Mr. Dale Johnston
Madam Speaker, I see an opening. I really cannot speculate as to why the government would wait until the last day at the eleventh hour, other than to speculate perhaps that it just simply places a low priority on something like this, which is a tremendous mistake.
As I said in my comments, not only is agriculture in a financial crisis, but in the west we suffered through a drought for the last four years when we just barely got by, fortunately not so far this year. Members will recall the hay west initiative that started in this part of the country where hay was shipped out west to us. It was very unusual thing, but it was a very neighbourly gesture. It is the kind of thing one would expect a farmer to do for a farmer. We were overwhelmed by the generosity of Ontarians.
However, we are completely underwhelmed by the performance of the government when it comes to agriculture. I have been asked to speculate and I can only speculate it is because the Liberals place such a low priority on this. To put this into perspective, imagine farmers with herds of cattle and land bases. They can put up enough feed to keep the cattle through the winter and enough pasture to keep the cattle through the summer. Then they are faced with several years of drought where their feed supplies dwindle off and they should be selling off the cattle, but the cannot because there is no market for them. Can we think of a worse situation than that? I cannot think of a worse situation for any business to be in.
It is like being in the shoe business in a community of people who have no feet. That is exactly the kind of situation in which they are. There is no market and there is no feed for the cattle. Every year there are more cattle because they cannot be sold.
For some years now we have been trying to get this message across to the government that there is a crisis in agriculture because of the BSE, the low commodity prices, the drought and the high debt load. If farmers cannot sell their product, they have to borrow money. Now the banks will not loan the money.
Why has the government not dealt with this sooner? I am at a total loss as to any logical reason why it would wait so long and leave this until the last minute. The only thing I can think of is that it does not place much priority on the western Canadian farmer.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Canada Grain Act