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Results: 1 - 15 of 1104
View Christine Normandin Profile
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-06-17 18:11 [p.2520]
Madam Chair, I would like to talk to you about agriculture, which is an issue that matters to me because I grew up in the country.
I am going to go back in time to the month of March, when the crisis started. Technically, we should have voted on a budget in March, but, of course, the crisis happened. That was out of our control. However, what was under our control was how we could have chosen to conduct our parliamentary business.
Technologically speaking, nothing would prevent us from having a committee with a much broader mandate than that of the current Special Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic.
I would like to take a moment to talk about the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons' math. He said that we now have four nice two-hour question periods, so we should be satisfied. Imagine the week's question period as the cherry on the parliamentary sundae. Take away my sundae and give me two cherries, and I might not find that so satisfying.
We were unable to work on a budget. We were also unable to work on tabling private members' bills. If there were a vote on the budget, the Bloc's condition was to ensure that dairy producers would be compensated for the losses caused by a weakened supply management system.
We also intended to table a bill to prevent future breaches in supply management. What is happening is that, given that the CUSMA was ratified a little earlier this year than we hoped, dairy producers have only one month to compensate for a full year of quotas that have been affected. At the very least, losses will total $100 million, excluding future losses.
That is what I wanted to say about agriculture.
With regard to health, Quebec has spent up to $3 billion on health and only $500 million has been provided to help out all of Canada. There has been talk of conditional transfers in the future. There is no guarantee that there will not be a second wave requiring additional money.
I will start with my questions on agriculture as I cannot find any mention in the budget of support for farmers. I would like to know what the government will do for them given that they are having a horrible year and have also incurred losses because of reduced quotas and milk that was dumped.
View Christine Normandin Profile
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-06-17 18:15 [p.2520]
Madam Chair, producers are suffering losses now. They are suffering losses because of the COVID-19 crisis, which resulted in a drop in milk consumption, mainly because of the closure of restaurants and schools. Producers are also suffering losses right now as a result of the ratification of CUSMA, which happened earlier than expected.
I want to know what will happen now that CUSMA has been signed and is already causing losses. I understand that we were talking about the other two agreements and the related compensation, but what is happening now to address the losses related to COVID-19 and CUSMA?
View Marie-Claude Bibeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Chair, we gave dairy farmers exactly what they wanted, which was to increase the loan capacity of the Canadian Dairy Commission by $200 million. Thanks to supply management, the commission is a very experienced organization and perfectly capable of adapting to the situation. The increased loan capacity will enable the commission to buy greater quantities of butter and cheese to compensate for the drop in demand, mainly from restaurants.
View Christine Normandin Profile
View Christine Normandin Profile
2020-06-17 18:16 [p.2521]
Madam Chair, I would be much happier to get money than a credit card. That is what happened in the case of the Canadian Dairy Commission. It got an increase in its line of credit, which is good in a way. However, it is not a direct subsidy and it does not directly cover the losses that dairy producers have suffered. I am not saying that the measure is bad. I am saying that it is insufficient.
I would like to know what direct compensation has been planned for dairy producers that are suffering losses because of COVID-19 and the hasty ratification of CUSMA.
View Marie-Claude Bibeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Chair, I will repeat what we said to dairy producers who were asking us to provide more resources to the Canadian Dairy Commission. It is not a mortgage. In fact, it gives them the possibility of buying additional quantities of milk-based products, namely butter and cheese, store them and resell that cheese and butter at the same price when demand resumes. That is exactly what the producers asked us to do.
Our commitment remains strong when it comes to compensation related to the agreement with the United States.
View Richard Lehoux Profile
View Richard Lehoux Profile
2020-05-13 15:01 [p.2284]
Mr. Speaker, my question is very simple.
The minister mentioned CUSMA, the new agreement with the Americans. There are still some important points to negotiate, in particular with respect to tariff quotas.
We have heard a number of times and in different studies in committee that producers and processors early in the production chain should be allocated as much of these quotas as possible.
I would like to hear the minister's thoughts on that.
View Marie-Claude Bibeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I am working with the Minister of International Trade, who is responsible for allocating tariff quotas. We are paying close attention to this matter.
A consultation was already under way, but it has been postponed for a few months because of the COVID-19 crisis.
View John Barlow Profile
View John Barlow Profile
2020-05-13 15:05 [p.2285]
Mr. Speaker, the minister said this legislation was not needed before because the dairy commission had the borrowing capacity to deal with what was a pandemic that resulted in having to dump milk.
