House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Government Response To Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to seven petitions.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

In accordance with Standing Order 108(2), the committee undertook a study of fisheries issues throughout the west coast of Canada.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests a comprehensive response to this report within 150 days.

Issue Of Ceremonial Statements Of Service Act
Routine Proceedings

November 3rd, 1998 / 10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Réginald Bélair Timmins—James Bay, ON

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-453, an act to regulate the issue of ceremonial statements of service and recognition of duty.

Mr. Speaker, having been involved for some 20 years in federal politics, I have, on many occasions, encountered veterans who were not wounded in any conflict that Canada was involved in and therefore have nothing to show in terms of a card. On the other hand, those who were wounded are carrying a health card which they cherish.

Therefore, today I am proud to introduce this bill proposing a certificate of service and duty to all war veterans and civilian groups who served in support of the armed forces in such organizations as the Red Cross and the Merchant Seamen, as well as United Nations peacekeeping units.

This certificate will recognize and honour their significant participation in any armed conflict or war in which Canada took part. They are all responsible for the freedom we enjoy today.

Over the years, I have on numerous occasions met veterans who had nothing to show for their participation in world conflicts. I am therefore extremely pleased to introduce this bill today, which will enable them to carry in their wallets a mark of recognition by the Government of Canada.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have three sets of petitions to present. The first petition is signed by 59 Canadians who are concerned about the Copyright Board and the recent decision of the Copyright Board concerning commercial television royalties which will retroactively reduce the royalties of Canadian music creators and adopt the American practice of enforcing individual music composers to negotiate directly with large broadcasting corporations.

The petitioners are requesting that parliament strongly affirm this commitment: That the Minister of Industry immediately appoint a judge to chair the Copyright Board in respect of parliament's intent that the board be competent and objective as a quasi-judicial tribunal.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second set of petitions concerns marriage and contains 325 signatures. The petitioners stated that the majority of Canadians understand the concept of marriage as being only the voluntary union of a single, that is, unmarried male and a single, that is, unmarried female. The petitioners pray that parliament will enact Bill C-225, an act to amend the Marriage Act and the Interpretation Act.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, the third petition is a gathering of four separate petitions, all on the same issue, containing a total of 1,060 signatures.

The petition pertains to the work of the Reform Party and others who are trying to bring in the philosophy of zero tolerance relative to drunk driving. The petitioners state that victims of the crime of impaired driving must be given the highest priority, as reflected by their impact statements, and that in cases of impaired driving causing death or injury sentencing must reflect the severity of the crime.

It is my pleasure to present this petition on behalf of 1,060 signatories in memory of Norm and Shawna.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Raymond Lavigne Verdun—Saint-Henri, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, at the request of the Comité des citoyens pour le monorail, a petition signed by over 6,200 of my constituents. They are asking the government not to transfer the infrastructure of the Champlain Bridge to the Quebec Government until the latter issues a total ban on its automobile, bus and truck traffic.

The petitioners are calling for a monorail project to the downtown area, which will use the bridge structure without any noise or other pollution.

I am totally in agreement with this petition.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

John Solomon Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure, pursuant to Standing Order 36, to present a petition on behalf of Canadians who are very concerned about the multilateral agreement on investment. They are worried that this agreement, if signed, will hamper our sovereignty and will limit the social programs that we have.

Obviously they are very concerned that Donald Johnston of the OECD, who is the Canadian heading up that organization, is trying to get this agreement signed on behalf of very large multinational corporations which will negatively affect Canadians.

They are skeptical of the assurances that the MAI is dead and, therefore, are asking parliament, if the MAI is resurrected, to not sign as a country.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Allan Kerpan Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour this morning to present a number of petitions to the House dealing with two different subjects.

The first petition, which has many names on it from people in my riding and from right across our province of Saskatchewan, calls upon the Parliament of Canada to provide relief by not implementing a tax on health benefits.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Allan Kerpan Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is signed by a large number of people in my riding and others who call upon the government to join with the provincial governments to make national highway system upgrading possible.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should move immediately to defend the interests of Canadian farmers from the unfair subsidies and unfair trading practices by foreign countries, which have changed the problem of stagnant farm incomes to a full-blown farm income crisis, and in the event no immediate progress is made on this front, introduce emergency measures to provide tax relief, lower input costs, reduce user fees and address the inadequacies of the farm safety-net programs.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the Leader of the Official Opposition. Reformers will be splitting their time throughout the day.

