September 23, 2003

LIB

Claude Duplain

Liberal

Mr. Claude Duplain (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to make a few points concerning certain aspects of what the hon. member has said, particularly about the problems facing farmers.

Farmers are not being confronted by certain problems, but have certain problems that have to be solved, and which the government is in fact in the process of solving.

One hundred days after this extraordinary and harmful crisis began—one that makes no sense whatsoever—the minister succeeded in reopening the border. The government initially invested $460 million to help farmers, and then another $50 million or so. I think that an extension of some five or six days was given because of the power outages in Ontario.

We are currently negotiating protocols with Japan and Mexico. As for the agreements, we are involved in daily discussions with the United States with a view to fully reopening the border. It is partially open, I must point out, which has allowed 8 million tonnes of beef across so far.

The opposition must realize one thing: this is the first time in the world that borders have been successfully reopened within 100 days.

In this connection, I am curious to know whether the hon. member is in the least aware of the efforts that have been made. Judging from what he has said, he seems to be indicating that nothing at all has been done. I have, however, given some examples of efforts that have been made and could give dozens more.

Does he realize that efforts have been made by this government, with a view to fully reopening the border?

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BQ

Odina Desrochers

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Odina Desrochers

Mr. Speaker, my point is that while some efforts were made, much remains to be done. Because this comes under federal jurisdiction, the government ought to put more effort into this.

This government is very good at always announcing a phase one that is on a very large scale, from coast to coast, as it were, and then, with phase 2, at scaling things down. When the time comes to take steps to save production, there is no money left. There are studies and consultations, but no decisions.

I agree that efforts have been made, but much remains to be done.

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BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to join in the debate after the hon. member for Lotbinière—L'Érable. Needless to say, my remarks will be along the same lines as his.

I do believe that the tragedy being experienced by many farmers, not only in Quebec but also across Canada, is being seriously underestimated by the government. I can speak for the Lanaudière area.

On September 7, the Union des producteurs agricoles held a Quebec-wide open door event called “Les portes ouvertes”. It was an opportunity for the public at large, and not just elected members, to visit a number of farms. I visited a cattle farm operated by the Ricard family in the Lanaudière area.

The Ricards had already come to see me in connection with the mad cow issue. We may appear to be relatively unscathed in Quebec, but that is not the case. After being made aware of the problem, I wrote the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. I am still waiting for an answer. That was several weeks ago.

In my opinion, the lack of such simple action is proof of the insensitivity of the minister and the government with regard to the reality of this problem. Certainly some attempt at action was made. It is normal for any government, including Canada's, to react to an embargo like that imposed by the Americans on Canadian beef. Any other reaction would have been absurd. But, once again, as the hon. member for Lotbinière—L'Érable said, more was expected, especially to help farmers face this crisis, which is not yet over. This is critical.

Mr. Ricard is also the President of the Syndicat des producteurs de bovins de Lanaudière, and he told me that this was also affecting the dairy industry. The price of cull cows sold by dairy farmers is also affected. This has an enormous effect on income, to the point that, in Quebec overall, losses are set at approximately $50 million. This is a great deal of money, especially when it comes to developing an agricultural industry based on family farms.

Multinationals are not the ones breeding cattle in Quebec, particularly in the Lanaudière region. It is small family farms where people invest a great deal of their energy and savings. When I visited Mr. Ricard's farm, I talked with another farmer. We were admiring the system he had installed. This other farmer told me that he would never raise cattle because the capitalization is too risky. Starting a cattle farm is extremely costly. As a result, these farmers are very vulnerable to crises such as this one.

Cattle farmers in Quebec are experiencing a 50% to 70% drop in their income. For these farmers, the price of meat has dropped from $1.80 to 50¢ per pound. It must be said, however, this drop has not been reflected in supermarkets prices in Quebec until recently. I do the shopping at home when Parliament is not in session. I was able to see that the retail price of beef did not drop substantially until quite recently. I am told that, in the rest of Canada, prices decreased much more substantially.

I think that there is another problem that is equally important. This leaves the people of Quebec with the impression that beef producers are doing all right because consumers are buying their beef at the same retail price as before the crisis. This gives them the impression that the beef producers must be getting some income, but that is not the case.

