Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry
Issue 37 - Evidence - Meeting of June 13, 2013
OTTAWA, Thursday, June 13, 2013
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at
7:59 a.m. to examine and report on research and innovation efforts in the
agricultural sector (topic: Innovation in the agriculture and agri-food
sector from the producers' perspective and the contribution of agricultural
innovation and research efforts in rural community development).
Senator Percy Mockler (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Honourable senators, I declare this meeting of the
Standing Committee on Agriculture and Forestry in session.
Honourable senators, before we move into the official agenda of the
meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, the
chair would like to recognize Senator Plett. He would like to inform all
senators about Kevin's father.
Senator Plett: Thank you, chair. I am sure most of you know that
our regular clerk is not here today as he is home in Newfoundland attending
the funeral for his father, who passed away a few days ago. Fortunately,
Kevin was there already when his dad did pass away, so he got some time with
The chair, the deputy chair and I talked about it, and I sent some
condolences, first, through the website that they had set up. I sent a short
note on behalf of the committee. We also sent some flowers on behalf of the
committee. Of course, this is something that the Senate typically does not
pay for, so I paid for it. It was $131 and, if any of you want to contribute
towards that, you are certainly welcome to do so. I do not know how you want
to handle that, chair, but, indeed, we want to send our condolences to Kevin
and the family and have done so.
The Chair: Thank you, Senator Plett. We will deal with that item
after the meeting. Thank you for doing that on behalf of the committee and
thank you to the Deputy Chair also, on behalf of all the members of the
I welcome you to this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry. This morning, honourable senators, we will have
two presentations. At the end of our regular hour, I will be asking that, at
10 minutes to 10:00, we take time to look at the table of contents that was
distributed so that we can authorize the clerk and the researcher to move on
the draft of our report.
That said, my name is Senator Percy Mockler. I am from New Brunswick and
chair of the committee. I would now like to start by asking all senators to
introduce themselves, starting with the deputy chair of the committee. Then
we will officially introduce the witness.
Senator Mercer: Senator Terry Mercer from Nova Scotia. I am the
Senator Callbeck: Catherine Callbeck, Prince Edward Island.
Senator Tardif: Good morning. I am Claudette Tardif from Alberta.
Senator Plett: Good morning. Welcome here. My name is Don Plett
and I am from Manitoba.
Senator Buth: Good morning. I am JoAnne Buth from Manitoba.
Senator Oh: My name is Victor Oh from Ontario.
Senator Eaton: Good morning. Nicole Eaton, Ontario.
Senator Maltais: Good morning. I am Ghislain Maltais from Quebec.
Senator Rivard: Michel Rivard from Quebec.
The Chair: Thank you. The committee is continuing its study on
research and innovation efforts in the agricultural sector. Today, we will
hear from two panels. In the first panel, we will be focusing on innovation
in the agriculture and agri-food sectors, from the producer's perspective.
The focus for the second panel will be the contribution of agricultural
innovation and research efforts in rural community development.
Mr. Gilvesy, thank you very much for accepting our invitation. As you
have been made aware, the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and
Forestry was authorized by the Senate of Canada to examine research and
development efforts in the context of developing new markets domestically
and internationally, enhancing agricultural sustainability and improving
food diversity and security, as we go forward with agriculture in Canada, to
maintain and surpass its initiatives when it comes to innovation.
The first panel is Mr. George Gilvesy, General Manager, Ontario
Greenhouse Vegetable Growers. Thank you for accepting our invitation and
sharing your vision with us. At this time, I will ask you to make your
presentation, which will be followed by questions from the senators.
George Gilvesy, General Manager, Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers:
Thank you, senators. It is my pleasure to be here today. I was
pre-empted last night by Senator Oh. We introduced ourselves to each other
in the hotel elevator last night, so I got an opportunity to meet a senator
in real life prior to this meeting. Thank you for the opportunity to present
before you today.
The Ontario greenhouse vegetable sector accounts for 63 per cent of the
$1.1 billion in farm cash receipts attributed to the Canadian greenhouse
vegetable sector. Ontario boasts one of the largest greenhouse regions in
North America, with 224 growers and 2,272 acres of greenhouse tomato, pepper
and cucumber production. Greenhouse vegetables are also produced on a
significant scale in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and the Maritimes.
The Ontario greenhouse vegetable sector is also a significant part of the
rural economy, accounting for in excess of 12,000 jobs annually.
The Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, otherwise known as OGVG, is
headquartered in Leamington, Ontario, and it is the grower organization for
all tomato, pepper and cucumber greenhouse farmers in Ontario. Our mandate
is ``to provide market access for producers and ensure the opportunity for
Our sector is one of the fastest growing agriculture sectors in Canada.
We believe we are one of Canada's best-kept secrets. The scope and growth of
the Ontario greenhouse sector is relatively unknown outside of our growing
region, as few people understand Ontario's market dominance position across
North America. This market dominance extends from eastern Canada down
through the southern United States, principally east of the Mississippi, and
is maintained through the months of April to November, when we are most in
An example of the impact of the growth of our sector on the local economy
is a recent report from the Conference Board of Canada. This report
highlighted Leamington, Ontario, as having one of the highest increases in
jobs, an astonishing 33.8 per cent between 2011 and 2012, of all the
mid-sized cities in Canada studied. Leamington also experienced an increase
in gross domestic product of 10.6 per cent during the same time period.
Leamington's economic development manager attributed this growth in jobs and
GDP primarily to the 205 acres of growth of the local greenhouse vegetable
sector. In fact, since January 2011 to January 2013 — because that is how we
measure our statistics — that level of growth is actually 350 acres, much
higher than the 205 acknowledged in that study.
At close to $1 million per acre, this private investment in high-tech
greenhouse production facilities has been a real boost to the economy and
the growth of the sector is expected to continue. That is roughly $350
million that has been invested over a two-year period in greenhouse
facilities in Ontario. When you start looking at the investments going into
automobile factories, I think we are getting fairly close with those kinds
The goal of the Ontario greenhouse vegetable sector is to exceed sales of
$1 billion within 10 years. This goal will only be achieved by investing
with government and other stakeholders in innovative R&D and policies to
drive the production of year-round, environmentally sustainable greenhouse
produce that is safe and fresh, at a quality that meets the needs of our
growing customer base.
Greenhouse vegetable farming is one of the most sustainable and
productive forms of agriculture in Canada. We are able to produce 10 times
more food per square metre than field producers because of our nearly
year-round production under controlled-environment conditions, which allows
us to maximize production of high-quality tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.
The controlled nature of our production system also allows us to
efficiently utilize typical agriculture inputs, for example, water and
nutrients, as well as other inputs that are not as easily used in field
production, for example, bees for pollination, CO2 to increase
photosynthesis, and good bugs to do the job of pesticides. That is where we
have good bugs eating the bad bugs.
Greenhouses can also be built on a variety of soil types, which allows
for opportunities for greenhouse production in non-traditional agriculture
areas of the country. Overall, greenhouse vegetable production allows Canada
to maximize production of healthy food, while minimizing the strain on
Canada's natural resources.
