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Results: 1 - 31 of 31
View Lianne Rood Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Chair, the Liberal government is letting down Canadian farmers. Stakeholders are unanimous: Government support for Canadian agriculture has been woefully inadequate. As a result, fruit and vegetable producers are cutting back their production by as much as 25%. This will have a profound impact on our food security.
Does the government know how much grocery prices will increase and the impact a smaller harvest will have on Canadian families as we have to rely on imported food?
View Lianne Rood Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'll take a moment to send my deepest condolences to all who have lost a loved one to COVID-19 and to wish a speedy recovery to those who are currently battling it. This truly is a difficult time for us all. We're fortunate to have all the great men and women on our front lines taking care of us, making sure that we're taken care of if we're sick, and also feeding us.
These unprecedented times started out with a glimmer of hope that, despite all that is being thrown at us, we'll face it together as a unified nation, all in this together. As time goes on, it's becoming abundantly clear, though, that this government's version of together unfortunately doesn't include the majority of my constituents in Lambton—Kent—Middlesex.
With each announcement and new government program, the question I keep hearing, whether from businesses or seniors, is “How is this supposed to help me?” There are so many cracks in the government's plan, and while the official opposition is doing everything it can to identify those cracks and help get support to the most vulnerable, the government not only ignores most of our proposals but has also attempted unprecedented power grabs.
While the tab for the support programs continues to accumulate, so many people and businesses continue to be left behind. A key industry left behind amidst all the government's support programs is agriculture. Whether it's a lack of labour, processing capacity issues, market access issues, inadequate BRM programs or food safety issues, this government has done very little.
When thinking about agriculture, processing capacity has been an issue for years, with the COVID-19 crisis further exacerbating this problem. Rob Lipsett of the Beef Farmers of Ontario has said it's “the biggest issue we've been trying to address at all levels of government”. With the closure of the Ryding-Regency plant, processing capacity issues have come to the forefront. The current situation is dire for beef farmers and they need a cash infusion program from the government.
Minister Bibeau has said that $77 million promised for food processors has a goal of increasing capacity but is also to address short-term needs. How does this make sense when processing capacity is a structural problem? When questioned further, the minister just encourages producers to access the funding available through existing BRM programs. This is nothing new and not helpful to all our struggling producers. Yet again the Liberal government is showing us the different ways that it is continually letting down farmers and producers. It's obvious that farmers are not its priority.
When referring to the government's spending announcements on agriculture, Marcel Groleau, president of the Union des producteurs agricoles, said, “I think they missed a great opportunity today. It's an announcement that is completely insufficient. Of the $250 million for farmers, there is about $125 million in new investment. Half of that is what producers would have gotten anyway.”
The B.C. Fruit Growers' Association said, “the financial support package to the Canadian agriculture industry announced...is profoundly underwhelming.”
When it comes to BRM reform, we can see that the Liberals are just recycling old promises. We've repeatedly called on this government to take strong action to support our farmers and producers, including reforming BRM programs. The bulk of what the government announced for agriculture amidst COVID-19 was $125 million for AgriRecovery. This is not new money but a reannouncement of money that's already budgeted for in the yearly budget.
The minister has avoided questions. Where is she on where producers can access this money? Knowing that the program is difficult to work with and inaccessible, the minister has responded by telling producers to use an online calculator and to still apply. Great, farmers now have an online calculator to figure out how quickly their farmhouses are burning and whether they qualify for the government-issued bucket of water to be delivered at an undetermined point of time in the future.
Our producers and our farmers are being left behind, and they deserve better. This country is facing many trade disputes, especially when it comes to agriculture. Particularly with China, market access issues are at the forefront. Exports of commodities such as soybeans, canola and pork are facing additional challenges. The government says it is committed to helping farmers, but to their disappointment, the government has ignored all their pleas. On April 1, it even raised the carbon tax by 50%.
My constituents and millions of Canadians are facing significant and sustained hardship. With stagnant revenues and rapid debt accumulation, many are struggling to stay above water. At the very least they were hoping that their government would show them some type of mercy and hold off on raising their taxes.
