November 19, 1979 (31st Parliament, 1st Session)


Mark Willson Rose

New Democratic Party

Mr. Rose:

Mr. Chairman, I should like to follow up on that line of questioning before the parliamentary secretary replies, because over the years it has concerned me as a member of Parliament representing an agricultural riding. I should like to know whether these percentages are based on the Canadian price or the American price. If, as I assume, they are based on the American price rather than the Canadian price, then the advantage of a percentage does not necessarily protect anyone.
It seems to me there are really only two reasons for a tariff. The first is to raise money for the treasury and the second is to protect Canadian producers, whether in manufacturing or agriculture. If the tariff is based merely on a percentage of the American price, then it does not often help us a great deal. As everyone knows, we are seasonally disadvantaged. We cannot usually blame the Americans, because we import more fruit and vegetables from them than from anyone else. By the time our product is at its peak and ready to come on the market, however, it is already the tail end of the American season, when their price is lower. We cannot accuse them of dumping or resort to anti-dumping legislation, because they are not selling the product to Canada at a price lower than that in California, Arizona or anywhere else. The mere offer of a product such as prunes to a broker in Seattle is enough to destroy the Okanagan price.
The hon. member for Okanagan North is sitting across the way. He knows that this happens all the time. The Canadian price is not protected by the various tariffs, because even an offer is enough to destroy the value of a particular commodity at the peak of the Okanagan season-which may coincide with the end of the California or Oregon season. I see the hon. member nodding his head with silent, sage approval. I am very pleased to have his support on this. Perhaps this does not relate specifically and always to the Okanagan, but it certainly happens to the berry crop in the lower Fraser Valley.
We are concerned about trying to develop, on the one hand, a system of tariffs that protects the local producer when his product is at its peak in market price. That cannot always be done by calendar months. No matter how adjustable they may be from one area to the other, they have to be adjustable from one season to the other. As the hon. member for Timiskaming said, there is the possibility that this is triggered when the product comes across the border and the damage has to be proved. Some commodity groups take the position that all that is needed to destroy the price is an offer to the broker who usually ships across the border.
There might be another way to look at it. First, price could be based not on a percentage of the U.S. price, regardless whether it is the beginning or end of their season, but on the cost of production in Canada; because in the United States they have certain seasonal advantages. Second, have the mechanism trigger at a time of the year adjustable to the best possible market season for Canadian produce.
Customs Tariff
On the one hand, through tariffs and their adjustability in terms of seasons, we have to give the consumer the best break we can at times of the year when the consumer is not threatened with having his price destroyed by American produce coming across the border. I am referring to produce that is available in Canada. I recognize that this is not an easy task, but I should like to know whether some consideration will be given or is being given to these questions which, perhaps, are more in the form of a representation.

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