Innovation is critical to our sector's global competitiveness and we are,
therefore, committed to investing in innovative research and development
initiatives for the sector. This includes investment in labour and energy
efficiencies, which are our two largest production costs, as well as
investment in crop protection, product improvement and differentiation, and
The Canadian greenhouse vegetable sector, in collaboration with the
Canadian Horticultural Council's Greenhouse Production Committee, has
applied for federal funding under a number of Growing Forward 1 and Growing
Forward 2 initiatives. Over the last five years, we have received
approximately $1.1 million in federal government funding for research and
development initiatives for our sector, which equates less than .03 per cent
of our total farm cash receipts. Although we are grateful for this support
from the federal government, which has allowed us to leverage our grower
dollars to fund some innovative R&D projects, the low level of investment
has restricted our ability to invest in R&D that could have advanced our
sector even further.
Given the nature of the production systems, our sector relies heavily on
the use of experimental greenhouse facilities to conduct our innovative
research, particularly the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Greenhouse and
Processing Crops Research Centre in Harrow, Ontario, which is very close to
Leamington. We are also looking forward to the new greenhouse facility
opening in June 2013 at the Southern Crop Protection and Food Research
Centre in London, Ontario, as well as the pre-commercial scale research
greenhouse proposed at Vineland Research and Innovations Centre. We greatly
value the accessibility to these facilities and the world-class researchers
within, and strongly request that the federal government ensures that all
funding programs are designed with no limits to accessing these resources.
One of the most important components of food security is providing
Canadians with reliable, safe food. Ontario greenhouse vegetable farmers are
committed to food safety, with each farm being required to undergo an annual
third- party food safety audit. Many of our growers have also implemented
advanced traceability systems that allow produce to be tracked from the
consumer back to the exact section of the greenhouse where the produce was
harvested. Through our sector's food safety and traceability programs, we
are well prepared for any potential food safety incident from a sector point
However, we are deeply concerned about major potential food safety
outbreaks and the potential fallout to our sector and specifically the
Canadian government's level of preparedness in the event of such an
In September 2012, the Canadian Horticultural Council's Greenhouse
Production Committee wrote letters to the Minister of Agriculture and
Agri-food Canada and the Minister of Health Canada to convey our concerns
about the government's level of preparedness. These letters were in response
to the highly publicized and devastating 2011 E. coli outbreak in Germany
from European sprouts. I do not think anyone went by without reading or
being aware of that story. This event taught us many things, including the
openness of the global food system, for example a Europe without borders;
the importance of industry and government being prepared with spokespeople
and a crisis management plan; and, most important, the value of a
comprehensive traceability system.
Canada is recognized globally as having a world-class food safety system
and it is this reputation that needs to be maintained through the
development and implementation of an innovative crisis management plan that
takes the needs of government, consumers and the agriculture sectors into
account. We encourage our government to review Canada's planning so as to
definitely avert a situation similar to what Europe experienced.
With regard to new markets and market access, greenhouse vegetable
farmers operate in a fiercely competitive global marketplace. Greenhouse
produce is freely traded across international borders with Mexico and the
United States, with some Central and South American countries being the main
competition in both domestic and export markets. In most cases, these
competitors are lower-cost producers, primarily as a result of labour and
regulatory compliance costs. More than 70 per cent of our produce is
exported to the United States and, therefore, trade is very important to
Ontario greenhouse vegetable farmers.
Given the importance of the United States market and the perishable
nature of our products, even intermittent interruption to market access can
cause devastating results for our farmers. In order to reach our goal of $1
billion in sales in 10 years, our sector must develop new markets while
maintaining our current markets.
In order to lessen our dependency on our traditional Canadian and U.S.
retail markets, our sector is currently investigating new market segments
and exploring other global market opportunities. One of our primary areas of
focus is the development of the food service market both domestically and in
the United States. It is hard to believe that 60 per cent of all tomatoes
are consumed in the food service sector in North America. That means only 40
per cent of the tomatoes were bought in a grocery store in the typical
To accomplish this, the sector is investing in innovative market research
to better understand this new market segment and how we can match our
product offerings to the needs of the customers. Thanks to funding support
from the federal government, the OGVG also recently completed a study
through the George Morris Centre in Guelph, Ontario, that evaluated the
market potential for greenhouse vegetables in the Pacific Rim. OGVG will
continue to investigate new markets and we ask that the federal government
continue to provide financial and/or policy support for these endeavours.
Although the development of new markets is very important to the
continued success of our sector, it is just as important that our current
markets are maintained. This means investing in promotional activities, as
well as ensuring that any market access issues are resolved.
OGVG currently undertakes numerous promotional initiatives to market our
products to Canadian and U.S. retailers. As an example, OGVG, with support
from the federal government, invested in a trade show booth to allow us to
promote our produce at the Produce Marketing Association Show, the largest
show for produce in North America and probably the largest in the world.
These promotional activities are crucial to maintaining and growing our
current market share and we request that the federal government provide more
support for provincial- and regional-based promotional campaigns.
As previously stated, trade is crucial to our sector, particularly
exports to the United States. Therefore, it is critical that any threats to
market access be dealt with swiftly by the federal government. Two current
examples of trade threats are the lack of an effective payment security
mechanism and the lack of CFIA support for plant-related phytosanitary
Greenhouse farmers face a serious threat to market access with the lack
of an effective payment security mechanism. Perishable produce farmers and
their marketers receive valuable protection within the United States market
through various legislation and regulation controls enacted there. The
failure of the Canadian government to enact similar provisions within Canada
is becoming a significant trade irritant between the two countries and may
result in the loss of protection provided to Canadian vegetable farmers.
Through the Regulatory Cooperation Council initiative set in motion by
Prime Minister Harper and President Obama in late 2011, we have been given a
significant opportunity to enact a fair and ethical licensing and payment
protection system for perishable products in Canada. We look forward to and
support our government departments in finally achieving a program that meets
the needs of our domestic industry, as well as that of our most important
trading partner. Since our produce is perishable, it cannot be recovered in
the event of non-payment by a buyer. Enacting a suitable licensing and
payment security system will provide North American payment protection to
our farmers and our marketers.
Another current threat to market access is the reduced support from CFIA
for assessment and enforcement of plant- related phytosanitary issues. The
Canadian greenhouse vegetable sector is very vulnerable to the introduction
of invasive species given our ideal growing conditions and close proximity
to imported products, and we are also vulnerable to potential invasive
species being found on our produce being exported into the United States. A
phytosanitary issue at the border could result in closure of the U.S. border
to Canadian greenhouse vegetables, and this would be devastating for our
sector. It is very clear that the sector needs additional support from CFIA
in order to ensure that it is protected from this threat.
Overall, it is crucial that the federal government and its agencies, for
example, CFIA, work with the agriculture sector to find innovative ways to
use the limited resources available to ensure that our current markets
remain open and the potential options for future markets, such as in Asia,
In conclusion, the greenhouse vegetable sector is investing in innovative
new processes, practices and products to ensure the sustainable production
of safe products that meet the needs of our varied customers. We ask that
the federal government and its agencies also invest their resources in
innovative R&D and policy development in order to ensure Canadians continue
to have a thriving agriculture and greenhouse sector. The magnitude of this
federal investment should take into account the current size and growth
potential of the Canadian greenhouse vegetable sector, an issue that we feel
is poorly understood by federal officials.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Senator Mercer: Mr. Gilvesy, thank you very much for being here
and for that very informative presentation.
