House of Commons Hansard #186 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.

Topics

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, 1995
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act, 1995
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the division on the question now before the House stands deferred until tomorrow at 5.30 p.m., at which time the bells to call in the members will be sounded for not more than 15 minutes.

Farm Improvement And Marketing Co-Operatives Loans Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Fernand Robichaud for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

moved that Bill C-75, an act to amend the Farm Improvement and Marketing Co-operatives Loans Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Farm Improvement And Marketing Co-Operatives Loans Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings
Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to open the debate at second reading on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the government.

Bill C-75 is an act to amend the Farm Improvement and Marketing Co-operatives Loans Act. The acronym I will be referring to is FIMCLA. This amendment would only change one clause in the act. However, without the amendment we would have to suspend the program. Bill C-75 would increase the total amount of loans guaranteed under the act over a five-year period from $1.5 billion to $3 billion. Before I get into the question of why we want to make this change, I will tell the House a little about the FIMCLA program.

This program has been around for 50 years. It started with the Farm Improvement Loans Act passed in 1943 and came into effect in 1945. It was the first guaranteed loan program in Canada and was followed by student and small business loans. It is probably the most successful of all those programs.

At first the farm improvement loan program was intended to help tenant farmers get access to funding to improve their farms or farm living conditions. The guarantees were needed. They could not offer the land as security since they were tenants. Therefore they were unable to get bank loans. Over the years it has been a very popular program especially in western Canada, becoming increasingly popular throughout the nation.

Now farmers use the program to get loans of up to a maximum $250,000 for a wide range of farm improvement programs and projects such as acquisition of additional breeding stock, more land, improvements to buildings, fencing projects, irrigation, improved waste disposal facilities, et cetera. It could also be used and is being used to try alternative farming methods, whether organic farming or any other type of alternative method that farmers are now so aggressively pursuing in the diversification of their operations.

In addition, the program facilitates access to credit for farmer owned marketing co-operatives for activities that add value to the agricultural production. For example, a co-op could borrow up to $3 million under FIMCLA to build a juice plant, or something with vegetables or any other type of co-operative dealing with further value adding and processing of agriculture products.

Loans to co-operatives must be approved by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. Under this program borrowers benefit from interest rate savings of about 0.5 per cent and a lower equity requirement usually around a minimum 20 per cent.

The program is very popular and is becoming even more popular every year. Five years ago the department began to encourage credit unions and caisse populaires to make the program available to their customers as well. This has added about 600 new designated lenders throughout the country.

In towns which may only have one bank or one credit union or no bank or no credit union, farmers often had to drive to another town to get financing. With this change they suddenly had a lot more lenders to work with. In addition, we have seen sustained lower interest rates, higher farm equipment sales and an improved farm debt situation in the last few years.

Not surprisingly, the number of loans registered under the program has more than tripled from about 4,800 in 1990-91 to nearly 18,500 in 1994-95. The value of those loans has climbed from just under $82 million per year to $515 million per year. This year we expect the loans to reach $550 million, bringing a five-year aggregate to $1.4 billion. We expect that to remain constant for the years ahead. At a level of a $3 billion cap we will now be allowed to continue to offer the program. Most of the new growth has taken place in Quebec and Alberta.

Not long ago there was only a single lender using the program in Quebec. Now the giant Caisse Populaire Desjardins movement has become a major participant and Quebec has the third highest number of loans of any province. Similarly in Alberta, which has the second highest number of loans, the Alberta treasury branches have become a significant lender under FIM-

CLA. However, Saskatchewan is still the biggest user of the program.

This new growth has caused the government to propose this amendment to increase the cap. If we do not, as I said before, the program could reach its $1.5 billion cap in June of this year and then we would have to suspend the program for about two years.

In preparation for this amendment we have consulted with the people who are most closely involved in the FIMCLA program, including major farm organizations like the Canadian Federation of Agriculture as well as commercial lenders.

I would also like to address the inevitable question of why we are increasing the cap on this program by $1.5 billion at a time of government restraint. I want to make clear this amendment does not in any way represent $1.5 billion in new spending. Over the last 30 years the program costs have averaged slightly over $1 million a year. It is a loan guarantee, not a loan of the actual money.

The 25-year net loss rate under FIMCLA has been about 1 per cent. If we look at other government programs it shows the dedication to repaying loans and the low loss in those loans in the agricultural community over the years, a record it can be proud of. This loss was a bit higher in the 1980s for obvious reasons but we expect it now to stay at less than 1 per cent in the foreseeable future.