There are some very serious financial problems being experienced. I could make reference to an article that appeared very recently, September 21, in the Joliette newspaper l'Action . Not a month ago, but after the U.S. embargo was lifted, and of course after the end of the federal government assistance program. It was not extended, as the parliamentary secretary has said. The report quotes André Richard, President of the Syndicat des producteurs bovins de Lanaudière as follows:

If nothing is done between now and December, Quebec cattle producers will lose an additional $50 million plus.

There will be no compensation for these losses, because there will no longer be a program in place. He goes on to say:

Producers cannot afford these losses, and the only outcome will be that the future of this sector is in jeopardy.

In other words, a number of farm operations are at risk of closing down, not just in Lanaudière but all over Quebec. The member for Lotbinière—L'Érable spoke of problems in his area. I am sure that the same reality exists all over Quebec and Canada.

So there should have been pressure on the Americans. I have some doubts, moreover, as to whether the lifting of the embargo was really the result of Canadian pressure, or just the outcome of developments in the issue. We will give them the benefit of the doubt, however.

As far as the assistance program is concerned, that is however something that was controlled by the federal government. Not everyone got help from the program. Cattle farmers who sold stock to other farmers were not compensated for their losses under this program. The only ones compensated were those who sent their cattle to slaughter. Yet prices dropped for the entire herd.

As well, the assistance was inadequate. It was inadequate when it did exist and is even more so, now that it does not.

On Sunday, during open house, I was given the following example: a calf was normally purchased for $800 to $900 and could be sold for $1,400 to $1,500. As it stands now, farmers are happy if they get their $800 back. Federal government aid programs have not been able to compensate for the whole loss. Farmers have had to absorb hundreds of dollars of loss per animal sold. Since these are family farms—as I mentioned earlier, these are not multinationals—since these are people who have taken a great deal of risk with their farm's equity, they are financially weak. They need this aid. They needed it from the moment there was a total ban and still need it now that the ban has been partially lifted.

Furthermore, the program should have been extended. It was extended for a few days, as the parliamentary secretary mentioned, because of a totally unpredictable event: the blackout in part of eastern North America. However, the extension should have continued until the crisis was totally resolved. That is not the case. Particularly for Mr. Ricard; most of his production was exported to the United States. He is reduced to looking for new opportunities and is at the mercy of the current situation. The program should have been extended until the end of the crisis.

That said, it is true we must continue to make efforts at all levels to be able to pull through this crisis. For instance, in the case of the Union des producteurs agricoles de Lanaudière, my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm and I have made many representations not only to the government, but also to the general public in the Lanaudière area in order to raise awareness. We are going to continue to do so.

The cattle farmers received support during an organized event to promote Canadian beef consumption, or Quebec beef consumption if you will, Mr. Speaker.

In this context, the motion put forward by the Progressive Conservative Party is a perfectly valid one. When I was the critic for international trade, I remember the suggestion being made repeatedly to the government, through it Minister of International Trade, that delegations be sent to the United States. Timid attempts were made. The government was content with thinking that the tribunals, under the World Trade Organization or NAFTA, would solve the problem for us, but the problem has yet to be solved.

It is important to understand that these kinds of problems are political in nature. Often, parliamentarians are in a better position than anyone else to convince not only American politicians but also the American people that Canadian beef and Quebec beef is of prime quality.

We do need the delegation referred to in the PC motion and this delegation must reflect the reality of all regions of Canada, and of Quebec in particular.

I am not surprised, however, by the Liberal government's attitude, its lack of sensitivity. Regardless of the issue, we never get solid answers from the government. This is not peculiar to the mad cow issue. The same is true for tobacco growers, also in the Lanaudière area. There is also the whole issue of supply management, in which the government systematically says the exact opposite of what we are saying. And then there is the movement of compromised animals, an issue about which nothing is being done and where farm producers are being penalized.

I hope that the approaching election will wake some people up and that we will actually get results. I hope we do, because what I am seeking is growth, agricultural growth, in Quebec and in the Lanaudière area. All farm producers, and cattle producers in particular, can count on the Bloc Quebecois to defend them both now and after the upcoming election.