You talked about a 33.8 per cent increase in the number of jobs in
Leamington, Ontario, built around the greenhouse industry. How many of those
workers are temporary foreign workers?
Mr. Gilvesy: Temporary foreign workers or SAWP? There is the
Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, which is the Mexican and Caribbean
program. That represents around 3,500 workers to the greenhouse vegetable
sector and about another 500 people are utilized through the Temporary
Foreign Worker Program of the 12,000.
Senator Mercer: That is 4,000 of the 12,000.
Mr. Gilvesy: There is a real distinction between the SAWP and the
Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Senator Mercer: Please put the distinction on the record. I
understand the Temporary Foreign Worker Program; I do not know that our
viewers will understand the SAWP.
Mr. Gilvesy: I will explain as best I can. There are other experts
in this field whom you may want to call upon for this. Ken Forth, the
president of FARMS in Ontario, has 30 years of history on this file relating
to the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program and I am sure he would be
pleased to talk to you about the specifics.
From my understanding, the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program started
in the 1960s as a north-south dialogue between Canada and the Caribbean, and
later developed to include Mexico. That program has stringent rules around
it. The airfare to get those workers here is paid for mostly by the grower.
There are changes in the program all the time, but the principal conditions
are that airfare is paid for, and the workers are to be provided housing
that meets a minimum standard and is inspected by authorities.
To my understanding, those conditions do not exist in the Temporary
Foreign Worker Program. That is a much looser environment, and I would hate
to have any confusion between the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program,
which is well controlled, managed and administered by the government and the
private sector, as well as the participating foreign governments, and the
Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
Senator Mercer: That was enlightening. You said that 70 per cent
of the produce is exported to the United States. What effect do the
country-of-origin labelling laws that the United States continues to want to
impose on imports have on your industry with regard to both cost and effect
Mr. Gilvesy: To my understanding, that has not been an impediment
to our producers meeting the needs of COOL. I understand that that is more
of an obstacle in the livestock sector, but for produce it has not been up
to this time.
Senator Mercer: And ``Product of Canada'' on the label is not a
deterrent to American purchasers?
Mr. Gilvesy: No. Some of them actually say that they look for it.
Senator Mercer: That is good.
We have heard from others in the greenhouse business about the shortage
of bees. Is there a shortage of bees in the Ontario market? Do you have to
Mr. Gilvesy: We obviously use bees in the greenhouses for
pollination of some of the crops. The bee issue is a large one. Some of my
staff are involved in discussions regarding the technical aspects of it. At
this time there is not a shortage, but there certainly is concern about the
potential for problems developing in the future pertaining to bees.
Senator Plett: In your remarks you talked about how your life
would be much easier if the federal government helped you a little more. You
spoke of $1.1 million in federal government funding for research and
development initiatives over the last five years. How much has your industry
invested in research and development to offset that $1.1 million?
Mr. Gilvesy: I cannot answer that today; I do not have the numbers
with me. However, we can certainly get that for you.
Senator Plett: I would very much appreciate if you would send that
to us through the clerk.
Mr. Gilvesy: I think it would exceed the $1.1 million.
Senator Plett: You think it would, but you do not know.
Mr. Gilvesy: I know from our overall budget on research for the
five years, but I would have to break it down specifically to what is
matched for the federal initiatives.
Senator Plett: You also said that you would like all funding
programs to be designed with no limits to accessing these resources. Could
you explain what limits there are now to accessing resources?
Mr. Gilvesy: Yes. In the last round of Growing Forward 1, some of
the programs had conditions that made us unable to use Agriculture and
Agri-Food Canada facilities and/or their human resources. I believe that was
related to a Treasury Board directive pertaining to the optics of the use of
some funding in that regard.
That programming was designed to eliminate any chance of that failing.
That may have been applicable for other forms of agriculture that had access
to the programs and to many other places to do their research. It became a
major problem for greenhouse, because you need greenhouses to do greenhouse
research in. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has greenhouses and not that
many other facilities do. That put us in an awkward position.
As I said, that may not have applied to field agriculture, because they
could do their research in a field. It was a problem for us. In fact, both
the facilities and the researcher issue was a limiter in Growing Forward 1.
We understand in Growing Forward 2 that that issue will be less of a
problem. We only stated it here, because we felt that that program design
was flawed from our perspective and we would hope that it would not provide
a limiter moving forward.
Senator Plett: You are suggesting that maybe in Growing Forward 2
that has been dealt with?
Mr. Gilvesy: I am hopeful that it is dealt with. All the details
around Growing Forward 2 pertaining to the federal- provincial cost-share
program have not yet come out to us as far as the specific details. My
understanding is that it will not be a limiter.
Senator Plett: Again, you said that your industry is prepared in
the case of some safety outbreak, but you do not believe the government is.
I would like you to explain that a bit. If the government is not prepared,
in what way are they not prepared?
Mr. Gilvesy: I think I was pretty careful, senator, in the
wording. I did not say the government was not prepared. What we asked was,
will you do a review?
In Europe, 34 deaths occurred because of that outbreak. There was massive
turmoil in the marketplace. First, they thought it was cucumbers; then they
thought it was something else; and then it was organic sprouts. It was a
mess for about three weeks. It created a total mess in the whole produce
sector in Europe as far as supply chain. The growers went through a lot of
problems. They were unable to sell their produce because everyone stopped
The point we are making is the fundamental question of just asking the
question: Are we ready, and are we ready to avert a situation as happened in
The other thing was from a commercial point of view. There was a spinach
issue, I believe in 2006, out of California with regard to a food safety
outbreak there. Six years later, the market has only recovered to 60 per
cent of what it was prior to 2006. That is why we are asking the fundamental
question. It has the impact at the moment, but it can have long-lasting
impacts on the sector.
We are not criticizing with this statement. We are asking the fundamental
question: Are we prepared? The German situation was quite unique because
they had at least 30 different spokesmen from the government or agencies. In
a food crisis like that, you need to have a point person. These are just
simple questions that we are asking.
Senator Callbeck: You are the general manager of the Ontario
Greenhouse Vegetable Growers. If you are going to grow vegetables in a
greenhouse, do you have to belong to this association?
Mr. Gilvesy: Yes. We are actually a marketing board under the Farm
Products Marketing Act in the province of Ontario. Therefore, by
legislation, if you are growing these types of vegetables in a greenhouse,
you must be a member of the OGVG.
Senator Callbeck: How much are the fees?
Mr. Gilvesy: The fees vary, but this year they represent 2.51
cents per square foot.
Senator Callbeck: What does the average producer pay for a fee?
Mr. Gilvesy: Our average producer is 11 acres. I would have to do
the math: 11 times 43,560. Their fees would be about $7,000.
Senator Callbeck: You are involved in research, and you mentioned
the federal government. I think you they gave you $1.1 million over five
years. You were asked about the amount of money that you felt you put in and
you do not have that figure. Do you get any money from the Ontario
Mr. Gilvesy: Yes, we do get limited amounts of money from the
provincial government, as well.
Senator Callbeck: Do you know how much that is?
