégie-Ouest are in my riding, Salaberry—Sûroit. Among the 237 farms in the Beauharnois-Salaberry, Haut-Saint-Laurent and Vaudreuil-Soulanges RCMs, half are dairy farms in the Montérégie-Ouest area. I must point out that our farmers are entrepreneurs, business people who are passionate about agriculture and who generate revenue and economic activity in our communities.
In my research I found part of a speech on protecting supply management that I delivered in 2006. Even then I was quite clear about the fact that we need to stop thinking that agricultural producers are not business people. They contribute to revitalizing our rural communities. They support local garages, convenience stores, grocery stores, mechanics, and the list goes on. Many businesses in our rural communities rely on farming activity. In my opinion, it is important to emphasize that these are businesses that generate major economic activity.
I will admit that I have a soft spot for dairy producers. All members in the House know that Quebec and Canada produce higher-quality milk. In Quebec, dairy producers have stringent standards with respect to the environment and animal well-being. Traceability standards are also quite strict. Quebec's traceability system is very effective, which means that we produce very high-quality milk. Unfortunately, this milk will end up competing in markets against milk produced under different and, we can only assume, lesser standards.
The trade agreements that were negotiated and ratified after 2011, when the Bloc Québécois ended up with fewer members in the House of Commons, were clearly more harmful for Quebec. One example is the free trade agreement with Europe. I was shocked to see that Quebec cheeses had been sacrificed. Quebec has some excellent cheeses. We have 300 different cheeses.
My colleague's riding of Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix is a remarkable place where you will find the best Quebec cheeses.
Quebec's cheese producers were sacrificed because Quebec produces 70% of Canada's fine cheeses. Many cheese producers told us that this agreement affects them because our market will be flooded with European cheese.
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership created the first breach in supply management by opening up 3.25% of our dairy market.
Supply management is so important to us and we speak so much about it because for us it is the basis for Quebec's agricultural model, which we are really proud of.
Like all Bloc members, I have great aspirations for Quebec. We hope that one day it will take its place at the table of nations and be master of its own destiny. A strong Quebec with farm businesses that have a strong presence, are profitable and have solid ties to their community is important to us. We must maintain this highly developed agricultural model that is so uniquely ours and reflects our character as Quebeckers.
We know that dairy farmers were compensated for this year, but they are worried because they do not know what will happen in the years to come. As someone said earlier, when dairy markets are lost, it is not only for a year; it is forever. It is therefore important for farmers to understand what will happen next year.
The government appears hesitant to implement a program that farmers would have to qualify for, much like what the Conservatives did with the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
Our message is clear, and we will repeat it to the government when it presents the budget. We absolutely insist that dairy farmers must be compensated directly, as they were this year, for the duration of the compensation agreement. We do not want a program that farmers have to qualify for, a complicated program with more red tape. That is the last thing farmers need. They need to be financially compensated in the simplest way possible, as they were this year.
It would be unfortunate not to address the whole issue and challenge of milk proteins. I am not sure whether those watching our debate at home understand that the issue of milk proteins is threatening our dairy sector.
In Canada and the United States, milk consumption has gone down while consumption of butter, cream and ice cream has gone up. Processors are like everyone else. They want to make these products for less. That is why they are interested in buying milk ingredients for less from the United States.
Under the old agreement, our market was flooded with milk proteins from American diafiltered milk. In response to pressure from the Bloc Québécois and other parliamentarians, the government finally created a new milk class, class 7, that provides some protection to our processors so they will source dairy protein from our own dairy producers and stop buying it from American producers.
Naturally, the U.S. government was not pleased. In negotiations, it demanded that Canada get rid of class 7 so American protein could once more flood our market and threaten our dairy producers yet again.
I see two big problems with this agreement. In two very clear instances, the government failed supply management. First, it opened up a significant chink, and second, it took away class 7, which enabled our producers to work with processors to find an outlet for their inexpensive milk.
Dairy producers know they can count on the Bloc Québécois to vigorously advocate for them, because we believe that a country without agriculture is not a real country.
View Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Profile
Mr. Speaker, as we saw yesterday, the first bill was passed with the support of all parties in the House except for the Bloc Québécois. That does not mean that we are against free trade and openness to trade, far from it.
In fact, if we look at Quebec's history, the separatist movement has nothing to prove in that regard. The great economists, who were also some of the greatest statesmen of modern Quebec, such as Bernard Landry and Jacques Parizeau, were the fathers of free trade in Quebec. We need not be lectured about that. It would be in extreme bad faith to accuse us of being opposed to trade with other countries.
Nevertheless, that did not prevent Jacques Parizeau from opposing certain agreements. We had to vote against the agreement as presented yesterday for somewhat similar reasons. There seemed to be more arguments against than for. This is politics, not religion. Just because this agreement has a free trade label on it does not necessarily mean that it will get our vote, if it has negative impacts.
Sure, the agreement has some positives and we wish we could have supported it. Some real progress has been made, compared to the old NAFTA. However—and I think that the outcome and the policy positions show exactly why the Bloc is necessary—we represent Quebec, and Quebec is getting the short end of the stick with this agreement in many respects.