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LIB

Claude Duplain

Liberal

Mr. Claude Duplain (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member on his remarks. I found him to be rather optimistic, in contrast to what we had heard before. In any case, he understands the issues in Quebec very well.

At the same time, we might congratulate the UPA for organizing open house days on the farms. That made it possible for us to visit thousands of farms in Quebec and find out firsthand about the problems they face.

I would like to reassure the hon. member; the minister is entirely aware of the issues in question and he understands them. While not rushing to his defence with regard to the letter that was mentioned, I can say that the minister has received not just hundreds, but thousands and thousands of letters since the mad cow problem began. I am sure that the letter in question will be answered.

I would just like to make a little statement here. We must understand that the farmers of Canada have developed an incredible economy in collaboration with the federal government, regarding agriculture in Canada. We have lived through a problem, but it is through the farmers and the federal government working together that we will be able to solve the problem.

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BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette

Mr. Speaker, I do not wish to question the good faith of the parliamentary secretary. I have had discussions with him on many issues.

What I have seen is that we are not able to solve the problems. What I want is solutions. The mad cow problem is not the only issue; we have a whole series of problems that are not being resolved. I invite the parliamentary secretary to come to the Lanaudière area and meet the representatives of the UPA. I can assure him that he will be well received and that the farmers will be ready to ask him questions. They want answers, not just letters of acknowledgement.

That said, along with my hon. friend from Berthier—Montcalm, I extend a very friendly invitation to come and meet the UPA in the Lanaudière area.

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LIB

Claude Duplain

Liberal

Mr. Claude Duplain

Mr. Speaker, I can only say that it will be a real pleasure for me to go meet the UPA representatives. In any case, I have done this in the regions that invited me.

I want to take this opportunity to say something else. Some contact has been made regarding various other problems in agriculture. The hon. member for Joliette talked earlier about the tobacco problem; we met with people about this issue.

I want to say once again that, under the new agricultural strategic framework, we will invest $5.2 billion in agriculture over the next few years, once the provinces have signed the agreement so that these funds can be made available to help farmers immediately. This money is there. It just needs to be made available to farmers, and our provincial counterparts can help us to achieve this goal.

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?

The Deputy Speaker

I do not know if other invitations will be forthcoming but, in the meantime, the hon. member for Joliette has the floor.

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BQ

Pierre Paquette

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Pierre Paquette

Mr. Speaker, I made the invitation, but I did not receive one. I must say that it is important to be very careful. The agricultural strategic framework is mentioned every time a problem arises.

I know that the Quebec government signed, but the Union des producteurs agricoles and the Financière have set conditions to flesh out this agreement in principle, and I do not think that Quebec farmers will be bought.

If the money is there, it should be invested in special programs to resolve the problems Quebec is currently facing. I do not want the agricultural strategic framework to be used as an excuse. If the money is there, special programs need only be created.This was done to some extent in the case of the mad cow crisis. Had this been done immediately, a great deal more could have been done, in this case as in others.

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LIB

Alex Shepherd

Liberal

Mr. Alex Shepherd (Durham, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to enter into the debate on the issue of BSE. I should say initially that there was a brief time in my life when I actually raised beef cattle. Although I was only a small producer, I certainly learned the trials and tribulations of that industry.

I can well remember back some 15 years ago when it seems to me we were selling beef cattle at 75¢ a hundredweight. Those numbers have not changed very appreciably in the ensuing years, and the BSE issue, of course, has made that even worse.

During that same period of time overhead costs to that industry have increased tremendously. The cost of fuel to run tractors and so forth has multiplied exponentially. The actual profitability of the cattle industry in the first place is very slight.

I heard people talk about the capital involved in, for instance, a feedlot operation. People's margins are very small so they rely very much on heavy volumes. Significant changes in the input and output prices of a commodity will cause tremendous fluctuations in one's bottom line. This of course is what we are dealing with today.

The cattle industry in Canada is a very significant one. It represents something like 20% of farm cash receipts in Canada among all agricultural industries. It represents about a $6.6 billion industry. From the statistics I have seen, Canada has 103,673 beef producers and 77% of these are a small size with less than 122 head. These producers represent over $3 billion in export trade.