The government has made a commitment to provide farmers with the tools they need. FIMCLA is one such tool, an inexpensive tool that offers a considerable amount of assistance to the agri-food sector. It supports adaptation, diversification and encourages regional development and job creation.

The government has recently increased the cap on small business loans to a total of $12 billion for the same reason. Here again we are asking for the assistance to increase the cap on the Farm Improvement and Marketing Co-operatives Loans Act.

At this time I urge all members in the House to support the amendment which will double the cap on loans under the Farm Improvement and Marketing Co-operatives Loans Act and enable this low cost support to farmers to continue. I look forward to the support of all members in the House.

Farm Improvement And Marketing Co-Operatives Loans Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-75, which we are debating this afternoon, is neither very long nor complex. It may, in fact, be summarized in a single, very simple, clause, which provides that the maximum of guaranteed loans will increase from $1.5 billion to $3 billion.

As my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, has just pointed out, this refers merely to loan guarantees. The government is not injecting an additional $3 billion or $1.5 billion into the agricultural sector-far from it. Bill C-75 is therefore simply an amendment to the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act.

I must say that, when I read the title of this bill, I thought it was rather long. Like the Prime Minister, I counted the words. There are 16 words in the name of the act. There could, in my opinion, have been a lot fewer.

The amendment, therefore, is aimed at doubling the amount and the number of loans guaranteed under the terms of this act. The amendment simply increases the cap of guarantees for loans given by banking institutions in response to increased demand. The current cap is $1.5 billion, and with the adoption of Bill C-75, the limit will increase to $3 billion. For many farmers, this increase means greater access to financing.

Even though the bill concerns loan guarantees and not the investment of new money, an important question arises: Will taxpayers be bearing the costs of this increase directly? Although we are talking about loan guarantees, the risk of non payment remains, and, in the end, all taxpayers will have to foot the bill.

According to data from the Department of Agriculture and Agri-food, losses due to non payment or non reimbursement represent more or less one per cent of the total loan guarantees. Therefore, the cost of the program will be relatively low. Nevertheless, one per cent of $3 billion could end up costing Canadian taxpayers $30 million.

Therefore, for the good of the farmers, the Bloc Quebecois will support the increase in the cap from $1.5 billion to $3 billion by supporting Bill C-75. In the present context, it is almost impossible for the provinces to gain a little more autonomy from the federal government. The only solution in the short term, and it is only for farmers, I repeat, is to allow the government to go ahead with Bill C-75.

However, I must point out that our support is based solely on a concern that farmers get the financing they need and are entitled to. Apart from this vital aspect, it is as clear as spring water that we cannot allow duplication to pass without comment. I wish to draw the attention of all my colleagues and especially you, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that Bill C-75 involves duplication from two levels of government, as I will explain to you.

The basic question we must ask ourselves is not only whether the limit provided for in the act to amend the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act is high enough but whether the program as a whole is relevant. According to Agriculture Canada figures, the demand for loan guarantees is growing. It is this excessive demand that justifies the limit increase.

Mr. Speaker, you know as well as I do that the cost of farms has risen, as has the cost of buildings, of extensions. The cost of farm machinery such as tractors and combine-harvesters has gone up and even doubled in the last 10 years. The cost of digging manure pits keeps going up. I think that increasing the limit was justified.

I will not deny the importance for farmers of having access to financing in order to improve or expand their facilities. All the more reason to make their lives easier and allow them to meet their needs in a single place. More and more, Quebec favours the single window concept at all levels. In Quebec, there are now three organizations in place to help Quebec farmers who need financing.

Last weekend, I met with several farmers including my friend Bertrand Lacroix of Second Street in Disraeli, who explained to me how complex our situation is. On the one hand, you have Quebec's Société du financement agricole, which a few years ago was called the Office du crédit agricole and which comes under Quebec jurisdiction. On the other hand, you have the Farm Credit Corporation, which comes under federal jurisdiction. Thirdly, since there are 12 words in the bill before us this afternoon, an act to amend the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act, from now on I will use the acronym AAFIMCLA. You can see how complex this is. We are really asking for it.