I will begin by reading some headlines as they have been appearing in the papers out west. Since the minister of agriculture has been denying there is a farm income crisis, I can only surmise he is only reading the newspapers from Toronto.

Here is what the newspapers are saying. From the Calgary Herald on October 31, “Outlook cloudy for agriculture sector”. From the Regina Leader Post on October 30, “Farm crunch looms”. From Agri-Week on October 26, “No government aid for farm income crunch”. From the Winnipeg Free Press on October 30, “Farmers turn up heat on Ottawa as farm income plummets”. From the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on October 22, “Subsidy wars killing farmers”. From the Western Producer on October 22, “Net farm income needs attention” and “Prairie pools demand feds respond to farm crisis”.

Need I go on? Do the Liberals read the papers outside Toronto? Apparently not. The minister of agriculture has been responding to opposition questions about the farm income crisis since September 24 and has yet to acknowledge there is a real problem. On September 24 the minister said:

The disaster relief program and the farm safety net program for Canadian farmers are already in place.

On October 28 the minister repeated his mantra by saying:

We have one of the strongest safety nets in the world.

On behalf of thousands of farmers in Canada, if Canada has one of the strongest safety net systems in the world, why are we having a farm income crisis? Why are so many farmers in trouble? I ask the minister to acknowledge at least that NISA is totally inadequate in helping farmers compete with unfair foreign subsidies.

I want the minister of agriculture to listen to the words of just one of the many farmers coming into my office and phoning me. I spoke to this gentleman last week. He has been farming for 33 years. Here are his own words:

I feel so terrible. I can't even put money on the offering plate Sunday morning. I'm probably worth more than most people in Canada—I farm seven quarters, fifty head of beef cattle, I got seventy bushels of barley and 35 of wheat per acre. An average calf crop. Productivity is good, but prices aren't. I haven't replaced my equipment in seven years and it wasn't new then. I'm repairing and patching but I can't anymore. Farming is not like other businesses—we don't want to make a lot of money, but we can't keep going, and we have no alternatives. We have no alternatives! Farmers have something to offer the country—it's being eroded—it's not just dollars and cents. It's a sin that raw food has no value in exchange for goods and services. Why does our nation have a different view from the Europeans on this?

I share this with the House of Commons because this farmer expressed better than I the real pressures farmers are feeling on a daily basis. It takes a special kind of person to be a farmer. It is not an easy life. They only want to make a living. The minister should come with me to the restaurants in my riding and listen or take some of the calls I get into my office.

No matter how one calculates farm income, total net income or net cash income or realized net income, farm incomes have been flat on the prairies for at least 20 years. These farmers have managed to survive year by year in spite of stagnant incomes, but they are in no position to withstand a real income crisis such as we are experiencing today.

The indications of the crisis are varied. It is taking its toll on farmers. Record numbers of Saskatchewan farmers are calling the farm stress line this year. In September the stress line received 147 calls. The program co-ordinator for the line said:

There's been twice as many calls in September compared to other months. The hope is going. If you don't have hope you don't have much to look forward to. You can only struggle for so long.

Last Friday the Debt Mediation Service said that inquiries for help were already up 22% over last year in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It estimates that 600 producers will use its service this year alone. These are real people behind the statistics that the minister of agriculture is ignoring. These are not the only people the minister is ignoring.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture says farm income is likely to drop by more than 40% this year, due largely to the collapse of the Asian market. Wheat prices have fallen by more than 40% over the last 12 months while another hard hit sector, hog farming, has seen a price decline of 28%. Meanwhile total federal funding for agriculture sits at $670 million, down from $2.5 billion a decade ago.