When I first heard about the issue of BSE, I, like so many farmers in my area, thought that this would be resolved possibly quicker than it has. I do not think a lot of us fully understood the ramifications of BSE and its impact on our industry.

Cattle producers in my area often wonder out loud why one cow in the province of Alberta caused such consternation. I have often heard them say that the markets in Britain are closer than the incidence of mad cow disease, so why are they caught up in this issue.

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind you that I am sharing my time with the member for Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington.

The reality is that we do not segregate where in a country the disease occurs. It is simply that the whole country is embargoed. As we know, the Europeans, the Japanese and others have lived through this peril to some great extent.

Quite frankly, Canada is noted as a BSE country. As much as we talk about it and debate it in this chamber, that is the reality. We have a reportable case of BSE and Canada is designated as a BSE country.

I know many of our consumers would demand us to be diligent on the importation of food from other countries that had this disease. Indeed, Britain, which had an incident of BSE, still does not export beef to the United States.

We can see that in the 100 days that we have been talking about this incident since it occurred in Canada, we have actually been very successful in opening the borders to Canadian beef production, more so than any other country. We are also entering into protocols with Mexico to try to find ways of actually importing, exporting and transporting cattle through the United States to Mexico.

Some very positive things are going on. The substance of the motion is that somehow nothing has been happening, and that just is not the case.

I was one of the members of our rural caucus who was able to meet with the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. It was interesting to hear most of those gentlemen, in their opening comments, thank the government for its efforts. They wanted to thank the governments for acting promptly on the file in the sense that it realized the shortfall would impact cattle producers who ship live cattle across the Canadian border and for the fact that we had found a system that would actually get money into their hands to alleviate some pain and suffering.

Some people think that my riding of Durham is somehow part of the Greater Toronto Authority. In some small ways it is, but I can say that General Motors is the largest economic producer in my riding and second is beef cattle. The cattle industry is worth $1.2 billion to the province of Ontario and is rated as the number two generator in Ontario agriculture, only behind the dairy industry. There are approximately 200 producers in Durham. That is just under 1% of all of the producers in the province of Ontario.

Before May 20, finished cattle were selling at $1,500 a head or $1.10 per pound. In July, after the BSE issue hit, that price went down to 30¢ a pound. That is a significant drop in the selling price of cattle.

Since the border reopened to packaged beef products the price has rebounded. I wanted to emphasize that because it seems to have been totally missed in this debate. Producers in my riding have said that this rebound in price back to 75¢ has been a significant boon to those who ship live cattle because they have been able to ship to slaughter houses in Montreal. That has been a significant recovery in the industry but we do not talk about that here.

In fact that was a specific result of government policy and efforts to reopen the border to Canadian beef shipments that has had a positive impact on producers in my riding. Those producers are not, unlike the debate that is going on here today from some of the members in the opposition, blaming the government per se. They are saying that they appreciate the efforts the government is making. Of course they would like the government to do more. They would like the border to be 100% open to live cattle and put them back where they were before May 20.

I know the cattlemen, who are proud, rigorous and independent entrepreneurs, understand that this is an issue that will not go away easily. We are a BSE noted country and all of the discussion in this chamber will not make that issue go away.

The class of livestock that was hardest hit was culled cattle, which is very important to the cattle producers today. Usually they would get 50¢ per pound or about $650 a cow when they shipped them. Today that price is 5¢ to 12¢ and there is no subsidy on culled cattle. The big issue with a lot of producers is to how to cull their herds. The fact of the matter is that there is no cash flow coming from that.

There has been a lot of discussion about the agricultural policy framework. Yes, it is the truth, even within my riding, that people in the agricultural industry are not happy with the way the agricultural policy framework has been put together. My experience with the farm community has been that it is very difficult to get agreement among all the producers and all the industries within the agricultural sector. Quite frankly, I think we are missing the boat if we feel that it is a form of blackmail, as was mentioned here today, because it is not. In fact, we need to have signed agreements to let money flow.

Since agriculture is under federal-provincial jurisdiction, we need agreements with the provinces to make money flow. Money is available. We might not like exactly how the policy framework is put in place. The federal government and Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has talked about a review process that is in place.