Mr. Gilvesy: Again, I do not have that on the tip of my tongue and
available today. It is significant money. It would at least equal the
Senator Callbeck: What would be a rough figure as to the total
amount that you spend on research, including from fees, the federal
government and the Ontario government?
Mr. Gilvesy: Our research budget would have a range. From year to
year, depending on the demand, we would probably spend anywhere from
$500,000 to $1 million in research, depending on the programming that is
Senator Callbeck: Do you identify the areas for research, or does
a researcher come to you and request funding? How does that work?
Mr. Gilvesy: Actually, that is a very good question. That is a
process that has changed over a number of years. Years ago, it was the
researchers who would bring the thing and say, ``This is what I want to
We now go through a serious process of consultation. We bring the growers
and the whole value chain in to identify the priorities that we have in
research. We send out the top five priorities that we want to work in, and
then we have a process for calls for proposals. Our committee then evaluates
those calls for proposals and determines which ones they want to fund and
which they do not want to fund. The system has turned around to where it is
driven by the sector.
Senator Callbeck: How do you make your 224 members aware of the
results of the research?
Mr. Gilvesy: They are usually published for them. We have a
newsletter where we publish at least the highlights of those things. We also
utilize email. Since there are only 224 of them, we have a very tight
communications system with them, either through email or our written
Senator Callbeck: Do you find that the producers are eager to take
up these new innovation ideas?
Mr. Gilvesy: The greenhouse sector is probably the most vicious on
wanting to embrace new technology. That is the nature of the business. It is
all about innovation, who can do it better, who can get the better yields
and who can produce the better fruit. A great deal of the drive for these
growers comes around innovation and the investment.
Senator Eaton: As an ex-gardener, someone who cannot garden
anymore as much as I would like to, I would love to have your job.
I will ask you two different questions. There was an interesting article
in The Wall Street Journal a couple of Saturdays ago talking about
nutrition and taste being removed from food. We are engineering them. I am
all for engineering, but we are doing so much of this that, in effect, we
are removing taste. I think everyone knows to buy a tomato sometimes in the
winter is to get something that often does not taste like a tomato. Is this
something you see as a challenge?
Mr. Gilvesy: That is a great question. I think you maybe picked up
on the word I used in my presentation relating to differentiation. That is
the key aspect of differentiating we are putting our efforts into now. We
are doing some of that work, but so are some of our individual members in
the marketing that they are doing. You are probably seeing in the grocery
store right now I think 44 different SKUs of tomatoes.
Senator Eaton: There are, and I always look for Ontario greenhouse
tomatoes, because I remember the grape ones. I remember buying them in
Florida and they were the only one that had taste.
Mr. Gilvesy: We very much believe that our future lies in offering
a flavour profile to the consumer because that is what will differentiate
you over the long run.
The field product or homegrown tomato is ultimately a great product. It
has a great flavour profile, and people like growing their own and eating
their own. The reality is that we only have that product available to us for
a couple of weeks or a month of the year. What we are doing here, though, is
looking at producing a flavour profile that is there for nine months.
Senator Eaton: With all the nutrition?
Mr. Gilvesy: With the same type of plant or product that is grown
on that same vine for that period of time. The greenhouse production is one
where it is like Jack and the beanstalk. The stalk just keeps growing. It is
not that you are re-planting the plant all the time. Cucumbers are
different. They plant cucumbers at four different times of the year. For the
tomato and the pepper, it is a continuous vine, and it is producing. You
have the same varieties that, under the same conditions, are supposed to
provide you with the same type of fruit quality and flavour profile through
the course of the year.
To go back to your fundamental question, flavour profile is one of the
areas in which we are aiming at differentiating ourselves from our
competition in the future.
Senator Eaton: Talking about flavour profile is a very good segue
to free trade, export and competition.
If we manage to get a free trade deal with the EU and later with Japan,
India, parts of the Pacific and South America, do you see this as being your
tool? Is this a good tool for you in trade? How do you see all of those
deals affecting you?
Mr. Gilvesy: Those are good tools. You have to balance that with
the fact that we are dealing with a perishable. The cumber will only have a
life of 10 or 11 days after it is bought at the grocery store and before it
goes soft. Probably, if we are looking at products that could have that type
of export potential and support, the tomato would obviously be in there, but
the pepper probably has the longest shelf life and the best ability to be
exported those types of distances.
Senator Eaton: Do you see a market there?
Mr. Gilvesy: We do. According to the analysis that the George
Morris Centre did and to other information we have garnered from there, the
market worldwide is segmenting. You have people who only want low cost food;
that is all they can afford. However, you also have a very rich part of the
market that can pay a premium and want the novelty of product coming from
exotic Canada, in this example.
Senator Eaton: Especially if it has taste.
Mr. Gilvesy: Especially if it has taste. If they perceive it to
have added value, we think it is a very good value proposition.
Senator Tardif: You mentioned, in your brief, that greenhouse
farmers face serious threats to market access in the United States because
of the lack of an effective payment security mechanism. Could you elaborate
on that point? What do you mean by it? How does it promote trade, and how
could that be created?
Mr. Gilvesy: Good question; thank you very much for that.
The United States has a legislative instrument called the PACA Trust.
PACA is the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act. That tool was developed
in, I believe, the 1950s. It means that if you are selling a perishable, as
in produce, from the point of view of creditors, then you, as the producer,
are first in line to get your money. You will get paid. With a perishable
product, there is no inventory. In 10 days or two weeks, the inventory has
disappeared because it will rot. You either eat it or smell it. From that
principle, the U.S. enacted the PACA Trust to protect produce producers. We
do not have that same type of tool here in Canada.
When our members are shipping into the United States, just because of the
way the PACA is carried through, we are also provided that protection if you
are following the proper protocols. Therefore, Canadian shippers into the
United States have the protection. We have a situation in Canada, however,
where we, as growers shipping into our own market, do not have that
protection, and the U.S. or global shippers shipping into Canada do not have
This has become an agenda item, between the President and our Prime
Minister, through the Regulatory Cooperation Council. The U.S. has raised
the fact that they would like to see Canada deal with this issue, as well as
a number of others. We are viewing this as an opportunity to have this
situation addressed. It has been a long-standing issue in the horticulture
sector in Canada that we do not have that protection, and we are looking
forward to having some level of resolution of it.
There are rumblings, because there is pressure coming from other trading
partners with the United States, as to why Canada gets this preferential
treatment into the U.S. We are fearful that the United States might say,
``In light of Canada not having equal protection for our shippers, we will
not provide that same protection for yours.'' From Ontario's perspective, we
have $500 million worth of product going to the United States. It adds a
significant amount of risk.
Senator Tardif: Thank you for the explanation of the risk factor.
Do you have a sense that the Canadian government will move on this fairly
quickly or that they will support this?
Mr. Gilvesy: In fact, we have been having meetings for the last
year and a half on this, through the Regulatory Cooperation Council, the
RCC. In fact, tomorrow, we are having another meeting in Canada. There is a
lot of work going on behind the scenes. At the end of the day, in my
opinion, what it will take is some political will to ensure that this gets
Our belief is that, when our Prime Minister and the President of the
United States say that there is an issue, we think that that should
determine some level of political will. We think that there also has to be a
lot of political will to support that actually happening, and we are hopeful
that the House and the Senate can be supportive of efforts to make this
Senator Tardif: I will leave it at that in respect of the time for
Senator Buth: Can you tell me what is needed? Would it be
legislation or regulation?
