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QUESTION PERIOD — Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Food Labelling

June 2, 2022

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Minister, welcome to the Senate of Canada.

Minister, the Minister of Health is proposing front-of-package labelling regulations which would require ground beef sold at retail to carry a “high in saturated fat” warning label. This would make Canada the only jurisdiction in the world to place a health warning label on its ground beef. Other countries have implemented front-of-package regulations, and they have chosen to exempt all single-ingredient, whole foods based on their nutritional value, including ground beef.

Health Canada is doing the opposite. I met with cattle producers yesterday, and they are very concerned about this measure. They have asked that ground beef be exempted from the regulations, just as butter, milk and maple syrup are exempted.

Minister, do you agree with this proposal, and would you commit to speak with the Minister of Health and ask him to ensure that cattle producers receive the exemption from these regulations that they are seeking?

Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau, P.C., M.P., Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food [ + ]

Thank you. Yes. As you well know, and as you said, this is under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Health, but, obviously, I am following this project very closely since it might have an impact on our producers.

I’m glad that our dairy and beef producers have had the opportunity to be heard. I know that significant progress is being made in terms of understanding the nutritional value of our products and that it is being recognized.

The final decision hasn’t been taken yet, but you can count on me to always advocate for our producers with my colleague the Minister of Health so we can find the right balance to protect the health of Canadians and also take into account the interests of our farmers.

Thank you, minister. I’m not sure whether that was a yes or a no. But with respect, as I said, I met with the Manitoba beef producers, and they are very concerned about this measure. Margins are already extremely tight. Your carbon tax has hammered their profitability, and this measure is just one more hurdle that they cannot afford.

We see this in a number of other areas in the agricultural sector, where the NDP-Liberal government is deliberately choosing policies that make life more unaffordable for farmers and producers.

Minister, why does your government seem to be doing everything in its power to undermine our beef industry?

Ms. Bibeau [ + ]

Thank you, senator. Our government has been most generous to the agricultural sector, our farmers and ranchers. Only last year, we invested, through business risk management programs and other programming, $4 billion. That is a historical record.

We do care for farmers, and we are there to support them in different ways. In the last Fall Economic Statement and in the last budget, we are investing $1.5 billion to support our farmers in different ways, so I would say that our government has the backs of farmers. We recognize their extremely important contribution to our food security and our economy, and also their dedication to sustainable agriculture.

Our government is there, and I can explain during the coming hour the different ways and programming that we are putting in place to support them.

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