We have the machinery to review that as it is going on but by all means I would encourage the province of Ontario, in particular, to sign the agreement and get the money flowing into the producers hands who really need it. The whole purpose of this program is to deal with risk management .

I know my time is running out, but one other issue I want to talk about is the dairy industry. This is one industry that has been overlooked in this process. I have a number of breeders in my area who ship dairy cattle not only to the United States but worldwide. They are prevented from shipping those cattle today. That has had a tremendous negative impact on them. Of course there is no subsidy. There is a recognition that somehow we should try to address that issue. The reality is they have been negatively impacted through no particular fault of their own but because of the discovery of BSE in one animal. This was certainly the most expensive animal that we have ever seen in this country and possibly in the world.

I do not support the motion. I think it is grandstanding. The opposition does not seem to think that we should have an independent foreign policy, but certainly the producers have an independent mind and think we are doing a lot of positive things.

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PC

Gary Schellenberger

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Gary Schellenberger (Perth--Middlesex, PC)

Mr. Speaker, I will remember to address the Chair this time.

I do have one thing to say. I agree that the Minister of Agriculture and the agriculture committee have worked very hard to resolve this problem. I know the difficulty. I was in Cancun. I have talked to a lot of people. I know how hard it is to negotiate with the various countries and how hard it is to put things together.

All I am saying, and I am not grandstanding, is that I wish he would realize that I do not think it is wrong to try something different or new to quicken the process to open the borders. That is where I am coming from. It is not that whatever has been done has not been done with a real sense of urgency and importance.

I saw how we impacted in Cancun in our meetings. Yes, we were parliamentarians and we had some impact but not the impact that senior ministers or senior people would have. That is why I suggest that the Prime Minister head a multi-party delegation, like the one in Cancun. Let us have the heads of the parties or those people make a presentation to the president or the vice-president. Let us send some very high profile people there. I think this needs high profile people, not that we are not, but I think the Prime Minister has to be involved in this.

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LIB

Alex Shepherd

Liberal

Mr. Alex Shepherd

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy for that question from the member for Perth—Middlesex. The reality is the Prime Minister has spoken to the President of the United States on numerous occasions on this file. We know that the Minister of Agriculture has talked to his counterpart in Japan and indeed his counterpart in the United States, Mrs. Veneman. We know that those discussions are going on.

What I did hear was the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough talking about the belief that somehow the Prime Minister's stand and our party's stand on Iraq and a number of foreign affairs issues, which really stood up for Canada's independence as a nation, or independent foreign policy, were somehow faulty and that that is the reason we could not open up the border. The motion is simply a cheap political stunt to try to make the opposition parties look like they are doing something on this file.

The reality is those producers are independent-minded people. They do not believe in begging. They believe in carrying on a negotiation on a one to one basis and that is what the government has been doing.

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LIB

Larry McCormick

Liberal

Mr. Larry McCormick (Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to talk about a very serious crisis that is ongoing. I have met with many people from Prince Edward County, Hastings County, Lennox and Addington and Frontenac. They are all suffering, yet I want to take this opportunity to talk about some of the things we have done and what we are doing.

The government fully understands the financial hardships that Canadian cattle producers and the Canadian cattle industry have endured and continue to endure ever since we had the bad news on May 20 that a single cow had been discovered with BSE. When we export $4 billion worth of cattle and beef a year and our major customer closes its border, the impact is going to be severe. It has been severe on the farms, in the feedlots and throughout the beef industry.

The Government of Canada continues to work with people in the industry to help see them through this difficult time. We have done so since day one and we will continue to do so until we have the full resumption of the integrated North American cattle industry that we had on and before May 19.

While the immediate priority has been to focus energies on reopening the border, at the same time the government has been working to assist the industry financially until such time as full trade in beef and cattle resumes with all of Canada's trading partners. Of course other animals are involved such as the goat industry, the sheep industry, and as we have heard, cattle of all kinds, from the dairy to the heifers and the springers.

As my hon. colleagues will recall, immediately after the news was announced, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency launched a comprehensive trace back and trace forward investigation. This investigation involved the necessary culling of some 2,700 animals. The CFIA has now compensated producers for all animals ordered destroyed during the active investigation. Cheques have been sent out, with amounts based on the market value of each animal.