Mr. Gilvesy: It is not money, which is the beauty of it.
Sometimes, when you go to ask for money to solve some of these problems, we
know what the thing is.
It will probably involve — and that is part of the detail we are into now
in these meetings — changes to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. That is
part of it.
As for the licensing part of it, through the CFIA current licensing, we
think there is an option on the table that will deal with the licensing and
move to a single-licensing regime. Right now, you can operate in the produce
business with two types of licences. If you are a bad player, you go from
one licence and open up the next day with a different licence. There are
problems with the licensing, but we think that side of this thing is dealt
It is having the equivalency of the trust. The challenge right now has
been determining the equivalency. We might not find a tool that matches
exactly what the U.S. has because of our different systems, but it is the
outcome that is important. That is what we have to try to keep our eye on
the ball with.
Senator Rivard: Senators Tardif and Buth asked questions about the
payment security program. Has your agency already assessed the cost of this
kind of program or do you know what it cost for the American program to set
up this kind of payment security program?
Mr. Gilvesy: The cost of the U.S. program is zero, because it is
done through their bankruptcy legislation, where you have been put in a
better position as a creditor. It is not a cost issue. In fact, most of the
costs of PACA in other matters are paid for by industry. The beauty of this
program is that it has no cost. It is just legislation.
Senator Rivard: Do you think there are other export areas that
have this kind of security program, even though the products are not
perishable? For example, lumber producers, pork producers, beef producers
who export, do they have this kind of payment security program, to your
Mr. Gilvesy: One I am familiar with is the grain producers. They
do have the Grain Financial Protection Program, so grain certainly has
protection. Other forms of agriculture throughout Canada have different
aspects to provide financial protection. One is that the marketing boards
are putting up bonding requirements for the buyers, and that is built into
the system. If people are bonded before they get a licence, then obviously
they are paying. For example, if they do not pay, it comes out of their
bond. Different tools are used by different mechanisms. The answer is, yes.
Senator Mercer: I have a comment on something that we might want
to do. This is the first time we have heard of this issue; and I would not
want us to go chasing it. Perhaps an inquiry is required to the Minister of
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada about where this stands in their planning
process, because it will come down the road at some time in the future.
The Chair: Is there a consensus, senators, to ask the department?
Senator Mercer: We could ask the department if they have something
Mr. Gilvesy: I might also add, for the benefit of the committee,
that the RCC Secretariat is constantly putting out information on the
website. They keep stakeholders up-to-date with where the processes are at.
A number of initiatives within that affect agriculture. One is in the North
American Security Perimeter Strategy; a second one relates to pesticide
harmonization; and a third one is food safety.
The Chair: We will do a follow up.
Senator Maltais: Good morning, Mr. Gilvesy. I am going to come
back to the very essence of our mandate.
There are an impressive number of greenhouse growers in Canada, and the
work you are doing is excellent. We have had the opportunity to visit a
number of them. I wish there were as many aquaculturists as there are
greenhouse growers; our fish would be better quality.
Having said that, energy is at the root of your greenhouse farming. How
has energy changed over the years to end up with the quality products you
harvest? Energy is still a very important aspect of your type of greenhouse
Mr. Gilvesy: Typically, energy and labour represent two thirds of
the cost of production in greenhouse farming. Energy is a major component.
When we were seeing energy costs that were a bit higher not that long ago,
it represented one third of the cost of production on its own. We have had
some level of reprieve recently with natural gas, but greenhouse growers
constantly see that element as a major cost, so they give it a lot of
We, as a board, pay it a lot of attention in our research activities
pertaining to energy. A lot of work is done with different types of
curtains, how to grow under curtains and different types of glass and
plastics. Obviously, anything that can be saved with regard to energy is one
The other aspect is the different types of fuels that we would be allowed
to use. A lot of work has been done in the past on the availability of
biomass fuels to be utilized in greenhouse production. That is one example
of the work done on alternate types of fuels for greenhouse production.
Senator Maltais: I would like to come back to biomass. You are
undoubtedly familiar with the Savoura greenhouses in Quebec. A very large
part of their energy comes from biomass recovery, and the remainder comes
from natural gas. Do other parts of the country use this method or is it
unique to Savoura?
Mr. Gilvesy: I am afraid that I am unaware of that and unable to
answer your question. I am not exactly sure what Savoura is using. I could
talk to my research people to see where anything comparable is being used by
The Chair: It was said to the committee they are the leaders in
their type of energy.
Senator Maltais: I understand that the company is a leader, but if
they are the leader, there must be people behind them.
The Chair: That would be a good question to ask them.
Senator Maltais: Last question. We have seen that there is an
exchange between Ontario and Quebec. I will use the example of Savoura
again. Every week in the winter, Savoura sends containers of small tomatoes
— I am not exactly sure how many — to Ontario and, in return, Ontario sends
Quebec cucumbers because there are not a lot of greenhouse growers that grow
cucumbers in Quebec. Do other provinces do that as well, or is it only
Ontario and Quebec that exchange products?
Mr. Gilvesy: That exchange phenomenon is pretty well limited to
Quebec and Ontario. We have times in the season when, for example, British
Columbia, a large producer, has excess production or what they call a
``flush.'' Sometimes they have more product than their markets can bear in
the north-south corridor from B.C. to California, so they end up shipping
some loads east as well. Likewise, if they are short and we are in a flush,
you will see product going over the Rockies, but that does not happen often.
I think it is just because of the proximity.
Savoura and some of the other Quebec growers have had some level of
success with production under lights. Therefore, they are producing tomatoes
over 12 months. We are also looking at moving toward the 12-month supply
with the full gambit of products in Ontario. That is some of the work we are
doing in our research going forward.
Senator Buth: Most of my questions have been answered, but I am
curious about the cost of development of greenhouse growing and whether
there are issues with trying to attract new people or young people to the
Mr. Gilvesy: One of the problems with agriculture across Canada is
the age of the grower. I would say that in the greenhouse sector, that is
not the case. Our growers are board members. If you were to survey our board
members' ages, you would see that they are significantly below the average
age of growers in the rest of agriculture.
As far as attracting investment, that has not been a challenge. You see
the type of growth patterns that we have. In excess of $350 million has been
invested in greenhouse facilities. That would have to indicate that there is
credit available for this type of opportunity and that people who are
investing in it are seeing opportunity for growth and return on their
investment. We have not seen anything to the negative at this time.
Senator Buth: On the food service side, you made the comment that
60 per cent of tomatoes go into food service. That would be primarily
restaurants or fast food.
Mr. Gilvesy: Yes, as well as the broader public sector,
universities and other schools.
Senator Buth: What types of things are you doing to get into that
sector on a larger basis?
Mr. Gilvesy: One interesting thing is that the food service sector
needs a different tomato. Some tomatoes grown for retail tend to be juicy
but the gel falls out. The food service people want tomatoes with good
slicing ability so that the gel does not fall out. That is an example of why
we need to have varieties developed for greenhouse production that are more
suited for food service.