Some significant concessions were made, and this came up earlier in some of the questions that were asked. Quebec is bearing the brunt of these concessions, as usual. This agreement contains two deal breakers in particular. First, it undermines our agricultural model, which relies heavily on supply management. Once again, the dairy industry is an example of that. Second, it significantly hinders our aluminum industry's future prospects. This industry is Quebec's second-largest exporter and is a jewel in the crown of our economy.
Our aluminum industry shines for its small carbon footprint. Some even call it carbon neutral, and my colleagues from Saguenay—Lac-St-Jean would know about that. This agreement benefits Chinese aluminum, which would literally flood the North American market through Mexico. A great deal of carbon pollution is created in manufacturing this aluminum.
We are working very hard to force the government to take into account Quebec's interests, which it bargained away during the negotiations. That is our job as parliamentarians and our mission for the immediate future. We are reaching out to the government so that it will work with us to find ways to limit the harm it is causing to the aluminum industry and dairy farmers. As members know, we proposed a way to improve the agreement without having to open it completely. That does not mean that we will not do our job in committee by asking questions and trying to take the agreement in a better direction. Nevertheless, we suggested an approach that would not require opening the agreement.
If the government finds a way to limit the harm that the agreement will cause our dairy industry and to protect our aluminum smelters, particularly against Chinese dumping, then we will be pleased to support the next steps. That is what we want for Quebec.
The government started speaking about openness the very evening it was elected. We have also heard about openness in this debate. However, openness goes both ways. We are willing to negotiate and discuss, but we will not compromise our principles.
Let's talk first about the key sectors of the Quebec economy that are threatened by this agreement. We believe that supply-managed products are a non-negotiable item, yet the government undermined protections for these products when it gave the Americans oversight over our trade practices.
We also believe that the aluminum industry is a non-negotiable item, yet the government agreed to allow Chinese aluminum to flood the North American market by going through Mexico.
Obviously, the government did not stand up for Quebec with the same vigour as it did for Ontario and western Canada. We cannot support the bill to ratify the CUSMA as it stands.
That is why we want the government to co-operate with us and take Quebec's needs into account.
Let's start with aluminum. Canadian and U.S. courts determined that Chinese aluminum was being dumped. That is not our allegation; it is the courts' finding. Unfortunately, as we all know, dumping is common, unfair and illegal. Canada and the United States both impose anti-dumping tariffs. Mexico, however, has no aluminum smelters, so it does not impose anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese aluminum.
As written, the agreement makes it possible for Chinese aluminum to flood the North American market, even though Canada and the United States have protective anti-dumping tariffs. Chinese aluminum is simply processed in Mexico, circumventing the protections we put in place. For free trade to be truly free and profitable for all, it must make unfair trade practices such as dumping impossible.
We also want to minimize our dairy producers' losses. In addition to opening up 3% of the Canadian market to American producers, CUSMA will make it harder for our producers to sell their milk protein to processors. As a result, American diafiltered milk imports could skyrocket, which is an ongoing issue we have been talking about for years.
As drafted, the agreement gives the Americans oversight into all our milk protein exports outside North America. Having a provision like this in a trade agreement is unheard of and it has the potential to completely destroy the dairy industry. We are trying to raise the main concerns with that aspect of the agreement.
I want to come back to aluminum to recap. Under NAFTA, automobile and truck manufacturers are under no obligation to buy North American steel and aluminum. Under the terms of the new CUSMA, 70% of the aluminum and steel bought by car and truck manufacturers has to originate from North America. To qualify as originating from North America, the steel and aluminum will have to undergo significant processing in North America.
On December 10, 2019, the three negotiating parties of the agreement signed a protocol of amendment to CUSMA. The protocol states that seven years after entry into force, steel purchased by manufacturers will have to be refined and cast in North America. That is the rub. There is no such provision for Quebec's aluminum. The amendment also states that 10 years after entry into force of this agreement, the parties will review the appropriate requirements in the interest of the parties so that aluminum can be considered as originating from North America.
Groupe Performance Stratégique, or GPS, examined the absence of a definition for aluminum similar to the definition included for steel in the protocol of amendment, and the economic impact this will have on Quebec between 2020 and 2029. According to GPS, the absence of this definition will jeopardize six major projects on the North Shore and in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, in other words, the heart of Quebec's aluminum sector. The authors explained that Mexico can continue to transform primary aluminum purchased at a very low price from China or elsewhere and export it to the United States.
I am pleased that my colleagues from Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean are here for the debate, because those six projects involve construction investments worth about $6.2 billion. I am sure everyone would agree that that is a lot of money. Between 2020 and 2029, if you add up the combined economic impact of the development and construction phases of the six projects, we are talking about investments worth $12.2 billion and 60,000 jobs created, at an average salary of $59,775.
These projects would generate revenues of more than $900 million for the Government of Quebec and almost $325 million for the Government of Canada. These projects would also produce 829,000 new tons of the greenest aluminum on the planet.