When it became apparent that the U.S. border reopening was not imminent, on June 18 my hon. colleague, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, along with his provincial and territorial colleagues, announced cost shared assistance totalling $460 million. The national BSE recovery program comprised a maximum investment of $276 million from the federal government and a maximum of $184 million from provincial and territorial governments.

This assistance was designed to compensate producers when the price of cattle fell below a reference price based upon the market value in the U.S. The producers of other ruminants were also eligible for payments.

Under this program, processors are also offered incentives to sell or otherwise move out of inventories surplus meat cuts that were produced after May 20. The aim was to free up storage space, allowing processors to operate in an increased capacity to serve the domestic market.

On August 17 my colleague, the Minister of Agriculture, announced an addition to the recovery program involving an investment of $36 million.

The national BSE recovery program, which represented a total federal investment of $312 million, fully did the job it was intended to do. Slaughter levels were restored to comparable levels before May 19. The domestic market was kept moving and feedlots and processors received some relief from severely depressed prices. With the help, support and fairness of those processors, we certainly could have done much better. In my opinion, they did not try hard enough.

We are now in the fall season. Calves are coming off pasture and producers' need for cash to mitigate the effects of the border closure is still urgent. To this end, in his August 17 announcement, the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food also advanced disaster assistance to producers under bilateral agreements, with provinces already committing funding for all five elements under the agricultural policy framework. Some provinces signed these bilateral agreements yesterday and producers will be able to apply for assistance within two weeks.

These advances constitute a transition measure until new business risk management programming is fully implemented across Canada. Transition funding will be equal to a portion of a producer's expected payments for this year, when the new Canadian agricultural income stabilization program comes into force.

Just this past Friday, my hon. colleague, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced further assistance for producers through the second installment of $600 million in transition funding. This investment is part of the $1.2 million investment that the Government of Canada announced in June 2002.

This will help producers with immediate needs related to BSE as well as other pressures encountered this year. Cheques will be delivered directly to producers across the country this fall. Payments will be based on a producer's average eligible net sales for the past five years. Payments will not be counted as revenue under the Canadian agricultural income stabilization program.

This direct payment approach is preferred by most producer groups, and it fulfills the Government of Canada's commitment to continue to help the industry with its immediate needs while in transition to the new programming under the agricultural policy framework. I know my colleague the hon. Minister of Agriculture is eager to get the available resources out to farmers as soon as possible.

Under the business risk management element of the agricultural policy framework, there is a total of $1.1 billion a year in federal dollars available to producers in provinces that have signed the framework implementation agreement. Collectively under the cost sharing agreement, the provinces and the territories will contribute another $700 million. This brings the total investment to $1.8 billion a year. That amounts to a total federal, provincial and territorial investment of some $9 billion over the five years of the framework.

We need to flow these APF funds as soon as possible. What is needed right now is the money, but we continue to work with the industry to assess its needs. The Government of Canada remains committed to doing everything possible to help our cattle producers and our industry manage through this difficult time. We have been working co-operatively with the Canadian beef industry and we will not let up one iota until we have full restoration of the integrated North American market.

I want to thank my neighbour and our friend the agriculture minister and his department because all we have to do is check the records. It is sad to say we are a BSE country. No country has ever gone from BSE to shipping products across the border as quickly as Canada has done and that is because of the good science and the cooperation of our neighbours, the United States.

The United States wants the border open except for a few people who have protectionism along the border. My neighbour, our friend the Minister of Agriculture has worked untiringly, continually on this all summer. He has done such a good job that now U.S. secretary of agriculture Ann Veneman is working to fast track this. Let us hope that comes along well and we can have the border open so we can resume some normal sense of shipping back and forth.

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CA

Kevin Sorenson

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his presentation on BSE. It was a little disheartening because it was a presentation from a Liberal and was nothing but accolades for the Liberal government and for what it has done. All Canadians still have some major concerns with the border not being completely open. When that border is open and when live cattle are moving across that border, perhaps then we will stand back and give a little more applause. Until then, the majority of Canadians are asking where the government is now.

