Mr. Pierre Poilievre (Nepean—Carleton, CPC)
Mr. Chair, it is indeed an honour to rise today on this special occasion to address this important issue. I would like to begin by thanking my constituents in Nepean--Carleton for entrusting me with the sacred honour of representing them and their interests here on the floor of Canada's House of Commons.
When I think of my constituency, my thoughts often turn to the rural agrarian portion of the area that I represent. I think of the cornfields of North Gower or the pumpkin fields in the old township of Osgoode. I think of how hard my constituents have worked to develop strong agricultural industries.
That is why it was a heartbreaking experience for me to watch as $6 billion in wealth was destroyed by this crisis, by this impending problem that we face with the mad cow crisis. There have been 4,200 jobs lost in the beef industry alone. So far, I regret to say that the government's response has been half-hearted at best and disastrous at worst.
To begin with, in my constituency a large number in the cattle industry focus on the dairy side. The CAIS program which the Liberals have offered does not help farmers in the dairy industry. It is so riddled with bureaucratic regulations and forms which take forever to fill out and are never available that it does not often help those in the beef industry either. That is why I will focus my attention on three specific issues that I believe can happen domestically, and then one overriding issue that needs to happen internationally in order to resolve this problem.
The Canadian Cattlemen's Association proposed a tax strategy which was totally ignored by the government. First of all, it proposed tax incentives for new slaughterhouse capacity, that is, to encourage new capital investment in slaughterhouse capacity across Canada. As hon. members have already pointed out, we cannot even service our domestic demand because we do not have the domestic slaughterhouse capacity to bring our beef to market. It is not just a matter of selling beef; it is a matter of getting that beef to our own market.
The association also proposed tax deferrals. Tax deferrals would help ease and mitigate the immediate burden associated with this sharp distortion to our economy. It would help those farmers who are in desperate need today deal with their cash flow problems by allowing them to have a temporary break from the enormous burden they are forced to carry as Canadian taxpayers. Tax averaging would also help those farmers who unfortunately have been forced by circumstances to exit the market. Many of them have done so in my own constituency. When it happens, tragically it is unfortunate to see that they have to pay enormous tax burdens on a one time basis because they are liquidating their assets all at once. We believe there should be tax averaging.
Those are all proposals that came from the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and were ignored by the government.
I will now turn my attention to the international focus. The hon. member across the way is right to focus on developing new markets internationally, but as I pointed out earlier, we cannot even service domestic retail demand because we do not have the slaughterhouse capacity to do it. As a result, we are not able to project our industry any further at this point in time into the international markets.
We need to focus on getting the American border open. To start with, we need to acknowledge that yes, the Americans are wrong. Their trade policy has been protectionist and it is bad policy for Canada, but it is also bad policy for the United States of America. The reason the Americans were importing live cattle before this crisis is that they could get it for a better price at a higher quality. As a result, the government should have built strong relationships with consumer groups who have a vested interest in bringing Canadian live cattle into their market. It should have built those relationships to ensure that we would have greater domestic pressure on the American government to get the borders open.
Instead, the peanut lobby in the United States, in Washington, is more powerful than the Canadian presence in the U.S. capital. We need to build our presence there. We need to link arms with those senators who are in states that import Canadian live cattle. We need to link arms with other groups that have an interest in our exporting to the United States of America and build a strong domestic pressure movement to get the border open.
We need a renewed focus on this issue to resolve this problem in an orderly fashion so that constituents in my riding and across the country will be relieved in their suffering and our foreign markets will once again rightfully be open to Canadian cattle.
Topic: Government Orders