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S'enregistrer au Flux RSS Le Sénat du Canada
Blog > Economy > Transpacific Partnership: will Canada suffer dumping to the detriment of our food safety?
Jun 21

Transpacific Partnership: will Canada suffer dumping to the detriment of our food safety?

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The announcement that the Government of Canada will be participating in free trade negotiations with the Pacific Rim countries raises not just the issue of protecting our supply management system, but also the issues of environmental dumping and social dumping, which could plague Canada even more.

Dumping occurs when goods are imported at a price lower than their value because production standards in the country of origin are lower than those for goods produced in Canada. Some countries sell competitive goods on the Canadian market because their minimum wage, if it exists, is lower than ours, their labour rights provide less protection for workers than what is afforded to our workers, and their health and environmental standards are lower than Canada’s. Thus, not only does our agri-food industry face unfair competition, but our societal model and food safety are also threatened.

Can the leader tell us if, as a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Canada would strongly oppose imports of products that could erode the working conditions of Canadian workers and lower the quality of the products they produce?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): I thank the honourable senator for the question. I believe that most Canadians were very pleased with the news that Canada will be participating in the TPP.

As with any negotiation, nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to by every party. Opening new markets and creating new business opportunities leads to jobs, growth and long-term and short-term prosperity for all Canadians. Of course, we all know the numbers, and we all know the shift to the Asia-Pacific region. This agreement will enhance trade in the Asia-Pacific region and will provide greater economic opportunity for Canadians and Canadian businesses all across our country.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: That answer is well read, but it does not answer my question. I will try another one.

As usual, we know that groups such as the L’Institut économique de Montréal, the Fraser Institute, some journalists from the National Post, and the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association mobilized to demand that the federal government scrap supply management in the name of free market economics. These groups have been shut down every time by successive federal governments who have signed 11 free trade agreements since 1986. We understand that they were not successful, and we praise the government for that.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership raises serious questions about food safety, considering that the Conservative government has cut the number of food inspectors and conducts a minimal amount of inspections for imported food products. When will the government increase the frequency and thoroughness of the safety inspections of imported food products and guarantee that the food Canadians buy from other countries conforms to the same health standards that the federal government imposes on food producers in Canada?

Senator LeBreton: First of all, the honourable senator is quite incorrect when she says that we have cut food inspectors. The opposite is true. We have hired over 700 food inspectors since 2006. Budget 2012 included an additional $15 million over two years to enhance food safety; so, quite clearly, wherever she is getting her information on how we are doing on food safety is wrong.

With regard to supply management, as I pointed out yesterday in answer to one of her colleagues, we have participated in many trade agreements with many countries around the world. Since we came into office, we have preserved Canada’s supply management system. In any negotiations that the country is involved with, we will obviously go to the table and will not agree to anything unless all aspects of our economy are taken into consideration.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: I think we want to have a fair and level playing field for competition. I think all Canadians expect us to, but not at the cost of the quality of the product. Right now, we know that the Americans and the Europeans are heavily subsidizing their agriculture while, in Canada, we are managing some sectors. These sectors are doing very well, and we have some farmers who are making a decent living.

I want to know whether, in conducting these discussions, we will ensure that all of the standards applied to food products in Canada apply to imports. For strawberries that come from California, for instance, pesticides that are forbidden in Canada are used, and we still import them.

My question from the beginning was: Will we maintain the high quality of food that we produce in Canada and apply it to any product that might be listed in discussions regarding a free trade agreement?

Senator LeBreton: I have put on the record what the government has done in the food safety area. We have negotiated free trade agreements with other countries. We have maintained our supply management system. As I said to the honourable senator in answer to her second question, as in all international trade negotiations, our government will promote Canadian interests in all sectors of the Canadian economy.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: Perhaps we will end up agreeing. That would not be a bad thing, for once, for something that we share some interest in, which is the health of Canadians. Our farmers are bound to very high standards, with which they happily comply. They provide the best quality of food for Canadians.

I am asking the leader, will her government maintain that standard? Will it ensure, in the new policy, that these standards will be applied?

Senator LeBreton: All governments, I would hope, would approach any trade negotiation with the goal in mind of maintaining very high standards of food safety for all products coming into our country.

As I mentioned a moment ago, and I will hold to this statement as it happens to be true, our negotiators and our government will not enter into any agreement without factoring in all sectors of our economy.

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