House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Supply
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Reform

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that farming prices today have been rising. That is because of the government's high taxation policy. As well, it has not addressed the issues. It is a do nothing approach again. It takes a slow approach. Nothing happens. If something does happen, then the government wakes up to the fact that something has happened. It is the usual do nothing approach which has resulted in the farm crisis we have in our country.

Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on the issue of the farm income crisis in Canada. I am proud to say that the Reform Party is sponsoring the debate today because we know how critical the issue is to hundreds of thousands of Canadians. It is about time we debated the issue in the House of Commons, and it is time the government started paying attention.

I will reiterate something my leader said today. He said that we would like to see the Prime Minister take a personal interest in this issue. It is an extraordinarily important issue but we never see him anywhere on it. He can attend the opening of a plant somewhere that may contribute a few million dollars to the economy but when it comes to agriculture, which has a multibillion dollar impact on the economy, he is absolutely nowhere to be seen.

I want to address a couple of things. I want to first address an issue the agriculture minister raised when he spoke earlier today. He said that on average things on the farm are pretty good. As my leader has said on more than one occasion “if your hair is on fire and your feet are in a block of ice, on average you are doing okay, but it really does not go to the issue”.

The issue is that thousands of farmers are going broke today and the government has no plan. It does the easiest thing it can. It says that it will put together some kind of a program, and even though it will be deeply flawed and will not help at least half of the people out there, it can at least say that it is doing something. It has completely failed to deal with the issues that are a little more difficult to deal with. It in fact retreats and runs away from them.

I will now deal with two issues: European subsidies and taxes. I will talk a little about the subsidy issue. We have seen the Prime Minister make extraordinary trips around the country for all kinds of things that he should not be doing. His time should be more valuable than that. We have seen him go on trade missions for the photo opportunities so he could stand there and sign agreements that were put in place months or years before. He just has to get there, get on the bicycle and ride along the Great Wall of China for the photo op. That is what he does.

He should be leading trade delegations to Europe. He should be using Canada's privileged place in the world to demand some kind of agreement on the issue of subsidies. What do we get? We get him running around the world as he pursues the photo opportunities. It is an absolute disgrace that he is not engaging in a serious way in the debate today given how much is at stake and given that half the country, especially western Canada, is in a very difficult position right now. It is absolutely disgraceful.

My colleague argued a few minutes ago, as did my leader earlier today and in his response to the throne speech, that the government should put together a super committee of cabinet consisting of the Prime Minister, the agriculture minister, the foreign affairs minister and the trade minister to give this the priority it should get. That is a common sense approach considering that Canada is a trading nation. We do depend to a large degree on the trade we do with the rest of the world. We have a small domestic population of 30 million people and we depend on trade for about 40% of our economy. We must do a better job of dealing with trade issues. Canada could be doing more about the irritants and barriers to trade that are out there.

The issue of tariffs on beef is one barrier that affects my riding. We have pleaded with the agriculture minister to make some very small changes that would allow more American beef to come into Canada. In the spirit of goodwill, we would, as a quid pro quo, then expect the Americans to not pursue the complaint they have against Canada. As a result, we would save millions upon millions of dollars in tariffs that are being charged against live Canadian beef going into the United States. What do we get? We get stonewalling from the government and all kinds of reasons why it cannot move quickly.

I distinctly remember that when a law was struck down by the courts respecting the wheat board, the cabinet moved within two hours to change the law. However, it cannot change in a few months some regulations respecting the import of American beef. It is time it quit pretending. It should take the issue seriously because we need it addressed.

I want to talk for a moment about taxes. We stand in the House day after day saying we need to have lower taxes. The government says that it is working on it and it is getting there. The provinces are taking the issue so seriously today that they are seeking a meeting with the government because bond raters in New York and other places around the world are so concerned about the government's high tax and high debt policies that our economy is suffering as a result. We have higher borrowing costs and a much weaker dollar because the government cannot get its act together.

We are arguing that a common sense way to help farmers would be to lower taxes. Every year the farm population spends millions of dollars on fuel costs and fuel is 50% tax. Every year, whether or not crops are good or bad, they have to spend a lot on fuel because that is what they do. They have to put the crop in the ground. The government could help immediately by beginning to lower the taxes on fuel.

Although there have been some tough years for farmers in the last few years, when they do have a good year they spend an outrageous amount of money on income taxes. Over a 40 year period on the farm, I argue that the government takes hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra taxes from farmers. That is shameful. It should be lowering taxes.

In Europe they have high subsidies and high taxes. In Canada we could subsidize every taxpayer by cutting taxes. We could give our people a huge competitive advantage by lowering taxes but the government refuses to act. It continues to spend more and more every year and we never do get the tax relief that would help everyone.