Saskatchewan agriculture minister Eric Upshall said:

We have about a 10% subsidy according to the OECD analysis, the U.S. has roughly 30% and the Europeans are at 36 to 37%. So there's a tremendous difference. We're caught in the squeeze. We've been the good guys on the block. We've cut our subsidy.

The world market has been hit from two sides. On the one hand there is a huge grain crop this year made larger because heavily subsidized European farmers decided to produce more wheat. On the other hand the booming Asian market is one big bust.

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian farm cash receipts in the first half of 1998 were 5.1% lower than the same period last year. In Saskatchewan they dropped 8.9% and 12.5% in some areas of Manitoba, blamed largely on a decline in wheat prices brought about by record world-wide production and dampened demand.

Canadian wheat, barley and livestock revenues were all down during the first six months of the year. Some Saskatchewan hog producers say that they are losing between $30 and $40 on every hog they sell. They are asking the province for a bailout.

The price of finished cattle, animals that have been fattened at the feedlot, is dismal as well. Saskatchewan farmers will likely see their realized net cash income less depreciation drop by more than 60% this year to less than $300 million. Meanwhile there has been no dropoff in freight rates or the cost of chemicals, fertilizer and farm machinery. There has been no dropoff in fuel and debt servicing.

From 1995 to 1997 gross operating expenses for Saskatchewan farmers have risen from $3.9 billion to $4.36 billion according to the province. The total debt held by farmers has risen from $4.48 billion in 1993 to $5.11 billion in 1997. Last year farm debt jumped 7% alone.

Finally last week Agri-Week reported:

Never before have prices of almost every major commodity class been down at the same time. This is the first time that the agricultural economy has been on its own through the down phase of an economic cycle.

The prairie pools are calling for an elimination of foreign subsidies, a reduction or elimination of cost recovery programs which the pools say cost farmers $138 million in 1998, and the development of a national disaster assistance program. Why is the minister not listening?

What can we conclude from all this? Our farmers could compete if only our government had not mismanaged affairs so badly. Our tax burden makes input costs for farmers very high. Some have estimated that for some items the farmer must purchase the input costs may be almost 50% tax.

The responsibility for the mismanagement of the agricultural portfolio rests squarely on the shoulders of the government and the last two ministers of agriculture. If the Liberal government and the bureaucrats were doing their job, agriculture would not be in this crisis. With the big bucks that are being poured into the department of agriculture bureaucracy, they should have been on top of this situation and had it solved before it became a crisis. Other countries did.

We live in a wonderful country. We all enjoy high quality food and a high standard of living. Farmers have contributed a great deal to it. We should hang our heads in shame for the little regard we have for them and the value they are to us.

Supply
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I join today with my colleagues in the House in saying that what we are facing in agriculture is a real emergency.

In my province of Saskatchewan the statistics show that in 1997 net farm income has dropped by 84%. People are suffering because of that. This is no surprise. If your income, Mr. Speaker, was to drop by 84% you would be in the House probably asking for an emergency injection of cash because you cannot survive when your income goes down by 84%.

This is compounded by the fact the United States about two weeks ago passed a farm bill in Congress to subsidize its farmers by $6 billion. There are subsidies in the European market of approximately $200 a tonne for wheat. Because of that our farmers are caught in a terrible cost price squeeze.

Recently the Saskatchewan legislature passed a motion, I believe it was unanimously, calling for an emergency farm package. We are dealing with a situation where there is to be a small surplus next year. The House should look at investing part of that surplus into an emergency farm package for farmers so that they can survive. In the meantime it would also stimulate the economy by creating jobs.

Does my colleague who just sat down agree that we need an emergency injection of cash, an emergency aid program of several hundreds of millions of dollars, so that farmers, particularly grain farmers, can survive?

I once again remind the House and the minister of agriculture that net farm income in Saskatchewan has dropped by 84%. That affects everybody in our province and everybody right across the country. When the farmer is worse off the small towns are worse off, the cities are worse off, the unemployment rate goes up, and people stop spending money. There is a cyclical effect which affects absolutely everyone.

I hope the Reform Party will join with us today in calling for an emergency farm package of several hundred million dollars to inject some cash into the pockets of farmers within the next few months to seed their crops next spring and so they can survive.