I am far from proud this afternoon of supporting this bill on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois. Our accumulated deficit exceeds $550 billion. While the deficit for this fiscal year will be close to $40 billion, the government is increasing duplication and overlap. This is a good example of overlap within the same government. At the federal level, farmers can borrow either from the Farm Credit Corporation or under the Farm Improvement Loans Act. Why not consolidate all that? I am sure tens of millions of dollars would be saved each year this way. Not only would this government save tens of millions dollars each year, but it would be much more efficient. It is even worse for Quebec farmers, who have a third choice in the farm finance corporation.

Saturday afternoon, the farm producer I was visiting told me that he had had to shop around in order to finance his new facility. He applied for all three and came to the conclusion that the program that best suited his expansion needs-I am not saying that it would be the same for everyone, but for him-was the one offered by the Société de financement du Québec. Another time, the Farm Credit Corporation could prove to be a better choice. In this instance, he told me that he had weighed the three programs against one another and that the best deal was that of the Société de financement agricole, formerly known as Quebec Farm Credit Bureau.

The bottom line is that a great deal of money is totally wasted on programs administered by three separate agencies. In their next budget, the various provincial governments, particularly Quebec and Ontario, which are two large provinces, will probably have to follow our finance minister's lead and hit their taxpayers hard. They will have to account for moneys spent, in my view, wastefully on duplication. In Quebec, we know what duplication is. We have been aware of this for quite a while, and that is why we would rather have our own tool box, with all the tools required to develop fully, freely and completely.

If the three programs I just mentioned are different, is it not because appropriate resources are scattered in three different places? What if the resources allocated to the other two agencies were made available to the Société du financement agricole? I would bet that it could provide new programs. It would be what we call a single window.

The province may have set criteria and standards of its own, which are not in line with what the federal government had in mind. Let us assume, for example, that the Quebec farm finance corporation's standards are higher that those set in bill C-75 for whatever reason. By setting separate standards, the federal government is once again interfering in provincial areas of responsibility.

Rather than moving to my next point, Mr. Speaker, I could stop here, and let you have the floor to call statements by members, and I could continue after oral question period.

Farm Improvement And Marketing Co-Operatives Loans Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Certainly, dear colleague. I thank you for letting me take the floor, as the saying goes.

It being 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), we will now proceed to Statements by Members.

Oklahoma City Bombing
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—Woodbine, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, April 19, a terrible and tragic event took place in the heartland of America. The bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City has shocked the entire world. The bombing has proven that no one is safe from the threat of terrorist activities and that terrorism can strike anywhere, even in the places that were once considered safe, as Canada witnessed at the provincial legislature in Prince Edward Island last week.

The most devastating aspect of the bombing is the number of young children who were killed in the blast. I cannot comprehend how anyone could possibly justify the taking of lives, especially those of innocent children.

To the citizens of Oklahoma City, I am sure I speak for all members present when I say that our thoughts are with you at this time of sorrow. May you find the strength to rebuild and carry on. I am also sure that my colleagues will join me in condemning the cowardly act of terrorism.

Oklahoma City Bombing
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre De Savoye Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, there are events which generate sympathy and solidarity among peoples, nations, individuals and communities.

We join all those who strongly denounce the bombing which took place last week in Oklahoma City.

Regardless of who is responsible for the attack, and regardless of the motives, it is totally unjustifiable that individuals or organized groups would resort to such violence and acts of terrorism.

The revolting attack in Oklahoma City against dozens of innocent people, including children attending a daycare, is in direct contrast with the values of tolerance, solidarity, respect and democracy of our societies.

We want to send a message of sympathy and solidarity to the injured, to the families and close ones of the victims, to the community of Oklahoma City, as well as to all Americans.

Oklahoma City Bombing
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to pay tribute and attention to the terrible tragedy that occurred in Oklahoma City last week on April 19. It truly was a shock to the world.

Our sympathy goes out to all of those who lost friends and family members in this cowardly assault on innocent people, especially the children, both those who died and those who lost their parents.

This is a disgusting, despicable crime committed by a sick element of society, an element that one could not even imagine exists in our land and in our nations all around the world.

I hope there will be better procedures established to detect these people and foresee this potential danger to society. Justice must be served swiftly against the cowards who committed this heinous crime and a justice that will ensure the sentence fits the crime.

Oklahoma, our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Born To Read Day
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Oxford, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is Born to Read Day.

Nearly two million school children in Canada from kindergarten to grade 3 will receive a free copy of "Born to Read", a how-to guide encouraging parents to spend more time reading with their children.

