Mr. A. D. Alkenbrack (Frontenac-Lennox and Addington):
Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight on a matter very vital to our national economy and pursuant to my question appearing in Hansard of June 9, 1978, page 6230, as follows:
Following the recent meeting between the Minister of Agriculture and the Ontario minister of agriculture, has a solution been reached to provide increased milk quotas to Ontario cheese manufacturers who are experiencing a serious shortage of milk in their efforts to supply markets waiting for cheese?
The question of the above date and the S.O. 43 motion of May 31, 1978, moved by myself and seconded by the hon. member for Oxford (Mr. Halliday), arise from strong representations made to me and to my party and our agricultural critic, the hon. member for Elgin (Mr. Wise), and the agricultural committee of the PC party, by the Ontario Cheddar Cheese Association and its member manufacturers regarding the diminishing and inadequate supplies of milk available to the Ontario Cheddar cheese factories.
Also we have received a brief from the Ontario Cheddar Cheese Association, an organization recently formed in that industry. They total at least 32 cheese manufacturing concerns which speak with one voice in the interests of a sound economy for the dairy and cheese producing industries of Ontario. The No. 1 problem in the industrial milk field is the severe shortage of market-sharing quotas for the province of Ontario. This is widely recognized by producer and processor alike. When one couples the MSQ shortage with the specialty cheese market expanding at a high percentage every year, the Ontario Cheddar cheese processor is being placed in an unbearable
situation. Cheddar cheese factories cannot begin to supply the markets which they have developed carefully over long years. Buyers are purchasing a higher percentage of their Cheddar cheese out of the province at the present time.
In 1969, the Murchie-Stewart report advised that several of the smaller plants in Ontario be phased out of operation under the plant consolidation assistance program, and that the remaining plants update their facilities to handle extra milk in a more efficient manner. Most Cheddar factories have spent large sums of money in the past to acquire a greater quota. Now they are faced with the same quota diminishing year after year to the specialty cheese market, at no cost whatsoever to them. The Cheddar processors have virtually no way of expanding their businesses or even holding them at a reasonable level because of this situation. Cheddar plants are running far below their processing capacity during peak milk periods. In the winter months, when monthly percentages go as low as 3 per cent or 4 per cent, this situation becomes critical. The rapidly diminishing milk supply, the variance of monthly milk percentages from a low of 3 per cent or 4 per cent to a high of 14 per cent in May and June, and the fixed overhead costs of these plants place a great deal of the factories in a most undesirable position. Some are facing the prospect of closing their plants for good.
The Ontario Cheddar cheese industry has had a proud and historic record ever since the dairy industry was first instituted in the province. In fact, it was the heart of the dairy industry for a number of years. Ontario has become famous throughout the world for its excellent quality of Cheddar cheese. Now we must ask ourselves whether we will let this great industry wither and die; or will we finally take steps to preserve an industry as much a part of our Ontario heritage as farming itself?
There is one more point I should like to make in the limited time I have. We have a continuing responsibility to see that the Cheddar cheese industry of Ontario obtains its proper and sufficient quota of milk supply. Over the past 20 years, the Canadian government has participated in the amalgamation of cheese factories: it has spent millions of dollars in subsidizing these factories in the succession of amalgamations. Many of the older ones which were obsolete and inefficient, closed. Amalgamation grants were given to the other successor factories which were willing to make improvements and investments in the interest of the economy of the industry. If Ontario's share of the national quota for cheesemaking milk is not increased, we are not supporting past policies; the money put into these amalgamations will go down the drain like so much whey-and perhaps the result will be a bankruptcy of the industry. I, for one, will not stand idly by and see this happen. I am sure the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Whelan) agrees with me.
When I was in Britain a month ago as a delegate to the CPA conference, I asked assembled members of the British Parliament, in a question and answer forum, why our markets
June 13, 1978
for Canadian cheese in Britain were shrinking so drastically. The answers were not very optimistic: they pointed out that Britain was now a member of the EEC and every country of that common market was a cheese producer to some degree. 1 point out to the minister that in this regard it is our duty to watch every facet of the cheese economy in that every member country of the EEC is subsidized in the products they produce and in the export of those products. We can be-and must be-just as astute.
I am not asking that the Ontario Cheddar Cheese Association be subsidized tonight, tomorrow, or ever. All I am asking is that they be given an ample share of our national milk quota for cheese manufacturing only, to create more production for farmers, to protect the investment and the jobs of the men who make Ontario Cheddar cheese, and to supply the waiting markets with their peerless product.
Mir. Yves Caron (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture): Mr. Speaker, in reply to the hon. member for Frontenac-Lennox and Addington (Mr. Alkenbrack), I shall say that the Minister of Agriculture is not responsible for the rules governing the distribution of quotas among the provinces but rather the Canadian supply management committee. This committee is made up of representatives of the governments and the producers of each province under the leadership of the Canadian Dairy Commission.
The control of the industrial milk production in Canada results from a national agreement whereby each province accepted as a basis the percentage of milk which it produced at that time. The same principle applies for eggs, broilers and all other commodities.
As it is a national scheme, there is no evidence that the Canadian consumers do not get the dairy products of the quality and in the quantities they want. So, there is no evidence that Cheddar cheese is scarce at the national level. The supply is adequate.
As for Ontario and specialty cheeses, the Canadian production which stood at 106.1 million pounds in 1974-75 has gone up to 160 million pounds in 1977-78, or increase of 50.8 per cent.
At the same time, in Ontario, the specialty cheese production has gone from 41.2 million pounds to 62.9 million pounds, which represents an increase of 53 per cent, practically the same as the national average.
Given the Ontario production compared with the Canadian production as a whole, it is obvious that the problem experienced by the Cheddar cheese producers is due to the fact that Ontario has reduced the quantities of milk available for this type of dairy product to the benefit of butter producers. It is therefore a problem of milk movement within the province of Ontario itself and consequently it comes under provincial jurisdiction.
The Ontario request for an increase in its marketing quotas is no different from the requests of all the other provinces. Every province from East to West is asking for increased marketing quotas and every Canadian dairy producer wants an increase in his individual marketing quota, and wonders why he does not get it. The answer is quite simple.
The Canadian government has implemented a stable dairy policy and both the producer and the manufacturer are getting a fair return on their investments and their work.
Topic: PROCEEDINGS ON ADJOURNMENT MOTION
Subtopic: AGRICULTURE-REQUESTED INCREASED MILK QUOTAS FOR ONTARIO CHEESE MANUFACTURERS