The federal government is still facing political pressure to deliver on compensation plans for dairy and poultry producers.
And those calling for action say it needs to happen in advance of signing the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Before starting Parliament’s week-long Thanksgiving break, MPs from all parties backed a motion calling for a financial compensation program to all farmers in supply management “for all the losses they sustain” due to the Canada-Europe, USMCA and Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deals.
Meanwhile, eight independent senators from Quebec have issued a call to Prime Minister Trudeau “to quickly put in place appropriate measures to fully compensate our dairy producers and allow them to remain competitive in the face of increased competition.”
While not opposed to the USMCA, the senators said, “It will undeniably result in significant negative effects for Canadian producers, particularly dairy producers in Quebec, who account for 49 per cent of dairy farms and 37 per cent of dairy production in Canada.”
As the trade deal is still undergoing a review called a legal scrub it could be months before the final text is agreed on and submitted for debate in Parliament.
MPs were debating the CPTPP bill when Bloc Quebecois MP Gabriel Ste-Marie introduced his motion requesting the government to implement a compensation program for dairy and poultry farmers for breaches in supply management affected by the three trade agreements.
He received unanimous consent for the motion, which showed he had lined up support for it and the Liberals were not opposed.
During question period the same day, Jean-Claude Poissant, parliamentary secretary for agriculture, said the government “had a commitment to compensate producers in a fair and effective manner.”
He defended the government’s handling of supply management in the negotiations with the United States and Mexico.
“We defended our supply management system against the Americans’ aggressive attempts at dismantling it,” he said. “Market access is similar to what the Conservatives had negotiated in the TPP.”
Bloc Quebecois MP Richard Martel said the Trudeau government “not only opened up our market to American products and eliminated Class 7, but also put a cap on Canadian exports. That defies reason.”
The government should at least say when the details of the compensation package will be announced, he said.
Independent Quebec Senator Andre Pratte said Canada has “every interest in having trade with our main partners that is free from tariff and non-tariff barriers.”
While “it is obviously too early to express an opinion on the specific terms of the agreement,” he said it’s “important for the federal government to quickly put in place appropriate measures to fully compensate our dairy producers and allow them to remain competitive in the face of increased competition.”
He said the offsets offered Canadian farmers after the signing of the trade deal with Europe were “largely insufficient” and that “leaves us somewhat concerned.”
“Access to assistance provided by the Dairy Farm Investment Program (DFIP) has proved difficult,” he said. “In Quebec, barely 16 per cent of producers in the province received money under the DFIP.
“Consequently, we invite the federal government to develop fair and simple compensation programs in co-operation with representatives of dairy, egg and poultry producers.”
Pratte said his group will continue to closely monitor the situation while they talk with senators from other provinces about supporting their stand.