What has changed in the future that it needs this extra borrowing capacity? Is this to deal with COVID, or the additional imports allowed from the United States as a result of the USMCA?
View Marie-Claude Bibeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, it is directly related to COVID. With the closure of restaurants and hotels, the demand for milk and cheese has decreased significantly. The Canadian Dairy Commission will be using its normal tools, but will also have a higher capacity to buy milk and cheese to store them and resell them later when the demand comes back.
View Richard Lehoux Profile
View Richard Lehoux Profile
2020-05-13 15:07 [p.2285]
Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister.
Earlier, I neglected to thank her for introducing the bill to increase the borrowing capacity of the Canadian Dairy Commission.
My question concerns processors and dairy production.
There are people working in the dairy processing industry right across Canada. They are currently having to deal with the impact of COVID-19. They have to rework their product processing and come up with new products. Moreover, the fact that CUSMA comes into force on July 1 rather than August 1 only increases the problems they have to contend with.
Having one month rather than one year to transform their production process for goods that will go to market is a catastrophe, and on top of that there are the problems caused by COVID-19.
Has the minister come up with any solutions to help these dairy processors?
View Marie-Claude Bibeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Speaker, we have already announced a $1.75-billion compensation package for dairy farmers for the trans-Pacific free trade deals. We are also committed to continuing to deliver compensation for the agreement with the United States and Mexico.
The free trade agreement being ratified and entering into force earlier than we would have liked has had an impact on the dairy sector. However, when we are talking about the free trade deal with the United States and Mexico, we need to look at the Canadian economy as a whole. That is a plus.
For dairy sector processors, such as manufacturers of skim milk powder, it obviously makes a difference in terms of export capacity, over a five-year period, but that was part of our negotiations for the Canadian economy as a whole.
View John Barlow Profile
View John Barlow Profile
2020-05-13 15:11 [p.2285]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Beauce.
It is my pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-16. I know we are all going to be supporting this bill today, and that goes to show we are supporting Canada's agriculture sector. However, there are some issues with how this was brought about and it highlights many of the issues we have been trying to shine a light on with the government's approach to agriculture as a whole and the industry within Canada.
What is being proposed today, which I feel will be supported by all the parties in this House, is, again, additional loan capacity. It is not an injection of funds or a program that would give liquidity to the agriculture sector as a whole.
I did ask the minister if this was a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, or if it was more a response to what Canada's dairy sector will be facing as a result of the increased imports that will be coming from the United States as part of the USMCA.
The minister said in her response that the Canadian Dairy Commission had the loan capacity and the line of credit to deal with the COVID pandemic when it was at its peak, when restaurants and schools were closed, and many of the traditional customers of Canada's dairy producers were closing their doors and were temporarily on lockdown. As a result of those closures, many of our producers, especially in eastern Canada, had to dump millions of litres of milk, which is not something that any Canadian wants to see.
It was certainly good to see Canadians from across the country step up and do everything they could to help our producers, whether they were food banks, schools, or anyone who was willing to take their product and then donate it to those who had a use for it.
However, what that response says to me is that this is more a response to what will happen with the USMCA. The dairy industry in Canada is going to be taking a hit as a result of that.
We have given up a great deal of our trade sovereignty in signing that USMCA. Not only will it increase imports of American dairy products, but it will also limit Canadian dairy producers' opportunities to access foreign markets and it will limit the growth of certain products that are produced right here in Canada.
The other issue that comes to mind is how long it took for the Liberal government to address a problem that was highlighted very early on in Canada's agriculture sector. That has been an ongoing issue with the current government.
Let us take a step back to what was announced last week with the agriculture assistance package of about $250 million. To put that in perspective, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture asked for $2.6 billion as the amount needed to be a tangible relief for Canadian agriculture.
When that announcement came out to be less than 10% of what is deemed by the industry, by producers, food processors, our ranchers and farm families as what is needed for them to be able to keep their heads above water during this pandemic, it was extremely frustrating for our producers.
Let us put that in perspective. This is $250 million to Canadian agriculture, when the President of the United States has given $19 billion. That is putting our industry at a considerable competitive disadvantage.