To add insult to injury, the Prime Minister and the finance minister continue to deny the real impacts of the carbon tax. This outrageous claim that the carbon tax puts more money in Canadians' pockets keeps getting repeated over and over. No, our businesses and farmers' budgets don't balance themselves. On top of the direct costs, it's becoming harder and harder for our farmers to compete internationally against those who aren't burdened by punitive taxes.
I've heard from farmers in my own riding that they will be planting less corn this year, partially due to their drying costs having skyrocketed with the carbon tax. This is wrong, and the government isn't doing anything about it.
Food security has also become top of mind, especially when considering the reports of empty shelves throughout this pandemic. Coinciding with the lack of financial support for our farmers and producers, many of our family farms are experiencing hardships and are expected to go bankrupt. With just a fraction of what has been asked for being given to the agriculture sector, it is estimated that up to 15% of our farms, or about 30,000 farm families, will go out of business. This could be stopped if immediate and meaningful support is provided to safeguard our food security, and a critical sector of our economy and rural communities.
Canada's Conservatives will continue to press the Liberal government for real financial support for our agriculture sector. In fact, we have proposed a student jobs program to fill labour shortages in agriculture and agri-food. This could be a new federal program that would match students and young people with available jobs. I've heard from many farmers in my own riding that this would really help, but this government isn't moving on our proposal. For young Canadians, this could be an incredible opportunity to work in agriculture and gain valuable knowledge about where our food comes from. For our farmers and ranchers, they could get a great source of local labour to help fill the labour-shortage gaps.
This is just another example of a constructive Conservative solution to help those affected by COVID-19.
The government is also using this pandemic to seize the opportunity to circumvent democracy, bypass parliamentary accountability, and fundamentally change our firearms laws through an order in council. Rather than being accountable to parliament and having expert witnesses called to testify and analyze these changes, the government is bringing uncertainty and division to many of my constituents and millions of law-abiding Canadian firearms owners. This firearms ban will do nothing to protect public safety. Taking firearms away from law-abiding hunters and sport shooters does nothing to stop dangerous criminals who obtain their guns illegally. Instead, there should be investments made to support police anti-gang and anti-gun units, youth crime prevention, the CBSA firearms smuggling task force, border security, and increased funding for access to mental health and addiction treatments.
These are more constructive Conservative solutions to help combat gun violence. I hope the Liberals heed our calls. We all want a safe country, but needlessly attacking law-abiding firearms owners does nothing to improve public safety.
Another problem I continually hear about from my constituents is Internet access. Lambton—Kent—Middlesex is a rural riding and getting high-speed Internet access is a challenge for many, not to mention the cost of the service. During this pandemic I've had constituents who have seen monthly bills of $500. I have seen no concrete solution from the government to help people in this situation. Being at home amidst this pandemic is difficult. With children learning online and people working from home, high-speed Internet accessibility is a necessity. We need to ensure that rural Canadians have access to this service and don't have to pay exorbitant prices for it.
These are unprecedented times, but despite all of this happening, I am hopeful that all Canadians will get the help they need, and not just a select few. I am working hard every day to ensure that my constituents of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex are heard, and I am committed to fighting for them and getting the answers they deserve amidst this COVID-19 pandemic.
View David Sweet Profile
CPC (ON)
Madam Chair, our farmers are facing unprecedented challenges. Is the minister concerned that this will impact the Canadian food supply?
View Tim Louis Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Minister, thank you for being here today and for all of your work with the industry, provincial leaders and local health authorities, providing us with the best-informed measures we can have to protect our food supply and support our producers.
We have a vibrant agriculture and agri-food industry here in Kitchener—Conestoga, including the Waterloo Cattlemen's Association, the Waterloo Federation of Agriculture, the Waterloo dairy producer community and the Waterloo-Wellington chapter of Ontario Maple Producers. I've had the privilege of meeting with most of these groups, as well as with local farmers and board members from the Ontario Pork Producers; local organic farmers, as mentioned before, from Pfenning's Organic Farms; the largest live poultry service in Canada, which is Riverdale Poultry; and the president of Conestoga Meat Packers, which processes 40% of Ontario's pork.
