Hon. Serge Joyal:
Honourable senators, no one will be surprised if I confess that I have no particular expertise in the agricultural field, but you may have read the published article this morning by Senator Miville-Dechêne “L’Inquiétude des producteurs laitiers est justifiée.” I’d like to refer you to it because I think it is an important element of the discussion and I want to bring it to your attention. This was published in the journal La Presse at page 7:
Three parts of the new agreement will affect Canada’s dairy producers, half of which — over 5,300 farms — are in Quebec.
I happen to be a senator from Quebec, from a rural district. As I said, I have no special expertise in agricultural policy, but one thing that I understand is simple: Half of the farmers in Canada will be hit by the concessions that were given in three international agreements, the CPTPP, the European agreement and of course the agreement that was entered into with the United States.
The industry that has been hit is the farmers’ industry. That industry is concentrated half in Quebec. The rest is in Ontario, in P.E.I., as Senator Griffin has said, and in Manitoba. The government promised that they would be compensated. I pay respect to the government of Stephen Harper, who started the negotiation of TPP. During the election three and half years ago, a promise was made by the government of the day that they would be compensated because they were hit, and it’s fair that if a benefit is being realized for all of Canada, those hit by the agreement should be compensated.
My plea today is that when this agreement is reviewed — and I’m addressing myself to Senator Smith, who is a senator from Quebec as I am, and we speak for the whole of Quebec as much as we speak for our specific districts from which we have been appointed in this chamber — and I would plead with the committee that will review this agreement to pay special attention and give a voice to the representatives of the farmers so that the compensation that was promised for the TPP three and half years ago, the compensation promised a year and a half ago for the European trade agreement and now what has been promised to them following the agreement with United States be evaluated. This chamber must be the voice of the farmers — wherever they produce their milk, their eggs or whatever they sell and help us to feed — so that they are heard and so that the system of compensation is followed up and they are treated fairly.
And I think that we owe that to them — and in Saskatchewan also, senator — because they are the ones hit by those agreements that we all applaud. I’m the first one to applaud the TPP, as much as I applauded the negotiation entered into by the Harper government under the European deal and as much as we applauded that we finally ended up with an agreement with the United States. But we owe it to those who will be hit to be fairly compensated and that the commitment given by the government is a real commitment. We could follow up as a chamber to make sure that that minority has its voice heard in the haste and fast track that you want to deal. But we should not forget that those deals are borne, I should say, more than they should be by a certain group of the farming sector, and I think we should make sure they are fairly compensated.
I rely on the senators who are members of the Agriculture Committee or the Foreign Affairs Committee to make sure that the farmers are heard, that they are invited to testify. In our haste to agree with the principles of the bill — we all agree with the principles of bill — that’s the issue we want dealt with. I plead with you for that, honourable senators, although I confess sincerely that I’m no expert on that, but I understand simple statistics. In my opinion, that needs to be acted upon.