Question period in Senate – Nov. 16 2016

International Trade

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement—Dairy Assistance Program

Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Leader, the government announced an investment of $350 million for two new programs, apparently to support the competitiveness of the dairy sector in anticipation of the entry into force of the Canada—European Union free trade agreement. Quebec's agriculture minister, Pierre Paradis, thinks that this amount is inadequate. He wants to meet with the federal ministers of agriculture and international trade in order to discuss the details of these assistance programs, especially with respect to the funding that will be allocated to dairy farmers in Quebec.

How did the government come to the conclusion that $350 million would be enough to compensate Canada's dairy sector?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate): I want to thank the honourable senator for his question. Before I answer it, I want to congratulate him because, as senators will remember, in his last question just before the break, he asked when the government would announce the awarding of an icebreaker for the St. Lawrence. I said soon, but I would check.

Later that afternoon, as he was going to Montreal, the news came out and he sent me an email from his car — I'm sure it was hands-free — telling me that he had extraordinary power in having one question get a response. In that spirit, let me answer this question.

Colleagues, the Government of Canada takes the CETA agreement as a wonderful opportunity for Canada to gain access to a European market, particularly at a time when there are voices in the world that would limit access to free trade.

With respect to CETA agreement, the Government of Canada is consulting with and has fully supported Canadian dairy farmers and the supply management system in the negotiating process. It is, as the senator's question suggests, investing up to $350 million in the dairy sector for two programs to support the competitiveness of this sector in anticipation of the coming- into-force of CETA. These programs, the government believes, will help farmers to innovate and to improve productivity and help producers to innovate and diversify their products. Dairy farmers have called this an important recognition of the contribution farmers and processors are making to the Canadian economy and to this long-term investment in dairy modernization as we prepare to implement CETA application.

The government has consulted and will continue to consult with the dairy sector to get its views on the design of the program. These programs are complementary to the government's other programs of support to the dairy industry and supply management, and we are confident that this will assure future generations of dairy producers of competitiveness in the long run and of access to the European market, as provided for under the agreement.

Senator Carignan: Leader, I was referring to your power to influence the government in the procurement of ice breakers.

As for the $350 million, how much of that will be given to Quebec and to each of the provinces? Finally, will Minister MacAuley and Minister Freeland agree to meet with the Quebec agriculture minister, Pierre Paradis? If so, when?

Senator Harder: I will take that question as notice. I don't have the schedules of the ministers, but I know that they regularly meet their counterparts. Mr. MacAulay has been diligent, in particular, in keeping in touch with all of the ministers of agriculture across the country with respect to this matter. I will be happy to report back to the senator.

I want to assure all senators that the Government of Canada takes the CETA implementation and preparation of that implementation very seriously, as I say, particularly at a time when there are voices of disruption in the area of international trade.

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