Madam Minister, my question is about balance, the solution for our agriculture sector. A sector this large can't be one-size-fits-all. Could you expand on some of the measures that our government is taking to address food security and help producers, from small farms to large companies?
View Karen Vecchio Profile
CPC (ON)
Thanks very much.
You're talking about looking at these right solutions, but I'm looking at the time frames. When you have a hog that has to be finished, or if you own turkeys and they're shipped off but then sent back to your farm because they cannot be processed, what are the farmers supposed to do? They're looking at having to euthanize some of their livestock, and we know that this is the stuff that's being used to feed our Canadian families and to feed people across the world.
What are some of the immediate measures this government is going to take to make sure that our food security is safe and that we can continue supplying our food from start to finish?
View Julie Dzerowicz Profile
Lib. (ON)
Great. Thank you so much, Mr. Chair. Thanks so much to everyone for the wonderful presentations and for this very important conversation.
We have a lot of people on, and I can direct my questions to only a few people because I have less than five minutes. I'm going to direct my first question to Mr. Saul from the Community Food Centres Canada.
You mentioned there was an announcement by the federal government of $100 million to improve access to food for Canadians who are facing difficulties, whether social needs or economic needs. I know that the Community Food Centres Canada did receive some of that money.
My question to you is twofold. First, do we yet have an idea about the increased need at our food banks, in terms of the numbers and of who is actually going to these food banks? That's part one.
The second part of the question is what more do you feel we have to do around food security right now, not only in our cities but along the line?
Could you take a stab at responding to that?
View Lianne Rood Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for being here today, Minister, and thank you to Chris and Christine as well.
Minister, we've seen reports going on right now of items and bare essentials coming off of grocery store shelves. With COVID-19 being so prevalent right now, people are panicking about certain things.
Do you have a plan in place to ensure that our grocery store shelves can be kept full of fresh fruits and vegetables? Grocery stores are an essential service. We have places like the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto, which provides about 95% of the fresh produce to the independent supermarkets in Ontario as well as the food distribution companies around the province. A place like that employs over 2,000 people on a daily basis. Private stores also have distribution centres that have many employees in the same space at the same time. We've seen events being cancelled in different places with many people there.
Does the government have a plan to make sure that we don't create a panic and that the grocery store shelves are not empty during this COVID-19 virus?
View Lianne Rood Profile
CPC (ON)
Perhaps I'll ask you this too. I asked this of the minister. When it comes to our food security and our food supply, now with the coronavirus happening, we don't want to see a panic whereby folks at the grocery stores are wondering how they're going to get groceries in their stores if the distribution centres shut down. Is there a plan in the works in the department or in the government to ensure that we have our food security in place, and perhaps to deem food supply and security as an essential service going forward?
View Neil Ellis Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Neil Ellis Profile
2020-03-12 17:09
Okay.
You talked earlier about the local food infrastructure fund, and I guess the first round of that has already been announced. Is that funding going to be year-round?
My second question concerns the second round of funding coming up. Could you explain the difference between the second round and the first round of funding?
View Neil Ellis Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Neil Ellis Profile
2020-03-12 17:10
Would you know the amounts or the upper limits of that program for the second round?
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'll call the meeting to order.
Thank you all for being here.
I'd like to introduce Mr. Beasley and Mr. Rugholm. Thank you for coming to our international human rights committee, a subcommittee of foreign affairs.
The World Food Programme in Canada is the largest humanitarian assistance partner. In 2019, Canada contributed almost $200 million to the World Food Programme, making it its seventh-largest partner.
Also to introduce Mr. Beasley, he was appointed executive director to the World Food Programme in March 2017. He was first elected to public office at the age of 21 as a member of South Carolina's House of Representatives. Mr. Beasley served as governor of the State of South Carolina from 1995 to 1999.