Consider the taxes that are embedded in the cost of fertilizer and chemicals amounting to billions of dollars over the course of a farmer's lifetime spread out amongst all farmers. We are saying that the government should start to reduce taxes so that those input costs go down. If it did, farmers in Canada would have a fighting chance, but with this government in place it seems like it does not care. It is falling on deaf ears. This is such an obvious way to help not just farmers but everyone that I cannot understand why it does not move to do it immediately.

We see instead that taxes are going up. On January 1 we will see a big CPP tax hike and a personal income tax hike because of bracket creep. We will see the small business exemption eroded again because of bracket creep. We will see the $500,000 capital gains exemption eroded because of bracket creep, which affects farmers. The government is raising taxes when we are already the highest taxed country of all of our major trading partners, one of the highest taxed in the world and they are still going up. That does not help farmers. That does not help anybody.

The government must put the effort into ensuring that Canada's trade interests are protected. It is not doing it today. In fact, the Americans and the Europeans are eating our lunch while the Prime Minister effectively holidays around the world. It also has to start to lower taxes for the sake of everyone. It is the fair and compassionate thing to do.

Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Jerry Pickard Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly have thought about the comments made by my colleague across the way. He makes it sound as though Canada's agricultural sector is really going down the tubes.

I would point out to him that annual exports in agriculture have risen from $13 billion to $22 billion over the last five years, the term of the government. That seems to be quite an increase in the amount of production and quite a success story for a major section of the economy in agriculture.

I would also like to point out that our supply managed commodities sector economy is doing very well at the same time. We are up $250 million in exports from 1995 to 1998, a three year time period. We are up $1.3 billion last year alone. Dairy receipts have increased by $299 million.

When we talk about the increases in the millions and billions of dollars in exports—

Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. I guess that was more in the form of a statement. Does the hon. member have a rebuttal?

Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, what I heard was the member denying that there is a problem for so many farmers today. Many farmers are going bankrupt. I wonder if he understands what that means on a personal level.

I happen to represent a rural riding. Many of the people who phone me are completely desperate because of the low commodity prices, thanks to European subsidies which my hon. friend failed to address, and because they are facing such high input costs, in part because of taxes, they simply cannot make it.

My friend did not address whether or not those exports he referred to meant more profit going into the pockets of farmers. Well, of course, the answer is no. There may be lots of exports going out, but if they cannot be done in a way that leaves people profitable, how does that benefit farmers? My friend over there is denying reality.

Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again the Reform Party continues to confuse people.

The member continues to say that the government should lower taxes and that lowering taxes is the answer to the farm problem. At the same time, his leader says that we need a comprehensive subsidy to protect our farmers from distorting trade practices around the world. What he is saying is to spend more money on subsidies and, by the way, reduce the taxes. Now let us be serious. The member cannot have it both ways.

Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Reform Party is very serious. We want to see the government re-prioritize its spending.

Why is the government giving billions of dollars in subsidies to profitable big businesses every year? I wonder if my hon. friend would answer that. Companies that are making profits of $200 million a year are still getting subsidized by the government. We are arguing that should not be happening.

We are saying that there should be a trade distortion adjustment program put in place that protects farmers from the hurt caused by unfair foreign subsidies. We believe that it should be financed to a large degree by farmers. I do not think anybody argues with that. We want to see a long term program put in place that is GATT green and that protects farmers in the long run and not this ad hoc, trade distorting approach that the government is currently engaged in that ultimately helps one in two farmers. The farmers who do get some help sometimes are getting $8 cheques from the government after spending $500 to do the accounting for these stupid programs.

Supply
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

We will take up the debate after the question period. We will now proceed to Statements by Members.

The Late Charles Mercier
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, on September 30, 1999 the life of 34 year old, senior OPP Constable Charles Mercier was taken in a tragic highway accident while he sat in his cruiser in St. Catharines, Ontario.

Anyone who knew the 13 year OPP veteran knew that he was a kind and gentle man, with a good sense of humour and keen negotiating skills.

But Chuck Mercier was not just a police officer. First and foremost, he was a loving husband to his wife, Joyce Pavelich, a dedicated father to his children Michelle and Nicholas, a loyal son to his mother Hélène, and late father Clermont, and a good friend to his brothers Pierre and Paul.

To the Pavelich, Mercier and OPP families, I would like to express my deepest sympathies. During this time of unspeakable grief and sorrow, may they take comfort in their memories of an honourable man who chose an honourable profession. He will never be forgotten.