I have another example of food service. We all know Tim Hortons. Tim
Hortons' tomato consumption in a year is 17 million pounds. We are growing
400 million pounds in the greenhouse vegetable sector, so all that Tim
Hortons sells would only be a flutter for us to deal with. It is about 5 per
cent of our production. If we can get the right tomato and service Tim
Hortons, McDonald's or any sandwich maker, what an impact that would have.
Senator Oh: Mr. Gilvesy, welcome to the Senate. I am very
impressed with your industry. You have set a high global standard with a
world-class food safety system for Canada. That is key for Canadian products
You mentioned $1 billion of sales in 10 years. Is there a master plan?
Which markets are you looking at to export to?
Mr. Gilvesy: I believe that we will see most of the enhanced
growth come out of food service. To go beyond the North American shores will
be more difficult for us. To haul the product by airplane is definitely not
as efficient as using trucks to service the 120 million people who live
within a 10-hour drive of most of our growers. I think that our big break
will come from food service.
Senator Oh: I saw in your report that you will be looking into the
Mr. Gilvesy: Yes.
Senator Oh: I think that is a big potential market for you.
Mr. Gilvesy: As I said, the George Morris Centre did their report
for us on the Pacific Rim. I did a fair bit of travelling in that part of
the world in my previous life. Places like Hong Kong and Singapore have no
production capacity whatsoever and they have a large population, so we think
that area would hold opportunity.
Senator Oh: There are now many direct flights between Toronto and
Beijing and the Pacific Rim. I have travelled on one of the big private
Chinese airlines to Toronto.
We are now shipping live lobsters to China. I was in China last month
promoting freshwater fish from here. I saw that you have a tracking system.
Similarly, the fish can now be tracked back to the lake they were caught in.
That is a fabulous system that you are using.
I would like to help your sector if you want to explore the Asia Pacific
Rim for new markets.
Mr. Gilvesy: Thank you. We would relish that opportunity.
The Chair: Mr. Gilvesy, thank you very much for sharing your
thoughts and opinions with us.
We will hear from Claire Bolduc, the president of Solidarité rurale du
Québec, in the second half of our meeting.
Honourable senators, in the second hour of this meeting of the Standing
Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, we have the pleasure of hearing from
Claire Bolduc, the president of Solidarité rurale du Québec.
Ms. Bolduc, thank you for accepting our invitation. You are our last
witness before we start to prepare our final report.
Will senators give the chair permission to distribute the presentation
although it is only in French? When the translation is completed, it will be
redistributed to senators.
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Having said that, Ms. Bolduc, you may make your
presentation. We will follow with questions.
Claire Bolduc, President, Solidarité rurale du Québec: Honourable
senators, I would like to thank you for inviting Solidarité rurale du Québec
to discuss innovation and research in Canada's agriculture and agri-food
sector. I will try to keep to the text submitted as much as possible to make
sure I do not go over my time.
I will talk about two things this morning. The first is a possible
federal policy on rural issues. The second is research on agri-food and
agriculture in Canada.
Solidarité rurale du Québec is a coalition of large Quebec organizations
that has been promoting and advocating for the revitalization and
development of rural areas, communities and villages for the past 22 years.
We champion two vital principles: the right of rural communities to be
different and their right to prosper.
We support a development model based on Quebec's declaration on rural
life, adopted in 1991 and issued at the conclusion of the province's Estates
General on Rural Issues. The declaration focuses on the unique character of
rural areas, as regards their natural environment and social and cultural
structure. But more than that, it recognizes that rural areas are not
exclusively agricultural areas; they have many functions and are highly
diversified. In Quebec, rural life has achieved unique recognition and
developed its own pillars of strength.
We have existed since 1991, but in 1997, the Government of Quebec
recognized the work of Solidarité rurale du Québec and made us a rural
advisory body for all of Quebec. In this capacity, we have made
representations to more than 10 departments whose activities affect rural
That is why Solidarité rurale du Québec took public positions on a
provincial rural policy. Quebec adopted the first of these policies in 2001,
and it applied from 2002 to 2007. The second applied from 2007 to 2014, and
the Government of Quebec is now preparing to renew it.
Quebec remains the only province with a provincial rural development
policy, although other provinces have sectoral policies. It has also made a
government department responsible for rural issues and appointed the
advisory board here before you.
We have always argued that rural development cannot depend solely on
sectoral policies—say forestry or agriculture policies. It requires a policy
that takes into account all aspects of rural life. It is important to note
that 95 per cent of Canada is rural, as is 85 per cent of Quebec, but that
only 6 per cent of Quebec's rural population earn their living through
agriculture. Therefore, 94 per cent of rural dwellers are involved in other
sectors. Rural life is multifunctional.
This is not the first time that Solidarité rurale du Québec has urged the
federal government to adopt a comprehensive Canadian rural policy to address
the issues facing Canada's rural communities. Although we have been politely
listened to, we now hope we can get some answers.
Today, we are again urging action because we believe that you cannot talk
about innovation and research in agriculture and agri-food without at the
same time discussing comprehensive rural development, which is also vital to
Canada's overall development.
Furthermore, you cannot talk about developing natural resources,
education, new technologies, the environment, manufacturing jobs or culture
without a broad vision for all rural areas. Rural areas serve many
functions. People live in them, travel to them and produce goods and deliver
services in them. They help keep the natural and social environment in
balance. Moreover, all these aspects vary from one rural area to another,
from one village to another. Therefore, the government's decisions must take
this variety into account and be based on a genuine understanding of rural
areas. However, for this approach to the broad development of rural areas to
be efficient and yield results, it cannot be too restricted. Rural areas are
open to their neighbours — other villages and cities.
To be effective, a Canadian rural policy must focus on the benefits of
the relationships rural areas have with other rural areas and with urban
areas. Every region in Canada can benefit from capitalizing on their
strengths, developing them and working together.
I would like to quote a study done by the Conference Board of Canada in
2009, which confirmed what Solidarité rurale du Québec has been saying for
some time. Quebec's rural communities, despite being home to only 25 per
cent of the province's population, contributed to 30 per cent of its GDP. In
addition 370,000 jobs in cities depended directly on economic activity
spurred by rural communities. Far from being dependent on society, rural
areas contribute to the entire province's prosperity. It is fair to say that
the same goes for the rest of Canada.
We believe that Canada needs to establish a framework for study and
action that truly accounts for the differences across the entire country.
Communities must also have effective means of influencing their development
and mobilizing their resources to take charge of their future.
I would now like to discuss a second essential requirement for rural
prosperity and effective support of the agriculture sector, which needs a
The government recently announced the elimination of 350 jobs at
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. The affected employees work at the Science
and Technology Branch and the Marketing Industry Services Branch.
Scientists, engineers, biologists, research directors and procurement
officers are losing their jobs. This comes after last year's cuts to
research centres and cuts to the Rural Secretariat that have effectively
shuttered it. The loss of these jobs, often located in rural areas, is very
bad news for rural regions of Canada, but worse still, it signals a decline
in their capacity to develop innovative agricultural processes, support
agri-food innovations and compete internationally.