Without further ado, Mr. Beasley, if you want to present to the committee, you're more than free to do so.
View David Sweet Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Chair.
Mr. Beasley, thank you for being here, but more importantly, thank you very much for the critical work you do and the people whose lives you and your organization are saving on a daily basis. I can't say enough about the good work that the World Food Programme does.
Some years ago, a district attorney partnered with an organization called the International Justice Mission and they wrote a book called The Locust Effect. You just described pretty much what the book was about, that you can pour all kinds of money into aid, but if you have organizations like al Shabaab, ISIS and al Qaeda that are robbing people every day after you feed them, that creates a real problem.
Is there a growing consciousness amongst the networks of leaders, whether it's NATO and NORAD, or it's G8, G20, that security needs to be linked more and more with aid?
View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Beasley, for being here with us today, and for sharing your experiences with us. I know you're a very busy person, but your testimony is very important to us.
I'm new to this committee. I want to take you back to when you were here and I believe it was in December 2018. You had stated that the two areas that concerned you were the lack of digitization in the UN system and gender parity. How do you think those have changed now? What steps have been taken? Where are we? Can you give us some insight?
View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
I just want to say congratulations on those achievements.
In light of COVID-19 that we are going through right now, how will that data, the digitization, help you on the ground?
View Peter Fonseca Profile
Lib. (ON)
I want to thank you very much, again, for those achievements.
It looks like the digitization, the work you've been able to do, is going to at least help in stemming some of what's going to happen with the fallout from COVID-19. That puts you in a good place, but there's a lot of work to do.
View Anita Vandenbeld Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much. It's good to see you once again. Thank you for your previous appearance before the committee.
I, too, before politics did a lot of work with UNDP and UN Women, and I think that what you're saying about the costs up front versus how much it costs at the end by not investing is absolutely accurate.
I'd like to focus on what you said about the second-largest cause of food insecurity, which you said was climate change. To what extent can governments like Canada help countries with mitigation and adaptation and the kinds of measures that are going to be needed? I think I saw a statistic that climate change alone could push as many as three billion people into hunger. What is it that we could be doing to help mitigate that?
View Anita Vandenbeld Profile
Lib. (ON)
I would like to go into something that you started talking about in terms of gender. You said that when you give money to the women, they reinvest that into the community and into the children. You used the term “leverage that dollar”. When women are part of the design, the development and implementation of programs—not just recipients—how does that then impact?
View Marwan Tabbara Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you for your testimony, Mr. Beasley and Mr. Rugholm.
In this committee, we really appreciate the vast array of information we got today.
You mentioned the severe hunger going from 80 million to 115 million. You mentioned the reasons for that are the instability around the world, whether it's political instability or conflict. We're seeing more need for the World Food Programme. We want to really thank you and your team and Mr. Rugholm for all the work you're doing. We know when there's a crisis or a disaster the World Food Programme is there.
We will take this back to our officials in Canada and make sure that we do what we can to continuously contribute to the World Food Programme.
Thank you very much.
View Adam van Koeverden Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Ministers, for your presence here today. Moreover, thank you for your long-standing mutual commitments to an authentic consultative process and a co-development strategy.
My questions will focus primarily on Nutrition North Canada. I was happy to see there is $8 million going directly to the harvesters support grant program. That's something they identified. When I referred to that consultative co-development process, that's what I meant.
There was a question that arose about the impacts of not just physical health but also mental health with respect to the opportunity to harvest food traditionally, the experience that goes with that and regaining some of the lost social knowledge and the opportunities for social cohesion.
Can you provide some insight, Minister Vandal, on precisely what those monies will go to? If possible, leave a little time for a follow-up question.
Thank you.
View Adam van Koeverden Profile
Lib. (ON)
Can you elaborate a little on the partnership opportunities with other organizations? I'm thinking about organizations like the Canadian Rangers, the indigenous guardians pilot program and other indigenous-led organizations that teach some of those skills.
