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QUESTION PERIOD — International Trade

Country-of-Origin Labelling

June 28, 2021

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Honourable senators, it’s amazing how many questions one can get in when you don’t get answers.

Here is my question again, leader. In 2008, when the United States implemented mandatory country-of-origin labelling on beef and pork products, both the Canadian and American livestock industries took a hit due to the highly integrated nature of the North American supply chain.

The previous Conservative government consistently fought against this protectionist measure at the World Trade Organization, and the World Trade Organization ruled against the U.S. four times. In recent weeks, however, there has been talk in the United States of bringing back this harmful policy, with the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture saying earlier this year that he would work to advance country-of-origin labelling.

Leader, how exactly will your government stand up for Canadian livestock producers and push back against any attempts by the U.S. to bring back country-of-origin labelling?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

This government, like previous governments, stands up for Canadian industries. We have stood up to the United States using various mechanisms available, whether through the World Trade Organization, the procedures under our bilateral agreements or otherwise. This government, like governments before it, will continue to do so.

Thank you. We’ve seen exactly how this government stands up for Canadian industries, such as the energy sector, or the livestock and grain sectors, with their carbon tax.

Leader, our livestock producers are right to be concerned about a return to country-of-origin labelling and about how the Trudeau government will stand up for them. The Biden administration is taking trade action against our dairy farmers, and it intends to more than double the duties on our softwood lumber. If the Trudeau government has plans to deal with these issues, we haven’t seen them.

Keystone XL is now officially cancelled, leader, and the Trudeau government couldn’t care less. The Trudeau government also waited until the last minute to defend Line 5 in U.S. Federal Court.

Leader, if the Americans try to bring back country-of-origin labelling in any form, mandatory or voluntary, will your government put up more of a fight than it has in any of the other disputes with the U.S., or should we expect more of the same?

Senator Gold [ + ]

Senator, thank you for your question. The heart of your question is legitimate, though, unfortunately, you continue to wrap it in partisanship.

The American administration, like every American administration, previous and current, takes steps to protect its industries. This government, like previous governments, takes steps to defend our industries. Our government, the Government of Canada that I have the privilege of representing, has taken forceful steps in the face of former President Trump’s outrageous actions against our aluminum industry and will do so regardless of the administration in the United States. The Government of Canada has a responsibility to its citizens and its industries, and it discharges and will continue to discharge that responsibility forcefully and with diligence.

That it does not necessarily share in this chamber or other venues the behind-the-scenes strategies — legal, political and otherwise — is a matter of smart, prudent management of our industries. This government will continue to do so in the best interest of Canadians.

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