It may be in his head. He has just arrived and he can give that information himself. However, I do not think that it is in this bill, and how can we make even small changes to a tariff agreement with another country that was negotiated in 1932 or, for that matter, in 1960, when the government does not give the sections of the act that it is amending? I do not think that it matters one way or another. It has not really made a great deal of difference to anyone as to what happens with regard to tariff adjustments. These adjustments have
been made many times, and there are always changes indicated in the ways and means motions.
In the agricultural field, however, there are too many problems which are of an immediate nature and which can have a detrimental and catastrophic effect on farmers of various commodities. The soft fruit industry has almost entirely disappeared from Canada, such fruits as peaches, cherries and strawberries. Most of the fruit industry in Ontario has disappeared simply because it could not compete in world markets. As I understand it, most of us in this House would like to have free trade and believe that it is a wonderful thing, provided it does not affect our commodities. Naturally, we want to protect our commodities, and I suppose that is true of every business from the peach producer to automobile manufacturer.
But what has happened? Certainly you, Mr. Speaker, have had personal contact with this situation and are aware of the inability of the trade board to operate fast enough to provide the kind of protection necessary with regard to agricultural commodities. It is interesting to note that in all these changes the tariff only applies to a specific field when it comes to agricultural products. The tariff is applied in the period when the surplus in another country is at its peak and our system is either beginning or ending, in most cases beginning.
This prevents countries with which Canada does not have anti-dumping laws from dumping in our country during our peak periods. They would normally be in a position to dump their agricultural products in Canada at the beginning of our season when production costs are still very high and the production period has not yet begun. The government is allowed to make these changes. If one were to take any commodity, and I will use cauliflower as an example, free rates shall apply during the months of January, February, March, April and May. I presume that is because our storage facilities will not hold cauliflower over a longer period. During the remaining months, however, in any 12-month period ending March 31, the specific duty or ad valorem duty, as the case may be, shall not be maintained in force in excess of 20 weeks, which may be divided into two separate periods, and the free rate shall apply whenever the specific duty or ad valorem duty is not in effect.
The reason for 20 weeks is that that is our period of production. We have always found, whether it be cauliflower, cherries or any other commodity, that the tariff board never reacts quickly enough to protect the farmer. The farmer is the victim of the improper or slow use of the regulatory tool with regard to applying tariffs. There may be one or two reasons for this. One may be that the government wants to make money, and they may be able to collect more money from the tariff than from their share of the production. I presume that this is true with regard to many of the commodities in Canada.
The Department of Agriculture does not have a say as to when the tariff shall apply. This means that by the time the matter has gone through two or three departments the problem has developed to a stage where the tariff will no longer alleviate the problem. This was found to be the case with imported meats. For a long time offshore meats were imported
November 5, 1979
into Canada at a rate which was considerably below what the Canadian market could stand. Boxed meat was being brought in from Australia and South America, and this constituted unfair competition to the meat producers in Canada, which meant that the price of beef was depressed for a considerable period of time.
When supplies of this offshore meat dried up, Canadian producers could not meet the demand and consequently the price jumped, which was a great detriment to the consumer because of the advantages taken by the importers and those in the wholesale meat business. That situation could have been balanced out to the best advantage of both the consumer and the producer. The producer would not have been subjected to the low prices then and would not have experienced the difficulties created in a market where the price to the consumer was too high.
One of the reasons that we have had so much difficulty with agricultural production is simply that the Department of Agriculture has not had the mechanism to control agricultural structures and has had no way of applying these tariffs at the most opportune moment. 1 am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with these tariffs or the periods which are mentioned in the bill. It may well be that 30 weeks is the right amount of time for cabbage because cabbage keeps a lot longer than cauliflower. It may well be that 20 weeks is long enough for cauliflower.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: CUSTOMS TARIFF