If you can, please be a little more specific on what the subsidies will cover and how they will impact the greater nutrition north program.
View Marcus Powlowski Profile
Lib. (ON)
Well, appropriately, as I'm eating my plate of vegetables here, which would cost $50 in a northern community, I want to ask Mr. Vandal about the nutrition north program.
Maybe this is a bit of an observation, but maybe you can comment on this. I know this because I went to a food bank presentation in Thunder Bay. The food bank in Thunder Bay sends a lot of donated food to northern fly-in communities. The presenters had slides there showing the prices of food in the northern stores in those fly-in communities. They showed the price and then the price with the nutrition north subsidy, and the differences were really trivial. A little pod of strawberries was $9 without the subsidy, and it was $8.50. They had repeated examples like that.
In one of our earlier committee meetings, I mentioned this. I'm not sure if it was Mr. Watson or someone else who replied to this that they had been to Nunavut and in Nunavut the prices of milk, cheese and things were fairly similar to downtown Toronto prices. They said that the amount of the subsidy is proportional to the distance from the built-up areas.
It seems that this results in a real inequality. People in fly-in communities such as Attawapiskat, Pikangikum and Sandy Lake had very little subsidy, and nutritious food basically was unaffordable, whereas for people in the really far north communities it was much more affordable.
Maybe it's just a comment to look into. I can ask a question after this.
View Bob Bratina Profile
Lib. (ON)
Good morning.
Welcome, Monsieur Beaudoin, Mr. Wong and guests. Who would like to go first?
Mr. Beaudoin.
View Adam van Koeverden Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'll start by thanking all of you for being with us here today to share your insights with us. I know I speak for my colleagues when I say that your answers include valuable perspective, certainly more than worthy of our collective dedicated attention.
My question relates to the diversity and the complexity of some of these challenges and the commensurate diversity of solutions in the north. I've had the opportunity to travel only a little to Inuit Nunangat, but I do know the differences in the challenges between Nunavik, Nunavut, Inuvialuit and Nunatsiavut. They are as different as they are far apart, and that's just in Inuit Nunangat. We're also talking about communities that aren't in those four regions.
I've heard some recommendations that could potentially serve to benefit one community here or there, such as Amazon for Iqaluit, the only community that has that ability to order things online. I do recall that article, though. An Amazon Prime account costs $80 a year and it's only available for that one community, and there are all sorts of other challenges. Certainly, it looks like a model that could be expanded upon or maybe subsidized further.
Pointing to the individual solutions, such as a greenhouse in a community with an adequate growing season, or non-reliance on diesel energy, or even soil in which to grow food, they seem a bit, for lack of a better term, “piecemeal” when we're talking about thousands of people in hundreds of communities.
My question focuses a little more on programs that could help enhance the traditional knowledge base with respect to hunting and gathering and the country foods. I was really heartened to see that there's a harvesters support grant. The people I've talked to do elaborate on some of the lost traditional knowledge base. People often say, “Those people in the north, they've lived there for thousands of years; how did they feed themselves then?”, irrespective of the fact that generations of colonialism have totally destroyed that knowledge base. It's not discussed enough that the killing of all the dogs in our generation had a devastating impact on the hunting knowledge base of the north.
If you could elaborate a little, I would like to know how we can help restore some of that knowledge base. I've witnessed elders and children collaborating and talking about hunting, encouraging that knowledge base being incorporated into local curricula, as my colleague Jaime has discussed. When communities can control their curriculum, they often have higher success rates.
As a side note, I'm just going to ask one question and I'll allow you to take the floor after. I have a lot on my mind.
In Halton, which is a community that doesn't suffer from any type of food security commensurate with that in the north, there are kids who go to school hungry. Dr. Wong, you identified the difficulty that a child has when going to school hungry. My colleague Jaime asked about food programs that directly fund, subsidize or support kids in school so that every child or person who goes to school can receive a healthy breakfast and lunch. It's helped kids in Halton, who have a very different relationship with food and food insecurity.
