Mr. Don Boudria (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell):
Mr. Speaker, I notice that you had some trouble recalling the rather lengthy name of my constituency. I can assure you you are not alone, since even some of my colleagues have the same problem. I am sure that in time, all Hon. Members will find it a bit easier to remember.
It is a pleasure today to speak on behalf of our Party in this debate on the state of the agricultural industry, and more particularly on the need to act urgently in revising certain procedures, such as imposing a moratorium on Farm Credit Corporation interest rates, debt review and other issues involving the agriculture sector.
Before we discuss those issues, I think it important for us to reflect on what has happened in the agricultural industry and elsewhere over recent years. Of course, some of the problems we have in agriculture relate to the high interest rate cycle that we have had recently, but there are other causes as well. For instance, I am sure you will agree, Mr. Speaker, that the
November 23, 1984
very low commodity prices to which farmers are subjected and have been subjected in recent years are certainly cause for great concern. Much of the cause for low commodity prices relates to the international situation and the subsidies other countries provide for their agricultural products.
In this respect one can look to the European Economic Community and to the United States of America, both of which have created downward pressure on farm commodity prices in Canada because we live in a global village.
How do we solve the dilemma? The previous government attempted to have price stabilization programs, market sharing quota systems and so on. By and large, where those systems exist they have had a meaningful impact on assisting farmers through the very difficult situations in which they live. But more has to be done, particularly now that we are picking up after the economic recession.
We notice that agriculture is much slower to recover than other industries but there are reasons for this. Agriculture is a very capital-intensive industry. It has often been said in the past that farmers live poor and die rich. A new variation of that is that in recent years farmers lived poor and, unfortunately, died poor even though they have all the riches of the farm, the implements and everything that goes with the farm operation. This has created a very difficult situation.
In an attempt to redress some of this, during previous elections the former government enumerated a few select programs which we felt could be achieved in the reasonable future. We felt those programs, if adopted, would assist this country's agricultural community.
The present Government has made quite a few promises. Those promises were not only in the area of agriculture. There were 331 promises made, out of which 20 were in the area of agriculture. 1 could read them all into the record today, but I am sure Members do not want to be subjected to having to listen again to all those promises which obviously will not be fulfilled by this Government. However, we should think of the few promises which the Government is bound to realize in the very near future and concentrate on those.
I congratulate the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Wise) on his appointment. He obviously has a very strong feel for the agricultural community, coming from that community, unlike his provincial counterpart in the Ontario Government who has very limited qualifications in that area. I am being generous when I say that because many people argue that the Ontario Minister of Agriculture is totally devoid of any qualifications for such a position.
It is the hope of Members on this side of the House that the Minister of Agriculture will succeed in mustering the clout required to obtain from the Minister of Finance (Mr. Wilson)-"Mike the Knife", as I referred to him a few days ago- the funds required to fulfil the 20 election promises made by the Conservative Party during the election campaign.
When we talk about the in depth review process and the moratorium Bill, we are obviously dealing with very important issues. One of my Party's Members in the last Parliament introduced a Bill on farm foreclosures. Unfortunately, that Bill was not passed. We promised to reintroduce similar legislation if elected as the government. With the present Government in power, we hope it will introduce such legislation in the very near future.
There is another aspect to the Farm Credit Corporation that we should talk about today. I do not believe it has been addressed in the motion presented by the Hon. Member for Humboldt-Lake Centre (Mr. Althouse). Nevertheless, it is a very significant issue. I refer to the delays in processing Farm Credit Corporation applications. As Hon. Members know, justice delayed is justice denied. Of course, a benefit delayed is also a benefit denied, in my opinion. A farmer applying for a Farm Credit Corporation loan may be refused six, eight, ten or twelve months later and then has to go through the whole process again. That does not constitute justice, in my view.
With your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, I will take a few minutes to make Members aware of some of the hardships that have been created by delays in the Farm Credit Corporation in my constituency.