It was on May 20 that one isolated incident of BSE was found in Canada. The CFIA moved into action. It had the ability to trace and to track, and to show the genetic lines of that animal to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was one isolated incident.

Since that time, we have not seen the government step forward with a strategy to open the border to live cattle. We do appreciate some of the help that has come through the recovery plan and other programs, but we have not seen a strategy with timelines involved showing what the government is doing now to get the border open. We have a process and a protocol for countries that have an outbreak of BSE. Most of these protocols are put in place for countries that have many cases of BSE. We had one isolated incident.

Could the member tell us that he believes the process is flawed? Could he tell us that the protocol for reopening the border is flawed?

A government that should be applauded is one that puts a process in place before a crisis hits. Seeing how the crisis is here, what is the government's strategy toward letting the public and producers know that there is a process in place to have the Americans open the border?

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LIB

Larry McCormick

Liberal

Mr. Larry McCormick

Mr. Speaker, our strategy is to continue to work on this. As I have said, the minister, the Prime Minister and several ministers have met and have talked to every level of government in the United States. We have taken the good science that is recognized around the world as well as that of Dr. Brian Evans who is one of the top veterinarians of the world.

However there are politics in North America and our neighbours have elections.

We have pages and pages of records and documentation of when members of our front bench have talked to the United States, or Japan or when they have worked with Mexico. They have been back and forth continually.

We have the science and that is why the border is open now, and it has been opened quicker than for any other country that had BSE. I wish we had it open fully. I am sure we will.

I want to mention one thing at this opportunity. The Calgary paper is not always friendly to the Liberals, but today it stated:

Alberta's agriculture minister said Ottawa's argument that available aid money has not yet been accessed is fair. I cannot argue that” McLellan said. They've got money available.

Let us work through this and let us get that border open as soon as we can.

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PC

Peter MacKay

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC)

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member's remarks. I do, however, agree that there appears to be an absence of a comprehensive plan going forward and I acknowledge that there have been extraordinary efforts made at all levels and in particular, the stakeholders.

I listened very closely to one point in the member's speech when he said, “and this Liberal government is willing to do anything”.

My question for the hon. member is this. Why would the government not support a non-partisan effort? If other ministers of his government, if other members, if other emissaries have made interventions and tried to go to Washington to make this happen, why would the government not support this effort?

I hear someone flapping their gums over there, referencing it as being a partisan effort. I remind the hon. member that members of the agriculture committee, members of his own party, supported almost an identical motion put before the agriculture committee at a special meeting this summer. Why is there the pull-back now?

I know the hon. member spent time on a farm. I have spent time on a farm. We raised beef cattle when I was a kid. While my father was here, my grandfather and I were looking after our Scottish Highland cattle. Therefore I know the perils they are facing. I know very much the angst they are feeling over these cattle that may have to be fed over the winter months because they cannot take them to market. They cannot do their normal routine and slaughter in the fall.

If the government is sincere in saying, “we're willing to do anything, we're willing to do everything in our power”, why would it not support a non-partisan intervention, an effort to bring stakeholders, people from the agriculture community, members of Parliament, leaders--

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I want to leave a bit of time for the hon. member to respond. The hon. member for Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington.

Topic:   Government Orders
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LIB

Larry McCormick

Liberal

Mr. Larry McCormick

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments by the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, who is a fine young person and a very bright young man. I also compliment the person who brought forward the motion today with good intent. I will give him credit for that.

Our agriculture committee has a reputation for getting along with all parties more than any other committee on the Hill. I have said that in all 10 provinces and I hope I can continue to say that.

I do not think this is the right timing. Last week we had beef people from across the country and a cattle liner assembled on the Hill. I went to the meeting later with the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food along with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. The minister laid the cards on the table and we made great advances, according to the top officials of the United States department of agriculture.

I think we are getting there. Our steps are quickening. I just do not think it is the time for us to go to Washington. We have been there before at a committee and I think we should do it regularly, as my colleague said.

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Subtopic:   Supply
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CA

Stockwell Day

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Stockwell Day (Okanagan—Coquihalla, Canadian Alliance)

Mr. Speaker, I too congratulate the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party for bringing the motion forward, as our own leader has done the same in a number of different ways.

