Thank you, Madam Chair.
Madam Chair, members of the committee, I am very excited to be here today. What is happening is historic: this is the first time this kind of bill has been introduced. We are here in committee to debate it, and I hope our debate will show how important it is to vote for it.
Bill C‑216 is ultimately very simple. It would add to the powers, duties and functions of the Minister of Foreign Affairs the obligation to defend the supply management system fully by removing the minister's authority to negotiate those principles in future international trade negotiations. The minister would thus have no authority to sign a treaty under which tariff rate quotas would be increased for supply-managed goods or to reduce the tariff applicable where imports exceed the set tariff rate.
It is strange that Bill C‑216 should be so controversial since it has received unanimous consent on several occasions since my former colleague André Bellavance first introduced it in the House of Commons on November 22, 2005.
Since then, following every free trade agreement, the Bloc Québécois has sought to confirm Parliament's support for supply management by introducing motions for unanimous consent. On every occasion, members have supported those motions, and, every time, the government flip-flopped and did the opposite. Hence the importance of including these provisions in an act rather than a motion.
On September 26, 2017, during the NAFTA negotiations, the Bloc Québécois introduced a motion urging the government to protect markets subject to supply management. However, little more than a year later, on November 30, 2018, the government reneged on its promise and signed CUSMA, which would replace NAFTA.
On February 7, 2018, during negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, we introduced a motion seeking protection for the supply management system under that agreement. One month later, on March 8, 2018, the government once again went back on its word and signed the new treaty.
Then, on the last day of debate on third reading of Bill C‑79, An Act to implement the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Bloc requested and obtained parliamentarians' unanimous consent for the government to pay full compensation to supply-managed producers for the breaches contained in the three agreements. That was on October 5, 2018, and compensation was subsequently provided in part.
Lastly, on March 10 of this year, a majority of members from all parties voted in favour of the principle of Bill C‑216, which is even more significant than a motion.
I would simply like to remind members of the committee of what a vote on second reading means from a procedural standpoint. When members rise in the House to support the adoption of a bill on second reading, they are supporting the principle of the bill, by which I mean its idea and general scope. As members of the committee, you are therefore bound by that vote. According to the 2000 edition of Marleau and Montpetit's House of Commons Procedure and Practice, chapter 16, "If the bill has already received second reading, the committee is bound by the decision of the House and may not amend the bill contrary to its principle."
Consequently, we are not here to debate the pros and cons of supply management; the principle has already been adopted in the House. We are here to consider whether Canada should protect certain segments of its agriculture industry from foreign competition based on the rules of the World Trade Organization's agreements because, I would remind you, the supply management system complies with those rules.
Nor are we here to consider whether we have a right to do so. We already know. Provisions were set forth in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the GATT, before the WTO was even established.
Furthermore, many countries have invoked those provisions. We are not the only ones protecting certain goods. Everyone does it, even the United States, which criticizes us, because, since it has always been protected, it wants to invade what remains of our milk, egg and poultry markets.
From what do we ultimately want to protect our products? First of all, we want to protect them from unfair competition. Our main partner, the United States, violates many international trade rules while demanding more access from us. They subsidize their farmers illegally to the tune of several billions of dollars a year, which lowers producers' production costs and enables them to sell their goods locally and elsewhere at lower prices, which is strictly prohibited by the WTO. It constantly challenges aspects of our agricultural and forestry policies, as we recently saw in the softwood lumber and milk quotas cases, despite previous decisions by the WTO's Dispute Settlement Body. It is one of the most protectionist countries in the G20, but one of those most demanding of market access.
Other agreements are currently under negotiation, notably the agreement with Mercosur, which consists of Latin American countries, and other agreements will inevitably be discussed.
Incidentally, the first 16 free trade agreements Canada signed never addressed supply management in any way. So it's possible to discuss trade without involving supply management.
The supply management system has been vastly weakened by the latest concessions made by supply-managed sectors, which will now have to reorganize. We can't allow the United States or any other countries to force us to abandon our agricultural policies and practices.
I don't know what you think, but I think it's utterly ridiculous for one state to tell another what it's entitled import or export and at what price. And yet that's what's happening under the new NAFTA.
Quebec and Canada are exporter nations. That's undeniable; this has absolutely nothing to do with increasing protectionism. What we want is to be able to maintain a system that has proven itself for nearly 50 years and that still delivers reasonable revenues throughout the production chain, supports families in our regions and enables us to use our land.
Canada, as it should, has diversified policies and strategies to enable producers to live off the land and feed our people in accordance with the agricultural model they choose. Supply-managed producers, and even the entire agricultural sector, whether it be the Canadian Federation of Agriculture or the Union des producteurs agricoles, are simply asking us to preserve their agricultural model.
I will now be pleased to answer questions from members of the committee.