In the short run, the public service will be on a slimming diet. But in
the medium run, our agriculture and agricultural areas will become less
competitive and lose their capacity to renew themselves and to meet the
ever- growing challenges of creating and maintaining attractive places to
live. The issues for agricultural research are incredibly numerous and
enormous. Think about GMOs, the overuse of pesticides, groundwater and
drinking water pollution, carbon capture, climate change and the growing
population that needs to be fed both here in Canada and around the world.
These are of capital importance—for us, for our children and for our
grandchildren. As Canadians, do we really want to let private, often
foreign, interests decide for us the future of our agriculture, our
environment and our society? Currently, research will rest exclusively on
the shoulders of companies that are authorized to do it. Do we want to
become dependent on foreign products, while compromising our ethics and
values such as respect for people and the environment? When we look at what
is being done in the private agricultural sector, we have every reason to be
The government must fulfill its primary obligation to ensure its people
can feed themselves, its role as the guardian of the country's land and
natural resources and its responsibility to represent all its citizens. It
must stop the erosion of our public applied and basic research capacity in
agriculture and agri-food. It must also ensure that research respects the
soil, air and water, the rural communities where most agricultural
activities occur and all its citizens, in both cities and the countryside,
who consume the products.
That is what Solidarité rurale du Québec is asking of the government
today. The issues are too important and the need for ethics in applied and
basic research too great to leave the right to create our future to anyone
else but us, the citizens of Canada, represented by our government.
In conclusion, we have never stopped urging the federal government to
create a comprehensive framework for rural issues. Without a broad rural
policy, we will continue to make strictly budgetary decisions that weaken
rural areas through ill-suited sectoral programs, deregulation that reduces
access to services and one-size-fits-all standards. That is why we are again
calling for a comprehensive rural policy that is not just about money but,
above all, about a multifaceted approach that provides for more coherence
and more synergies between sectors, between departments and between levels
of government. That is why we are also advocating that the government
fulfill all its obligations regarding the future of the agriculture and
agri-food sector by effectively supporting research and innovation efforts.
Thank you for your attention. I will be pleased to answer your questions.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Bolduc. That was an excellent
presentation. The first senator to ask questions will be the deputy chair,
Senator Mercer. He will be followed by senators Maltais, Eaton, Rivard and
Senator Mercer: Thank you very much for your presentation. I
noticed your headquarters are in Nicolet. This committee, in a previous
incarnation, visited Nicolet. We had a meeting in the Hôtel de Ville, so we
know from where you come.
It was an interesting presentation. The importance of rural Canada is
magnified a number of times when we look at rural Quebec because of the size
and the magnitude of rural Quebec. If you could only pick one thing that the
federal government could do to continue the development of rural Quebec and
the well-being of rural Quebec, could you pick one specific thing?
Ms. Bolduc: Thank you for your question. I spoke a little earlier
about an overall vision. If there is one thing the Canadian government could
do for all rural communities, both in Quebec and elsewhere in the country,
it would be to have this overall vision of the various ways the Canadian
government can take action, of the ways of intervening in the communities
and of how to require departments and agencies to think about rural issues.
Solidarité rurale du Québec is based in Quebec, but other Canadian
provinces — Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba and even Alberta —
often ask for our help in developing similar frameworks for their rural
communities. The Canadian government is involved on several levels. It makes
decisions on aspects that directly affect life in rural areas across Canada.
I would give the example of the Canada Post Corporation, which makes
decisions that are mostly related to accounting, but if it were to adopt a
clear vision of the Canadian rural life, it would consider the impacts and
decisions more specifically. When services are cut off in rural communities,
which already have so few services and are deprived of other types of
services — such as high-speed Internet — and people who live there do not
have access to effective transportation mechanisms, rural areas lose their
vitality. The obligation to think cross-sectionally about the impact of
decisions made in a specific sector transposes that impact to all
communities regarding their inherent differences and makes it necessary to
consider the situation in a broader sense than just in terms of accounting.
We could talk about the CRTC's decisions or other types of decisions, but a
cross-sectional approach contributes a very different view of issues and
ways to address sectoral issues, but in a cross-disciplinary manner.
Senator Mercer: It seems to me that governments, over the years,
have been asked to look at things through a filter on gender issues to
ensure that decisions take gender and linguistic issues into account. This
committee has constantly asked government to put things through a rural
The question that needs to be asked is, not what will happen in downtown
Montreal or downtown Quebec City, but what it will do to Nicolet or
Rimouski, smaller rural parts of the country. I think we are on the same
Senator Maltais: Welcome, Ms. Bolduc. I am going to go back in
time for a moment. In the 1990s, I was a member of another Parliament where,
for the first time, we asked Solidarité rurale du Québec to coordinate
various departments on ``vacant'' territories — as we called them —
following the disastrous BAIQ in the Lower St. Lawrence and Gaspésie, which
led to the closing of dozens of villages in a way I would refer to as
You were created somewhat in response to that — and in other regions of
Quebec. I would like to congratulate you on your work because what you do
has helped stop much of the youth exodus to major cities. Rural areas are
now no longer populated by people of my age, but rather by people of your
age, who have taken charge of their future thanks to your organization and
other civil society services and state corporations, which make it possible
for young people stay put. The intelligence and research of those young
people and of organizations like yours have led to the creation of small
companies in the area of sheep and lamb farming, the manufacturing of
high-quality small cheeses — Senator Eaton's favourites — and other
activities. They have breathed new life into the villages. As you so aptly
pointed out, they are not all farmers, but their way of life is based on
It is important for our land to be populated by families, by people who
will live there and whose main area of activity is agriculture. Forestry
could be added, but it no longer has the same mission as it did some 10 or
15 years ago.
What I am getting at is that, in 2000, the Government of Canada
commissioned a report on rural life that was submitted in 2001. The report
was produced in Quebec in collaboration with ENAP. I do not think successive
governments have followed up on that report. It was drafted by researchers —
including those from your group. I think it is sitting on a shelf somewhere.
It was an innovative idea to look for new ways to settle the regions
properly and get the most out of them in terms of agriculture. That would
make it possible for a community and cultural life to develop around those
What kind of tools should the communities have to allow you to continue,
accelerate or stabilize, and expand your organization's work?
Ms. Bolduc: My answer to your question is twofold. I talked about
rural areas as multifunctional areas. Rural communities will continue to be
involved in agriculture — which will pervade not only the territory and
activities, but also the landscape. However, it should be pointed out that
agriculture is one of many activities in rural areas. Forestry does account
for almost 30 per cent of rural villages' activity — in some regions — and
that is 18 per cent of the manufacturing activity spread throughout rural
communities, such as tourism and cultural activities. That is what we mean
when we talk about multifunctional areas.
In some regions, mining activities account for up to 40 per cent of rural
communities' economic activity, but that figure is about 5 per cent across
Quebec. Of course, those are the figures Solidarité rurale du Québec works
with, but it seems reasonable to assume that the situation is not too
different across Canada. The proportions would probably be similar. In 2010,
we issued a notice on land occupation and vitality, where we stated that our
lands need to be populated and provided with services — not only public
services, but also private ones. Rural regions must be developed, so
investments have to be made in the assets and resources of all those areas.
People need to take ownership of rural communities — especially in terms of
culture and heritage — and they need to live there.