Mr. Speaker, one of my constituents wrote to tell me she had applied to the Farm Credit Corporation on April 16, 1984. She said she handed the papers to the Farm Credit Corporation officer ten days later, and that at the time, she expected to get a loan at a rate of 13.25 per cent. It seems that on June 7, 1984, when she went back to the FCC office, she found that the rate had gone up from 13.25 to 14 per cent. She was told the application she made several months previous could no longer be "entertained" and that she would have to wait. So she waited a few weeks and then applied at the Ontario regional office-I am told the office is located in Guelph-and there was more delay. A week later she phoned again and was told the officer concerned was on holiday. You can appreciate that in late June or early July farmers have a lot of other things to do besides standing by the phone and waiting for a government official to call them. They are quite busy bringing in the crops and working the fields.
Finally, it seems that she got an answer from the Farm Credit Corporation on July 16, 1984 telling her that some information was missing. Hon. Members will recall that the whole show began in April. The two allegedly missing documents had been sent to the Farm Credit Corporation on May 31. Apparently they got lost. Anyway, the documents were found two days later on July 18. We are already several months later, Mr. Speaker. And so it went on and on-I will spare you the details-until September 1984 when my constituent still had not been told by the Farm Credit Corporation whether she was eligible for a loan or not.
I am told that she has now received that answer, that she has been turned down and has now initiated the appeal
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procedure. And we wonder whether the Farm Credit Corporation will provide a final answer in time for next spring. Such delays are unreasonable in my view. If for instance the farmer has to ask a bank to wait for refund payments, I am sure the bank would not wait until next spring. Nobody can afford to wait that long. Certainly if another industry was waiting for a Government loan, it would go elsewhere if it was unable to get grants within a reasonable timeframe. It is my view that farmers also should be entitled to government service within a somewhat more adequate time period.
Mr. Speaker, being from Eastern Ontario, I find it hard to discuss farming without referring to the poultry farm situation in our area. They are faced with very special financial difficulties because the various levels of Government, especially the Ontario Government and its chicken marketing board, but also the federal marketing board have cut their production on the grounds that they have not reached their quotas in the past. That matter has been dragging now since 1978 before all sorts of administrative courts, courts of justice and so on and so forth, and has not yet been settled. However, producers still have to go on making payments on their facilities, and they have to live like everybody else, without their problems being solved and without their being able to find someone to help them so they can keep on operating their farms.
This is another example of a delay which creates great hardship for the farmers of the Glengarry-Prescott-Russell area.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the House to an issue which was mentioned yesterday morning by the Hon. Member for Algoma (Mr. Foster), the Liberal critic for agriculture, namely the problems of Canadian hog producers. As we all know, most of the pork produced in Canada is exported. As is the case with other farm industries, hog producers were affected by very low prices. However, they must now face a new problem, that of marketing their product, since there are many rumours to the effect that the United States will curtail their pork imports from Canada.
I would urge the Minister of Agriculture to get together with his U.S. counterpart as soon as possible with a view to ensuring that the levels of exports of pork from Canada to the United States are retained and possibly enhanced. We do not want to see the loss of those pork exports to the United States. Those exports are very meaningful, not only because of the price but because the survival of that entire industry depends upon them.
My colleague, the Hon. Member for Hamilton East (Ms. Copps), is also very concerned about some remarks that have been made in the House today by the Minister of Agriculture concerning the grape growers of the Province of Ontario. The Minister, who is not present in the House at this time, did say this morning that there would be assistance for the grape
growers. I am sure all Hon. Members of the House would want to know in more detail about what kind of help would be given to the grape growers of the Province of Ontario.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would just like to reiterate a point that I raised this morning, and that is the need for a new Canada-Ontario development agreement. That federal-provincial agreement, particularly as it affects the part of the province in which I live, is indeed very important for the agricultural sector, particularly because of the farm drainage, farm improvement and other grants that are made available to farmers. We do not see how the farmers of eastern Ontario in particular will ever be able to compete with the farmers of the rest of the country until improvements are made to the technology and drainage of those farms. I would urge the Government to continue its negotiations with the Province of Ontario, not only so that a general agreement between Canada and Ontario is signed, but also so that subsidiary agreements as they pertain to the agricultural sector are signed, thus ensuring the enhancement of the agricultural sector of the country.
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: BUSINESS OF SUPPLY