As we have been told repeatedly by the government, nothing in the former NAFTA protected the aluminum sector. We agree. This addition may look like progress, yet that is exactly where the problem lies. They are mixing up aluminum parts and aluminum. My colleague from Lac-Saint-Jean just talked about that. Why is aluminum, a Quebec product, not being offered the same protection as steel, which is a product of other provinces? That is where the problem lies and I will say that we are going to stand firm on this issue.
The definition of steel is clear. It includes the entire process, from melting, to mixing to coating. This will come into effect in seven years. Auto and parts manufacturers will have time to switch suppliers and to start purchasing North American steel. That is all very well and good. We have no problems with that at all.
However, a definition for “originating good” was not adopted for aluminum. Back in 2018, since there was no definition, the agreement was nothing more than a statement of intent that essentially allows automobile and parts manufacturers to get their primary aluminum wherever they want.
I should point out that Canada is the only of the three signatory countries for which protection against Chinese dumping is a real issue. In Quebec, it is imperative. For parts manufacturers in Ontario, this will be more of a long-term issue, which may explain why the government is so reluctant to deal with it.
Now, I want to talk about dairy farmers. Quebec needs a strong voice standing up for it, and we hope to be that strong voice. As members know, supply management is extremely important in Quebec, but less so in the rest of Canada. This is what makes us different as a people, as a nation. This is why we will not compromise on this.
Since 2001, which, coincidentally is the same time when the Bloc lost its recognized party status, there have been three breaches in supply management. When the Bloc had power, there were no breaches in supply management. Once again, this very fact demonstrates why we need to be here.
The Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement, or CUSMA, opens up a new breach in supply management that will take away more than 3% of our dairy market, which amounts to a loss of about $150 million a year, every year. The government announced that there would be full compensation. Let us be clear about the nature of that compensation. It is out of the question for this support to come in the form of a modernization program, like the fiasco that happened in 2018 with the European agreement. We are demanding a direct support program, starting with the next budget. That is what farmers are calling for. We will not budge on this either.
One issue that is not getting much attention, but that has the potential to destabilize the industry, is milk protein. Consumers in both Canada and the United States are drinking less milk but eating more butter, cream, cheese and ice cream. This leaves dairy farmers with surplus protein to dispose of. The Canadian International Trade Tribunal ruled in 2006 that above a certain concentration, these proteins became so denatured that they could no longer be considered dairy products and were therefore no longer subject to supply management, the existing laws that prohibit cross-border imports. The American agrochemical industry has developed milk protein concentrates designed specifically to circumvent supply management and enable U.S. farmers to dump their surplus into the Canadian market at lower prices than our farmers can afford to sell for. In Canada, the price paid to farmers is regulated by the Canadian Dairy Commission, as we know. However, imports of diafiltered milk, which does not even deserve to be called milk, have simply skyrocketed.
From zero in 2008, they shot up to 20,000 kilograms in 2014 and 33,000 kilograms in 2015, and they probably would have kept rising.
To solve the problem, farmers came to an agreement with processors on a price that would enable them to switch from American diafiltered milk to our domestic surplus protein. Their agreement was endorsed by Ottawa, the Canadian Dairy Commission, the provinces and the marketing boards.
Canada created a new class of dairy products, surplus protein, that could be sold at a low price. It was commonly known as class 7. Imports of diafiltered milk collapsed, prompting a flurry of irate tweets from U.S. President Trump, who promised to solve the problem during the renegotiation of NAFTA, as members may recall.
In CUSMA, the Americans insisted on spelling out in black and white that Canada would abolish class 7, and Ottawa agreed. To make sure that the class was not revived under a different name, they demanded that they get a say in Canada's protein trade. This whole section of the agreement is deeply disappointing to farmers, but sadly, with a certain sense of resignation, they are giving up the fight. They are not asking the government to push back on this. What they are asking for is a little time to adjust, as much time as is necessary and reasonable.
The government's eagerness to hastily ratify this agreement could cause a lot of harm. Let us take our time on a debate like this one. Let us not rush through this or there will be collateral victims.
Right now, our dairy farmers are selling some of their surplus milk protein concentrates on international markets, for example, in Asia and the Middle East.
The wording of CUSMA regarding the trade of protein concentrates seems to give the United States a say in all of our exports. Washington could decide to limit the quantity of protein concentrates that our farmers can sell to third country markets. Depending on how this CUSMA provision is interpreted, Washington could limit the quantity of protein concentrates that our farmers have the right to sell to the rest of the world. This would enable the Americans to get rid of a competitor on global markets at very little cost. It is a first in the history of international trade to give a foreign country oversight over our trade with the rest of the world. It basically hands over a part of Canada's sovereignty to Washington.
Our producers are likely to end up with huge surpluses of milk solids they cannot sell, which would totally destabilize the system. As written, CUSMA makes that catastrophic scenario a possibility, but the wording is unclear. We need clarity about things like that before we can support the agreement.
Fortunately, there will be a process to debate it. We are perfectly willing to do our job as parliamentarians with the government and the other opposition parties, but let me make it clear that some things are off the table. We are willing to compromise, but not to be compromised.
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