With its 2001 report, Solidarité rurale du Québec proposed the first
federal rural policy.
As far as tools go, I will talk about the experience we have had with the
Quebec rural policy. It focusses on three main aspects.
The first aspect is a vision of the importance of rural areas and their
contribution to Quebec's prosperity. That vision stems from the development
of rural activities that take regional particularities and differences into
The second aspect is more concrete. Rural development practitioners
stimulate communities and generate will, mobilization and energy that can be
used by the communities for their own development. We think that communities
have a duty to develop and that the state can provide them with guidance,
support and tools. However, the main tool is a budget envelope, which
represents a rural pact. So we are talking about funding provided to rural
areas without any instructions or restrictions on how to use that money.
They have the freedom to identify their main needs and to decide how to best
utilize those funds. The rural pact is special because it calls on people to
participate. So this is a way to help communities when it comes to the
future, development, and the use of resources from their own environment. We
want them to participate in the development of their own environment.
The last aspect has to do with supporting innovative activities, studies
and research that support rural initiatives and community-based modulation
of the state's involvement. Modulation of standards implies adapting
standards based on the areas where the Quebec government's programs or
policies will be applied. That is a concrete example of what a rural policy
Senator Maltais: Thank you, Ms. Bolduc. I will give other senators
an opportunity to ask questions.
Senator Eaton: You talked about several provinces being interested
in what Quebec is doing in terms of developing Solidarité rurale du Québec.
I believe you said Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario.
The Chair: Manitoba, as well.
Senator Eaton: And Manitoba. Have you formed alliances? Do you
have things in common?
For instance, I sit on another committee where I have learned about
difficulties in accessing good health care and education opportunities. Have
you formed alliances with other provinces to lobby the federal government,
whether about taxation issues that might encourage people to stay in a
smaller environment? Have you looked at what health care facilities you can
adapt rather than build a big hospital? What have you done together, if
Ms. Bolduc: These are not official alliances. The alliance we have
created is not comprehensive, as we are rather talking about collaborations
among provinces. Those collaborations help facilitate the analysis of rural
issues. However, we have not agreed to lobby on behalf of other provinces
because, on the one hand, we are not there yet in the discussions and, on
the other hand, we think it is important for those who reach out to us to
develop a framework that helps them highlight their own rural life —
including the differences and characteristics.
For instance, we are working closely with Nova Scotia to help the
province implement a framework that reflects its own identity, but that is
based on values similar to those Solidarité rurale du Québec promotes. We
are exchanging information and collaborating with Ontario and New Brunswick.
For instance, we are exchanging documents or information, and we are
participating in congresses and seminars, where we discuss, present and
promote different ways of doing things.
We went to Alberta to demonstrate what an organization like Solidarité
rurale can do. While we were there, people contacted us — especially since
the spring — to complain about the employment insurance reform and to tell
us how much people feel isolated. In Quebec, Solidarité rurale is a
coalition force — a force that has brought together people facing various
challenges and issues.
So the collaborations vary greatly from one community to another, but we
are very open. We agree to work with people whenever we are asked to do so.
We think rural life is essential to a nation, and we think that rural
communities are unique. They are important, they are all different and they
must invest in those differences.
However, we have not agreed to lobby for the whole country, as not
everyone has asked Solidarité rurale to do so and, consequently, we would
not feel justified in speaking on behalf of all Canadian rural communities
at this time.
Senator Rivard: As a Quebecker, I am proud to hear your wonderful
presentation. I believe that Solidarité rurale du Québec is in good hands,
and I hope you can continue with your good work.
In your industry, beyond the funding issues, the erratic climate
conditions from year to year and the ever-growing competition from foreign
markets — be it from other provinces or other countries — how do you handle
the pressure exerted by urban developers, who are always looking to expand
urban areas to the detriment of the rural environment? Do you think that the
Commission de la protection du territoire agricole du Québec is still just
as objective, or do you think it has too much of a tendency to give in to
pressure? That pressure often comes from municipal mayors who think it is
better to for their communities to have urban residential — sometimes
industrial — development, to the detriment of agricultural land.
Ms. Bolduc: That is a particularly interesting question. We may
sometimes criticize the actions of the Commission de protection du
territoire et des activités agricoles, but I think that we must nevertheless
recognize that, without that organization, we would have lost much more
rural and agricultural lands than we have lost over the past few years.
That being said, we encourage the organization to make its actions
stronger and tougher. If some of Quebec's agricultural areas were used for
urban development, they would not be replaced anywhere in Quebec — and
sometimes in Canada. We would not find their equivalent in terms of soil
quality for agriculture and in terms of climate needed for agricultural
activity. We want that commission to be much tougher in certain sectors and
to have some modulation. So we want it to be open to different ways of doing
things — different agricultural models — in other areas of Quebec.
In any case, an organization like the Commission de la protection du
territoire agricole is not only very legitimate in its existence and action,
but — despite the criticisms we may direct at it — it has turned out to be
very effective over the years. Could its performance be improved? I think so.
Is this tool still relevant? I think so, as well.
Senator Rivard: To your knowledge, do any other Canadian provinces
have organizations like the Commission de la protection du territoire
agricole? If not, do you think they would benefit from creating a similar
Ms. Bolduc: I have no information on what is happening in other
Canadian provinces. However, southern Ontario has created what is referred
to as the ``green belt'' in the area of urban development. That initiative's
purpose is to protect agricultural production areas with a very high
potential — especially in grape growing and fruit production. They have also
implemented mechanisms to protect those areas — not only from urban sprawl,
but also from highways and other structures — and to maintain a healthy
British Columbia has implemented similar measures — though I cannot
describe them in detail — that supports agricultural land protection
I am sorry I cannot give you any other examples. These initiatives are
not backed by any legislation such as the official law the Commission de la
protection du territoire agricole benefits from. However, there are some
very noteworthy initiatives out there, such as the ``green belt'' in
Ontario. That initiative is very interesting.
Senator Buth: Thank you very much for being here today and for
I was interested in your comment about funding to communities without any
strings attached, especially for them to develop what they need to do in the
community. Is Quebec, as a province, involved in the partnership with the
federal government on the community investment fund?
Ms. Bolduc: I could not provide an overly direct answer to that
question. However, I can tell you that the federal government — through
community business development corporations, which are set up in rural areas
— does contribute to the effort. A comprehensive collaborative effort is
being made by Quebec and the federal government in community development
services. On a strictly local level, services in each community are highly
interrelated. In some regions of Quebec — such as the Témiscamingue, where
the Société du développement du Témiscamingue has been created, where both
the federal and provincial governments are involved, and where local
development centers, CLDs, are set up in a single infrastructure — the same
point of service is used for both government levels.
I think that Quebec and Ottawa do collaborate on a general level when it
comes to that type of support. However, the collaboration on the ground, in
rural communities, areas and regions, is very important between the two
levels. Rural areas, CLDs and development organizations — including
community development corporations — should make an effort to collaborate.
In addition, the Quebec English-language counterparts of community
development corporations, CDECs, work very closely with Solidarité rurale to
provide support to rural communities and help advance rural issues.
The Chair: Ms. Bolduc, thank you for your presentation. Should you
wish to share any additional information, feel free to submit it to the
(The committee continued in camera.)