Surrey Spirit Of Youth Mural Project
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to acknowledge the work of the youth involved in the Surrey Spirit of Youth Mural Project.

Last summer over 50 students designed and painted 16 murals throughout the city. The project has now produced 23 murals depicting various themes reflective of our community, including the environment, multiculturalism, heritage and the celebration of youth.

The prime mover behind the project is the Surrey Crime Prevention Society under Jim King and Peter Maarsman. The project visionary and driving force is Marc Pelech, a high school art teacher.

Many local organizations and businesses contribute materials and funding, with support from all levels of government. The Spirit of Youth mural project is a good example of how people with vision can come together with business and government to enhance the communities we live in. I invite members to visit its website at www.surreycrime.bc.ca and click on the mural project.

My congratulations to all those involved, especially to the young artists who spent the entire summer, much of it under tarps, providing us with 16 more reasons we are proud to call Surrey home.

Sleep-Wake Disorders Canada
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House and all Canadians that October 25 to 30 has been designated National Sleep Awareness Week.

This week coincides with the changing of clocks to help remind us how important sleep is to our everyday lives. Over two million Canadians suffer from sleep disorders and in several cases many people are not even aware they are affected. Sleep disorders decrease the quality of life of many Canadians by decreasing alertness and the ability to perform effectively on a daily basis.

Sleep-Wake Disorders Canada, a national voluntary health organization, responds to the needs of people with various sleep disorders, ranging from the most common insomnia to sleep apnea where breathing stops several times during the night.

Sleep-Wake Disorders Canada recruits and trains many volunteers through chapters across the country that help people suffering from sleep disorders to improve their quality of life. The organization also distributes information, encourages research and establishes local self-help groups.

Canadian Psoriasis Foundation
Statements By Members

October 25th, 1999 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, October is Psoriasis Awareness Month.

One million Canadians suffer from this non-contagious skin disorder. It is an unpredictable disease affecting both men and women of all ages. Psoriasis can have a devastating impact on a person's life, both physically and emotionally. One in five are hospitalized frequently.

The Canadian Psoriasis Foundation is helping by providing support and teaching those affected valuable coping skills. The foundation supports and encourages research activities to find a cure while also promoting public awareness of the disease.

I encourage all members of the House and all Canadians to support the work of the Canadian Psoriasis Foundation and to wish it a successful awareness month.

Trucking Industry
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, an agreement to reduce the number of hours worked by truck drivers will be concluded in the next two weeks between the partners in the Canadian transportation industry.

Mr. Vaudreuil, the president of the CSD, in Quebec, feels that reducing the number of hours worked is a noble principle as far as health and safety are concerned. He is, however, worried about its effects on the income of the 900 trucker-owners in his association.

If the rates remain the same, the independent truckers will simply be earning less. This is less of an issue for the thousand or so unionized drivers in Quebec.

In order to settle the income issue, a consultation committee must be struck to bring together representatives of industry and of the various levels of government. According to Mr. Légaré of the independent trucker association l'Association des camionneurs artisans du Québec, the solution in Quebec depends on truckers' right to unionize or on the creation of a trade association to represent them.

Festival Of Lights
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to extend again my personal invitation to all members of the House to attend the second annual Diwali celebration on Parliament Hill on Thursday, October 28.

Last year's celebration marked the first ever Diwali celebration on Parliament Hill and was a tremendous success due to the overwhelming support of the Indo-Canadian community. Again this year the community is joining together from coast to coast to celebrate the Festival of Lights.

This event is wholly sponsored by the Indo-Canadian community. Over 400 people are expected from across the nation. Regretfully the Liberals have brought politics into this important celebration by trying to undermine the event, but then they are famous for creating division among communities.

The event is being celebrated in room 200, West Block, on Thursday, October 28. The community would appreciate the presence of members.

Dr. Kévork Baghdjian
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Saturday, Dr. Kévork Baghdjian, master defender of the Armenian cause, passed away in Montreal.

He leaves not just his own family members but also the entire Armenian community, to whom his death represents a monumental loss. The Armenian people has lost one of its most famous sons. Dr. Baghdjian devoted his entire life to defending the rights of the victims and survivors of the Armenian tragedy of 1915.

For many years, Dr. Baghjian headed the Fédération des groupes ethniques du Québec. That position made him a defender of the rights of all cultural communities making up the mosaic that is Quebec and Canada.

A proud Canadian, he took a public stand in favour of Canadian unity in the referendum debates on Quebec separation. Among his many distinctions, he became a member of the Order of Canada in 1978.

On behalf of all Canadians, I wish to express my condolences to his family and to thank this great Canadian for his untiring efforts on behalf of tolerance.