Third reading of Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act

By: The Hon. Jim Munson

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Hon. Jim Munson: It is hard to match that, senator.

It’s in the middle of the afternoon and very serious subject matter, and I applaud; as you once said before, Jean Chrétien did say in the word opposition, there’s a great big O. That means you oppose and you’ve done that quite well.

Well, you have a choice, sir.

Before I get into a very short and limited speech, I was thinking about what Senator Coyle spoke about, milkshakes and ice cream and so on. I’ve had time during your speech to do some intensive research. I’ve discovered, as a maritimer, there’s a new drink out there called rum cow, and there are all kinds of ingredients to it. I’m just thinking that in support of the dairy farmers, I’m going to support this rum cow drink. I won’t go through all of it, but there’s a lot of milk in it; six ounces of milk and a little bit of rum. It’s only 3:15, but it’s getting kind of dangerous now if you’re from Atlantic Canada.

I am here to speak on behalf of the progressive senate group, I’m pleased to rise to offer comments on Bill C 16, An Act to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act. Others before me have also reviewed the bill, so I’ll keep my comments brief.

I’ve been chatting with my good friend Senator Mercer — who knows what Senator Mercer is doing now since it’s 4:15 — from Nova Scotia. He wanted to pass along some comments on the bill. Of course, he has been an esteemed member of the Agriculture Committee and is an ally and friend of farmers across this country.

From Senator Mercer: Our world is a different place. Restaurants and other businesses are closed, and consumption of milk and milk products has declined significantly. And while we are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel across the country in terms of slowly opening our economies, we still have a long way to go. The agriculture and agri-food sector has not been immune to the perils of COVID-19. Help is needed now for our farmers and this bill is one part of that assistance.

Honourable senators, no one wants to hear about farms having to dump milk. Our farmers have always donated what they can, when they can, to food banks, as we heard from the minister this afternoon, and that is to be applauded. But our farmers cannot donate raw milk, only its products.

That is why this bill is essential because it creates the extra capacity to bulk purchase products that can be stored and so it should help to prevent raw milk waste. It will put much-needed funds in the hands of producers and processors.

One thing we should acknowledge is our supply-managed system. Reacting to severe changes in production and demand is a key component. The COVID-19 crisis has put extra pressure on the system and so this bill should, we hope, help weather the storm.

Finally, it is also worthwhile to note that the funding announced by the federal government across the agricultural sector is nowhere near the Canadian Federation of Agriculture’s requested amount, but it is a start. We will all be watching and listening to see what more should be done.

Today we are looking at dairy, but tomorrow we will be looking at other parts of the agriculture and agri-food sector.

Farmers are the backbone of rural Canada. In fact, farmers are the backbone of this country. But we should remember that they are all the lifeblood of all Canadians.

Thank you.

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