Mr. Chairman, I commend the hon. member for his devotion to his party. I am not sure whose legislation this is, the Liberals or the Conservatives, but if it is going to do what the hon. member says it will, then certainly I am pleased.
In my part of the country we do not grow too many vegetables for export and we are not too concerned with
November 19, 1979
imports, but as Canadians we are concerned that we do not have the advantage of benefiting from Canadian production. We are almost totally dependent on American produce, a problem which we think should be overcome. If the hon. member is correct that it has been overcome, the legislation should specify how the trigger mechanism works. That is really what I am talking about.
The information that has been provided us during the debate is that the mechanism is triggered by the horticultural society. They have been partly successful in representing all the segments of horticulture, but there have been many complaints that they had not acted fast enough, though not nearly as many complaints as there have been that the tariff board which should be seized with the problem reaches a decision only after a certain period of time. The difficulty which the hon. member has indicated existed in the past will continue to exist under this mechanism, as 1 understand it.
My question is whether any consideration has been given to lengthening the period, say, for asparagus, from 12 weeks to, let us say, a maximum of 15 or 20 weeks between such and such dates. If we do not want to apply it for that long a period, we should still find a way of protecting our industry in the peak period. We will face difficulties because, no matter how it works, once the wholesaler starts buying tomatoes from California, for example, he would not think it was to his advantage to stop buying tomatoes from California for two or three weeks so he can buy them in Canada. So the wholesaler will get year round tomatoes from Mexico or California simply because it is easier than fitting in Canadian production. That is the only justification for applying the tariff, because I am sure the wholesaler does not care one way or the other. It is a little like the egg business. We had one person handling eggs in the Ottawa area, certainly by far the largest firm, by the name of Macartney, and this firm had never owned a hen. They bought all their eggs from the United States and delivered potatoes back to them. They did not intend to change the situation one way or another. I assume that is true with others as well.
Has the Tariff Board considered finding a better manner in which to trigger the mechanism, better than the one we have used in the past? If it has been changed from what it was in the last several years, perhaps we can give it a try. But if it has not been changed, has any consideration been given to letting the Department of Agriculture, for instance, trigger it rather than the tariff board, in order to work out the mechanisms? Normally it goes through both of them now, and perhaps another agency as well.
It has not worked out to our advantage because our fruit and vegetable industry is not in the incline, it is in the decline. The reason for passing these duties is to give protection to Canadian producers. If they are not increasing production, obviously the tariff structure should be changed. I am in favour of doing that to protect them. In a few years we will find that it is impossible to build an industry which has
disappeared, but perhaps it would be possible now to keep alive an industry which we have at the present time.
I should like to refer to the example of strawberries. When one sees hundreds of acres of strawberries being plowed down simply beause they are not profitable, then one should think of the reasons for that. One reason must be the ability of Americans to ship in strawberries during the season when Canadians are producing them. Perhaps I am wrong. We will find out next spring when there will be trouble with a number of industries.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: CUSTOMS TARIFF