We look at all the other programs that have been announced for Canadian businesses, and Canadian agriculture is getting a fraction of that. It is extremely difficult when the Prime Minister is saying, time and again, that Canadian agriculture is an essential service and that it is a critical pillar of our food security and of our economy. To say that in one breath, and then not offer the resources the people in that sector need to be successful, does not make a lot of sense. We are seeing the clear frustration of Canadian farmers, producers and food processors who have voiced their displeasure and frustration over the past week since the announcement from the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
Even today, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has said that there are business risk management programs in place that agriculture can access. Those business risk management programs were never designed to deal with a pandemic like COVID-19. They were designed to deal with other variables that impact various sectors of agriculture, certainly not a global pandemic. She talks about the $1.6 billion in AgriStability, so let us use AgriStability as an example. Less than 35% of farmers have actually subscribed to AgriStability, because it is not efficient and it is not timely. They may not see a payment for months or even years down the road. By that time they could be bankrupt.
Let us take a look at AgriInvest. She said there is another billion dollars in AgriInvest, but producers have asked who has that money, where is it, and who has access to it. In many cases those dollars have already been spent, or they are being put aside for transition to the next generation.
In no other program, such as CEBA, for example, has the government told small business owners to drain their bank account before they can have access to or qualify for the emergency business account. However, that is exactly what the Minister of Agriculture is asking farmers to do.
Many of these farmers have maybe $5,000 or $10,000 in their AgriInvest account. It is not a huge amount of money we are talking about here, but the Minister of Agriculture is telling those producers they had better drain their savings accounts, and then maybe the government will look at other programs that may be of assistance to them. The government is not asking that of any other sector in Canada's economy, and it is not fair.
The ramifications of that are quite profound. Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, one of the Canadian experts on food security, has said 15% of Canadian farms are in jeopardy of going bankrupt if there is no federal assistance. That is 30,000 family farms in jeopardy. That is a huge number, and we cannot possibly fathom the impact that will have on our rural economies.
More important, what impact is that going to have on Canada's food security? What kind of impact is that going to have on the price of groceries on the store shelves?
I know that for many of us in this room, never in our lifetime have we gone to a grocery store and seen empty shelves, until now. I am hopeful that as a result of this Canadians across the country now have a much better appreciation of where their food comes from, who makes it, how we do it and why we do it.
Every single day we are asking Canadians across the country to stay home, to protect themselves and stay healthy. At the same time, because they are deemed an essential service, we are asking farmers, ranchers and employees at food processors to get up every single day, go to work and work hard to make sure we have food on our tables and on our grocery store shelves.
Those people are asking for respect, and that respect comes from being a priority to the current government and the programs it is putting forward. It is very clear that Canada's food security and our supply chain is not a priority for the government with $250 million being given to farmers through various programs.
The other frustration with this is that these are not new programs and this is not new money. For the government to come out and say it has taken these steps to address the COVID-19 pandemic, even with changing this Dairy Commission legislation, they are still not addressing the pandemic.
These are not extraordinary measures to deal with an unprecedented challenge within our agriculture sector. These are just reannouncements of existing programs. What message does that send to Canadian agriculture?
They are saying that the farmhouse is burning down and the Liberal government is standing by and offering them a bottle of water as assistance. That is just not good enough. It is not good enough for Canadian agriculture. It is not good enough for our farmers, our ranchers and our processors, who are working hard every day to do their jobs, and who do it with pride.
All they are asking for is that the Liberal government stand beside them and show that the work they are doing means something. I think the question the government has to ask itself is this: Is the Liberal government's food security plan to ensure that we have to import food from other countries to feed Canadian families?
View Randy Hoback Profile
View Randy Hoback Profile
2020-05-13 15:20 [p.2287]
Mr. Speaker, I am really concerned, being on the trade committee, with what happened with respect to the USMCA regarding our sovereignty and how the U.S. now gets to dictate where we can or cannot export our milk products. I am a little concerned when the member says that this funding has come about not necessarily because of the COVID crisis but because of the possibility of that agreement and other agreements the government has signed on to.
Do you think it is using the COVID crisis to hide the mistake it made in its trade agreement?
View John Barlow Profile
View John Barlow Profile
2020-05-13 15:21 [p.2287]
Mr. Speaker, I think there is no doubt about it when we have seen over the last several weeks that the United States has asked Canada to make sure that 100% of our TRQs go to retailers and when the dairy processors and producers are asking for those TRQs to be as close to the farm gate as possible.
The Liberal government has seen that in no other trade agreement in our history has Canada surrendered its trade sovereignty to another country, but that is exactly what has happened in the USMCA. Now the United States can get involved in any trade negotiations we have with new non-market trading partners. They also now control the growth of critical dairy products that are produced right here in Canada. In no other trade agreement is that possible, but that has happened under the Liberal government with the USMCA.