I also know that partners such as the guardians, the Rangers and other programs that bring elders and youth together to restore some of that knowledge base that has been lost through colonialism have helped. It's reconciliation and it's an opportunity to regain some of that lost knowledge base.
I know that's a long, meandering question, but could you speak to the value of a school food program, an enhanced harvesters support grant to restore some of the knowledge base, and the diversity of the problems and the commensurate diversity of potential solutions all across the north, given that we can't use a one-size-fits-all approach or try to fit a round peg into a square hole?
Thank you.
View Adam van Koeverden Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'd like to ask Dr. Wong to talk about food programs.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you to the witnesses for appearing. We appreciate your testimony here today.
I want to pick up on what Mr. van Koeverden was talking about, how self-reliance and self-determination are key to helping those in the north sustain themselves and move on.
I'm sorry if you have to repeat some of what you've already talked about. Are there any steps that you see, outside of what you're already doing, that we could be taking in order to give more control to the local communities? As was mentioned many times, when you have local people making local decisions, you can solve problems faster.
Is there anything on your wish list that you have in your minds that we could be doing to help solve this problem faster?
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
One thing that we're reading here in the Northern Policy Institute is the use of drones and airships to deliver food. Is that ongoing, or is it being talked about at all?
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Would that require another department funding that, such as Transport or Infrastructure, or would that still come from your same department?
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
I agree that it is complex for sure. My only concern is that when it crosses departments, things really grind to a halt, and these people need help. When you're navigating all these things together, the solution takes a lot longer.
Is there any way to streamline this to be a lot faster if that's what they're calling for and we know that's what they're looking for? It makes sense to me—longer runways, bigger planes—yes, of course.
View Marcus Powlowski Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
My riding is Thunder Bay—Rainy River, which doesn't have fly-in communities per se, but within Thunder Bay there are something like 10,000 to 30,000 people from northern fly-in communities, so what we're talking about directly affects a lot of constituents in my riding.
To illustrate the extent of the problem, I recently talked to the food bank in Thunder Bay. The food bank is sending tonnes of donated food up to northern fly-in communities. The chiefs pay for the flights, but that illustrates the difficulty in getting food on northern reserves.
I think one of the big problems with nutrition north, from what I can see, is that the subsidy is so trivial that one questions the value of doing it at all. Nutrition north showed some slides. They had taken pictures of I don't know which fly-in community, something like Attawapiskat, and they showed the price with the subsidy and the price without the subsidy.
A little container of strawberries was something like $10.20 with the subsidy and $10.80 without the subsidy. It's a trivial amount of savings. I can't see anybody saying, “Oh well, I get 60 cents off that basket of strawberries. I think I'll buy that.” It's still $10.20. It's still basically unaffordable.
I'm sure that a lot of money is going into nutrition north, but if it basically means a trivial discount that means nothing to the consumer, is it of any value at all?
View Marcus Powlowski Profile
Lib. (ON)
Well, it would be an interesting thing to look at then because certainly, as I remember in the pictures, the price of food was basically unaffordable. This was in northwestern Ontario. It's not as far to fly, so a subsidy that is adequate for really remote places but inadequate for places that are less remote may be a real possibility and something to look at.
The second issue that I heard of with the nutrition north program is that the Northern store—a big store where they're selling a lot of stuff—can apply for the subsidy and get it back, whereas for smaller retailers, the actual process of filling out the forms is so burdensome that a lot of people don't do it.
View Marcus Powlowski Profile
Lib. (ON)
I have a quick final question. Local sourcing of food certainly seems to me to be the way to get to self-sufficiency.
You talked about CanNor and $15 million over five years for things like greenhouses, but that's only north of 60. It certainly seems to me that in those northwestern Ontario fly-in communities.... DeBruin's tried to start a greenhouse in Fort Severn. I think a number of women had their own plots. Is there nobody in Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs who has the mandate to look into and be involved in attempts to gain that kind of self-sufficiency within those communities south of 60?
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