IN THE HOUSE ~ Speaking on the supply management sector

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster, NDP)

Mr. Chair, I would like to congratulate you on your new appointment to this august body.

I would also like to thank the parliamentary secretary for his intervention. Both he and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food have been very available this evening. We appreciate that because this is an extremely important debate and these are important issues.

The people in the gallery tonight watching us and the people watching on television from coast to coast to coast are as concerned as we all should be about the future of the agricultural sector, the future of rural Canada. I can renew the pledge from this corner of the House and the New Democratic Party caucus on behalf of our leader, the member for Toronto-Danforth, that we will be working with members from all four corners of the House to make sure we get results for and solutions to the farm crisis that Canadians are living through right now.

One of the key elements of this, as the parliamentary secretary well knows, is the system of supply management. A number of members have spoken to that tonight, to the importance of keeping the supply management sector whole and viable.

I had a somewhat chilling conversation with the chief negotiator for Canada at the World Trade Organization negotiations last fall. During a briefing, he talked about the fact that the supply management sector is basically about 11% of agricultural receipts and the Americans were pushing to reduce that to 1%. The chilling phrase he said to me was that "the compromise is somewhere in between". What that means is that there was consideration of selling out half of the supply management sector, selling that out and giving it away in WTO negotiations.

My question to the parliamentary secretary is very straightforward and clear. Will he commit today on behalf of the government that he or the government will walk away from any negotiations that reduce the supply management sector? In other words, will the government refuse to sign any WTO proposed agreement that hurts supply management and, as a result, hurts communities across this country that depend on the supply management sector to make ends meet?