Writer and cartoonist Ben Wicks, realizing just how serious a reading problem Canada has and recognizing that literacy begins at home, decided to develop a book explaining to parents how they can help their children to love to read.

This project is a joint effort of some of Canada's largest corporations, federal and provincial governments and the five major literacy organizations in Canada.

Twenty-four per cent of Canadian adults are functionally illiterate. As a former educator, I find this statistic appalling. I am well aware of the benefits literacy provides and I thank Ben Wicks for the significant role he has played in addressing this problem and trying to do something about it.

World Curling Championship
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Winnipeg—St. James, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is my first opportunity from the floor of the House of Commons to congratulate Canada on winning the World Curling Championship.

The team consists of skip Kerry Burtnyk, third Jeff Ryan, second Rob Meakin and lead Keith Fenton. This outstanding foursome curls out of Winnipeg's Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club which is located at the end of the street where I live. I humbly confess to some local pride.

The Burtnyk team, however, are true world champions. They swept the tournament in Brandon, winning all 11 games and the coveted crown on a spectacular last rock double takeout in the final match against Scotland.

Their victory highlights an outstanding season for Manitoba curlers, a season that saw Manitoba teams win two world crowns and two national championships.

Again, my congratulations to Kerry Burtnyk, Jeff Ryan, Rob Meakin and Keith Fenton. They are the world's finest for '95. They are great citizens of Manitoba, the hotbed of curling in Canada.

Health Care
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Stan Keyes Hamilton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, some of the best doctors in the world are located right here in Canada.

However, doctors in the province of Ontario are still reeling from three consecutive years of ill-treatment by Bob Rae's NDP government. So far the Rae government has failed to establish meaningful co-operation with stakeholders in the health care system in order to make better decisions about the planning and delivery of health care services. For example, there should be incentives for people to use community clinics instead of hospital emergency wards which are five times more expensive.

Furthermore the Rae government has offered little or no support to the medical profession in its efforts to develop new payment models in order to manage costs. Doctors in Ontario are being squeezed by the Rae government in a way that is compromising their capacity to deliver medical services. Innocent patients are getting caught in the crossfire.

Ontarians are fed up. It is time for new and effective leadership in this province. Ontario needs a provincial government that is committed to quality health care.

Armenian People
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Daviault Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois joins with all Armenians to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, which began in April 1915. This despicable crime against humanity must not be forgotten.

The obvious lack of leadership shown by Canada regarding this unpunished crime is upsetting. Under René Lévesque, Quebec did recognize the Armenian genocide. The Liberal government shows a blatant lack of courage and clear-mindedness by continuing to ignore this genocide.

On behalf of all Quebecers and Canadians, the Bloc Quebecois does remember this tragedy and does sympathize with the Armenian people.

Schizophrenia Society Of Canada
Statements By Members

April 24th, 1995 / 1:55 p.m.

Reform

Diane Ablonczy Calgary North, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Schizophrenia Society of Canada is launching a major campaign today to dispel the myths and misconceptions about schizophrenia and to raise public awareness regarding the real symptoms and the impact of the disease. The theme of the national campaign is: "If you think spelling it's hard, imagine living with it".

Schizophrenia will affect one out of every 100 persons, or about 270,000 Canadians. It is one of the most common forms of mental illness. Sadly, 40 per cent of people with this disease will attempt to take their lives. Sadder still, one-quarter of those will succeed.

Schizophrenia is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and typically strikes people in their late teens or early twenties, often lasting a lifetime.

I applaud the efforts of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada as it works to alleviate the suffering caused by this disease.

Yellowhead Highway Association
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Len Taylor The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Mr. Speaker, this past weekend the Yellowhead Highway Association held its 49th annual meeting in Edmonton. This organization, representing communities along the Yellowhead highway from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Merritt and Masset, B.C., has helped to improve safety, business and tourism along western Canada's most popular travel route.

Despite the significant success of the association, much remains to be done, requiring the ongoing and continuous commitment of provincial and federal governments. This means that the federal government must remain committed to the national highway system and to keep in place the resources necessary to upgrade and enhance the travel convenience provided by the new Trans-Canada Yellowhead Highway.

I urge the Minister of Transport to join the many dedicated people in western Canada who support the Yellowhead, to review his withdrawal of support from the national highways program and to renew the financial commitment that is so necessary to keep this highway functioning.