We have been able to make some rather tragic observations in this process, observations in general about the performance of the government. Depending upon the type of pressure, we can estimate how the government will respond.

If the pressure is on the government from internal individuals or organizations for the government to be quick to get them their subsidy, or their contract, or things that they did for the government or their particular appointment, the government can move with the speed of light and address those concerns. However when it is an issue on one of the inevitable crises of life, when it is an issue that affects all Canadians outside of government, Canadians who maybe are not in line for an appointment, or a contract or a subsidy, then the government moves with glacier-like speed.

The problem is livelihoods are at stake at these times when crises like this hit. It is inexcusable to have a government that drags its feet and is so unconcerned, possibly because so many of the people affected, not all, are beyond the sight of the CN Tower.

There are many in Ontario who are affected and this is true. However this industry which is so vital in the western Canadian economy is suffering. It has been hit hard. We can see the pattern. When people from within the Liberal party need help, the government is quick and to be there for them.

When it is outside the party, the first response is usually denial, that it is not a problem. We have seen this pattern in a number of different crises that have hit. Then we see an acceptance when the groups and citizens themselves react and the opposition speaks up and raises the issue. The then government moves from denial to all right there may be a problem.

There is sort of a grudging acceptance that there could just be an issue here affecting Canadians. Then only under sustained pressures, usually from the opposition, does the government admit there is a problem and it takes a few baby steps to address what is a huge problem, then sits back and says that it is done.

We see that pattern all the time. Frankly, it is not acceptable when people's livelihoods and futures are at stake.

Look at every international incident of the past year: the blackout in Ontario, the outbreak of SARS in Toronto, the softwood lumber issues. All of these emphasize this government's short-sightedness and inability to respond.

Minister Vanclief travelled to Tokyo in June, but came back empty-handed. The Japanese were unable to tell him how to restore international trade, and the minister did not present them with any suggestions for resolving the problem. The crisis continues.

Another question we can ask ourselves is: Where is the Minister for International Trade? Where is he?

Is it enough to have Prime Minister Jean Chrétien speak on the phone? It is not.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. This is the second time a cabinet member has been referred to by name instead of by portfolio. I do hope the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla will be able to adapt his text to refer to the portfolio or title of members instead of their names.

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CA

Stockwell Day

Canadian Alliance

Mr. Stockwell Day

As usual, you are right, Mr. Speaker. Thank you for correcting me; I needed to be reminded.

I was saying that our Prime Minister speaking on the phone is not enough.

That is not enough. More has to be done.

We have looked at the rapid response from the industry itself, whether it is beef, veal or dairy. That industry has lost over $1 billion and is facing a true winter of discontent, a winter where feeding has to take place or there is a possibility that we may have to destroy up to 700,000 head of cattle.

The support announcement in June was only good until August 30. Today is the first day of fall. It is a harbinger of a winter to come. Regardless of the views on global warming, it will be a cold winter for the industry. Banks, equipment dealers, retailers in small towns across the west, in Ontario and in other parts of Canada will all face very difficult choices.

The Minister of Agriculture has said that money will flow, but he said that it will flow when farmers force their provincial governments to sign on to a flawed agriculture policy framework. It is one thing to stand up and say that the money will flow, but the Liberals always leave out the other portion. They say that when farmers get their provincial governments to sign on to this policy, a policy that is ripe with flaws, then there will be money. They need to be honest about the money problem and why it is not flowing. The APF has no provision for emergencies such as border closures and provides less coverage in bad years than previous programs.

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association has called for the government to assist in finding alternative markets. We understand Russia was willing to buy older cows and to pay ranchers up to $330 per head for 10% of their herds. That is the usual number that is culled in a year. They also want the payment, regardless of slaughter, which will allow ranchers to wait for the best time to sell rather than flooding a down market.

People in the industry, the hard-working people, the agriculture community, have worked to come up with solutions. They are not just sitting back shouting and protesting, though they are doing that. It was a pleasure and an honour to be involved in a demonstration and a rally out on the steps of Parliament just last week with colleagues and with members of almost every other party except the governing party.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Supply
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September 23, 2003