View Richard Lehoux Profile
View Richard Lehoux Profile
2020-05-13 15:25 [p.2288]
Mr. Speaker, today I rise in the House to speak to government Bill C-16, which seeks to amend existing legislation on the loan capacity of the Canadian Dairy Commission.
Although this amendment is welcome and important, I wonder what took the government so long to get around to it. A little over a month ago, Canadian dairy producers were forced to dump 12.5 million litres of milk in just a week. I received many calls from producers and processors in my riding, including major industry stakeholders. When I asked these stakeholders what the best course of action would be, they all said that they wanted the government to expand the loan capacity of the Canadian Dairy Commission from $300 million to $800 million, or an increase of $500 million in loan capacity.
After speaking with the minister's office, I was informed that the Canadian Dairy Commission experts think the $200-million increase is good enough. The point I want to make here is that this bill took an awfully long time to come into existence, considering that it amends just a line or two of the Act. Why did the government drag its heels on this file?
It is very important to note that many industry stakeholders have told me this legislative change is about two weeks too late. Many of them have already found their own way out of this mess with no help from the government. While it is clear to me that this bill is nevertheless important to the agricultural sector because it will protect our dairy industry, I am left wondering about money for the rest of Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector. This government likes to pat itself on the back for announcing various funds and loans for the sector, but it does not have a solid plan for saving the industry that feeds our country.
For example, the other day in committee, a representative from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture said that without immediate assistance, Canada could lose up to 15% of our farms because of COVID-19. That is about 30,000 farms. I cannot even begin to express how devastating that is to hear. Canada has had a very weak response to COVID-19 in the agriculture and agri-food sector.
Just look at our neighbours, the United States. Their government announced a $19-billion assistance program for the agriculture sector, while our government has done nothing after offering our sector $252 million.
The government provided $50 million in assistance to the beef and pork industries. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association told us the other day in committee that the money was appreciated, but that it was used up two weeks ago to cover the extra feed needed because of the pandemic. The government does not seem to understand that we are in a crisis and that our national food security and our sovereignty are in jeopardy. According to the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, it would cost about $135 million to implement an adequate set-aside program.
Meanwhile, the pork industry is suffering through a nightmare in terms of slaughter capacity. It does not have the option of using a set-aside program like the beef sector, and the government seems content to keep watching animals be euthanized, while telling these farmers to use the existing business risk management programs. I have news for the government: These programs do not work. Changes need to be made to these programs now to help our producers ASAP. The minister keeps boasting about the amazing online calculator for these programs. Could it be that the true purpose of the calculator is to calculate when our businesses will have to fold?
Getting back to this bill, it is very hard to debate it here today. I think I speak for all my colleagues when I say that it is definitely a step in the right direction, but when will the rest of the aid for the agriculture and agri-food sector be announced?
The Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture both said that the agricultural industry would be given additional assistance, but when will that be announced? Do they not realize that this industry is having a hard time staying afloat?
Every day, I turn on the television and I hear the Prime Minister announcing new programs and several billion dollars in funding for other industries. I have come to expect no new announcements for agriculture.
Right now, the Prime Minister seems to be, whether consciously or unconsciously, pitting the various industries in our sector against each other, the eastern provinces against the western provinces, or supply managed sectors against non-supply managed sectors. The division is clear, as are the Prime Minister's allegiances.
I would also like to remind the House that the Canadian dairy industry was led to believe that the coming into force of the CUSMA would be delayed in order to give the sector time to prepare for the reformed agreement. Unfortunately, the dairy industry now has only one month to prepare rather than a full year.
I would also like to point out that many of Canada's supply-managed industries are still waiting for announcements regarding their sector. It is wonderful to see assistance for dairy farmers today, but when will the government help other sectors?
Take Canada's poultry producers, for example. Like beef and pork producers, poultry producers will likely have to cull their flocks and absorb revenue losses associated with not processing their birds, but the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture have not announced any help for that sector.
We keep hearing that the AgriRecovery program will fix things for this sector. Unfortunately, the program covers only cull costs, not the value of the birds themselves. Plus, this program does not help processors if culling happens at the plants.
I am so tired of hearing that the government is working with the provinces to find a solution. Why can the government not take the initiative, show some real leadership and make a significant contribution of its own to the agricultural sector?
I could spend a lot more time quoting many very eloquent industry stakeholders. The consensus is simple: The government's COVID-19 pandemic response for the agricultural sector is not nearly good enough. The sector needs help fast, but I think the government's clock is broken.
I look forward to answering my colleagues' question.
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