Mr. Speaker, I introduced my remarks by saying that it is a sad day when we are introducing such legislation and I even used the title of the bill. I pointed out that this is the reason why this piece of legislation just might be a tiny bit suspect. I am laying the groundwork for why I think this legislation might be a tiny bit suspect.
One of the hon. members says that I am making it a political debate. Amazing but this is politics. This is the House of Commons. Five parties are seated here. We do
not really want to talk politics or talk about the reality of large or small p politics in this country. That is the very kind of response that alarms farmers about this kind of legislation.
This bill covers 38,000 farmers and their families, 22,900 employees of those farmers and 36,000 processing jobs. That comes to a total of lost farm production of $4.7 billion to this country and $5.5 billion in processing, for a total loss of over $100 billion to the Canadian economy.
I think that is very relevant to this bill because we are talking here about farm products marketing agencies while we have our negotiators going to GATT. We are not sure that they will be taking our best interests or the best interests of farmers to GATT. It seems rather intriguing that this bill is before the House just prior to that discussion at GATT.
The loss of our supply management system through the GATT will do to rural Canada what the free trade agreement has done to urban Canada. That is devastating. Not only the farmers in my riding are going to be devastated by a failure of protection of supply management in Canada. The people in my riding, the spinoff industries such as Buckerfield's, the suppliers, the wholesaler and the people who deliver milk, are all going to be affected by the failure of this government to uphold Canada's position at the GATT.
The minister has said that our position has remained unchanged and that they will continue to argue for protection of supply management. He has also continued to note that Canada is but one of 107 countries at GATT. If we go in figuring we are going to lose, chances are we will lose. If we go in believing in our system, believing in supply management, believing in marketing agencies, then I think it is fair and safe to say that we will in fact do a good job on behalf of our farmers.
I would urge that people take farmers veiy seriously and consider what would happen if we lose our ability in this country to produce our food, to feed our citizens. There are those who say: "Well, get rid of these marketing boards. Get rid of that whole process because the Americans will feed us cheaper". They might feed us cheaper for the first couple of years, till they make sure all of our farms have gone under, and then we had better believe that the ante will go up. If we lose our ability to feed our citizens then I think we very much risk losing our sovereignty.
February 25, 1992
This issue is not related to a very narrow definition of Bill C-54. This issue goes far beyond this bill. That is why I am very concerned we are debating this kind of thing at this time and yet leaving farmers from all across Canada feeling at total risk that we are not taking them seriously and that we will not be serving their interests at the GATT.
I would ask that the government direct its attention to how we can best protect our farmers. Whilst the hon. parliamentary secretary feels that I have not addressed this bill, I think the whole question is inextricably intertwined. I would ask the parliamentary secretary and the government to renew their efforts to ensure that a bill like this makes sense by ensuring that we continue to have marketing boards and supply management in this country.
Subtopic: FARM PRODUCTS MARKETING AGENCIES ACT
Sub-subtopic: MEASURE TO AMEND