House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was housing.

Topics

Farm Credit Corporation Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

moved that Bill C-25, an act to amend the Farm Credit Corporation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Farm Credit Corporation Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington
Ontario

Liberal

Larry McCormick Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin third reading debate today with regard to Bill C-25, which amends the Farm Credit Corporation Act of 1993. These amendments would enable Farm Credit Corporation to continue its tradition of anticipating the changing needs of agriculture with innovative products and services. The main focus of the FCC remains the same: to save and work with Canadian farm families.

Canadian farmers are well known for their resourcefulness, flexibility and determination to succeed in the long term. They need a financial institution that shows the same flexibility and commitment to change with their evolving needs.

For 41 years Farm Credit Corporation has been the national financial institution that has consistently identified emerging needs, specifically, to work with and save Canadian family farms and farm families as well as to introduce needed services to address the gaps wherever they are in agriculture.

These new amendments would allow FCC to continue this tradition. The federal government has created these amendments to ensure the continued relevancy of the act. It is very relevant to all of these family farms. After review by the standing committee, the amendments remain unchanged. I will briefly review the major amendments.

The first amendment would change the name of Farm Credit Corporation to farm credit Canada. In French it would change from Société du crédit agricole to Financement agricole Canada. This change reflects the corporation's mandate to serve rural Canada as a federal crown. Adding the word Canada to the corporation's name also demonstrates the federal government's ongoing commitment to rural Canadians.

Another key amendment would allow FCC to offer business services to producers either directly or through partnerships. Producers would have access to the broad range of business services they need to succeed in a competitive environment. The new legislation would enable FCC to offer equity financing to producers and farm related businesses. Many farming and farm related operations need access to equity as well as term financing. In fact, rural communities cannot develop local value added agricultural industries without venture and equity capital.

An important amendment to the act would allow FCC to provide financial services to farm related businesses that benefit agriculture. Currently the corporation can lend only to businesses that are majority farmer owned. By extending services to more farm related businesses, FCC would help rural economies grow and would create jobs in rural communities. These are the key amendments directly impacting producers and farm related business.

Before beginning the amendments process, I asked FCC to consult the industry it serves, and I know the minister worked with it too. It is amazing, but the corporation really did its work. It met with more than 100 agricultural and financial industry groups last year to get their input. It met with more than 400 people to talk about what the bill would deliver to Canadian farm and farm families.

In general, the agricultural groups consulted were very supportive of the proposed changes. However, some producer organizations expressed the concern that FCC should continue to concentrate on serving the needs of producers. As a result, we created an amendment specifically to address this concern. The amendment states that the primary producers would continue to be the main focus of FCC's activities. Again, we consulted with producer groups in developing this amendment.

The corporation has a long tradition of consulting the agricultural industry to identify the needs. When the Canadian Federation of Agriculture told FCC that beginning farmers need more financial options, FCC listened. In 1998 it introduced agri-start loans to help young farm families build successful farming operations. The lending volume in the past few years tells us that agri-start addresses a real and compelling need. Since it was first introduced agri-start has generated almost 1,300 loans at a value of $134 million.

In 1999, a hog producer near Brandon, Manitoba came to FCC with an idea and FCC listened. Why not offer a lending product that allows hog producers flexible payment options so they can make it through the price downturns in the industry that exist today? To address this identified need, FCC designed the flexi-hog loan last spring. Since then, lending for this loan has amounted to $20 million.

In the year 2000, many Quebec producers signed up for a provincial subsidy program to help them adapt their waste management facilities to meet current environmental standards. FCC created the enviro-loan, which enables producers to make the upgrades and pay off the loan when they receive the subsidy at the end of the project. The enviro-loan is now available across Canada.

At FCC innovation is not confined to products and services. FCC is at the forefront of a growing movement in agriculture to enter partnerships to give customers more comprehensive solutions.

In the past several years FCC has built a network of 27 partners to offer more comprehensive financial packages to producers and to farm related businesses. FCC works with agriculture based businesses including input suppliers, livestock brokers and a national network of equipment dealers. FCC partners with public sector financial institutions such as the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Alberta Financial Services Corporation. The corporation also works with private sector institutions such as credit unions and is very successful with this across the country.

In March FCC announced an innovative partnership with private and public sector organizations to help farmers with life cycle planning. AgriSuccess is a joint initiative that offers seminars and online information to help producers to address long term planning issues. The initiative increases access to business planning services throughout rural Canada.

The amendments we are discussing today would position FCC to continue in its role as a catalyst and innovator. Through FCC, producers and farm related businesses would be able to access the range of services they require no matter where they live in rural Canada.

FCC recognizes that the future of farming is linked to the growth of the value added sector in agriculture. This new legislation would position FCC to support the future growth of this sector.

The spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship is alive and well in agriculture today. What the industry requires is a financial institution that understands the needs of agriculture and acts as a partner to support future growth and success. Certainly, as one of the farmers here in this Chamber is saying, part of this success is due to the people who work for FCC in the more than 100 offices across the country. These people most often have farm related backgrounds and are very close to their communities.

FCC has served that purpose for 41 years. These amendments would help ensure that FCC continues to contribute relevant solutions to agriculture for many years to come.

Farm Credit Corporation Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, in essence what Bill C-25 would do is expand the mandate of the Farm Credit Corporation. We in the Canadian Alliance, and I as a farmer from Manitoba, support the FCC. Certainly it is a vehicle that the federal government has used over the years to implement federal government policy where the FCC is able to provide a service that is not being provided by the private sector.

We in the Canadian Alliance are still concerned that this expansion will take away from and provide unfair competition to lending institutions like the credit unions as well as farmers, the primary producers, who now have to compete not only with each other in the immediate farming sector, but also with those beyond the primary producer level.

We all know that when lending institutions, including the Farm Credit Corporation, look at who they lend money to they look at the cashflow of the borrower. As it is now with the farm income situation in Canada in many sectors and in many commodities, it may well turn out that the cashflow is insufficient in farmers' primary production, and the money will end up flowing from the Farm Credit Corporation to the agribusinesses as opposed to the farmers. Then where will the farmers get credit?

By extending FCC's lending abilities beyond primary production, the bill would put FCC into direct competition with private lending institutions and would overlap with other government institutions such as the Business Development Bank.

The federal government has various vehicles that are necessary to deliver credit to value added businesses and industrial complexes. However if farmers do not hold primary ownership, the Farm Credit Corporation to a large extent will turn into another Business Development Bank of Canada.

We in the official opposition attempted to correct the problems through amendments to the legislation both at the committee level and during report stage. For example, we brought forward an amendment which would have limited lending to businesses not directly related to primary production.

The amendment, defeated by the government at committee, would have addressed one of our primary concerns; that FCC would shift its focus away from primary production to non-farm businesses. The amendment would have ensured that the needs of farmers do not become secondary to business lending by FCC.

FCC has stated that it will continue to focus on primary producers. That is fine and dandy but it is just an intention. We tried to have the legislation reflect and put on parameters and outside limits as to where FCC could go with its lending. Right now it is virtually unlimited. The legislation did not define who primary producers were. We tried to define that with our amendment but it was defeated.

Farm Credit Corporation has stated that 80% of its internal goal will go to primary producers. It should therefore not have objected to putting the limit into legislation. Why would it not agree to put it in legislation? It obviously wants to ensure it will be totally unhindered if it decides to move away from the primary producer and move its primary lending to agribusiness beyond the farm gate.

We also brought forward an amendment that would have limited FCC's ability to provide lease financing to primary producers only. The amendment would have helped ensure that the focus of FCC remained on primary producers. It would also have limited the government's ability to directly undercut private financial institutions in the lucrative lease market.

Here we get into the issue of unfair competition by a government agency which has all the advantages because it is insulated to a large degree from market forces. FCC has unrestricted ability to undercut private financial institutions. Under the World Trade Organization, this type of unfair activity breaches trade rules and there are mechanisms by which it can be rectified. Internally in Canada I do not know that there is anything that can control government misuse of Farm Credit Corporation's abilities.

The official opposition also brought forward an amendment that would have limited FCC's ability to provide equity financing only to businesses whose majority owners were primary producers. The amendment would have helped ensure that the primary focus of FCC remained on farming operations.

It is disturbing that every attempt to guarantee through law that FCC remain focused on farmers has been rejected by the corporation and the government.

Some have expressed concern that farmers may pay higher interest rates to cover the increased risk associated with equity financing. Our amendment limiting equity financing only to businesses owned by farmers would have reduced that risk.

Others in the business world have expressed concern that the changes to the Farm Credit Corporation would allow the government to use FCC to bail out large, even multinational, agriculture businesses. Here again there is nothing to restrict the FCC from taking that kind of action.

We will have a potential return to the situation of the early 1990s when the taxpayer of Canada had to put close to $900 million into the Farm Credit Corporation to get it back on its feet. That kind of exposure without limits only serves to increase the exposure of the Canadian taxpayer who is already heavily overtaxed by the government and always on the hook for its misuse and waste of money.

Our amendment would have allowed FCC to help develop farmer driven, value added processing but would have limited its ability to lend to large agribusinesses such as grain companies.

The Farm Credit Corporation has repeatedly stated that its focus will be on small and medium sized businesses that directly help improve the financial outlook for farmers. It therefore should have had no objection to our amendment. However, the defeat of our attempts to put this stated goal into law brings into question the government's commitment to keeping FCC's lending focused on small and medium sized businesses and it gives farmers another reason for concern.

The official opposition made another attempt to keep FCC focused on farmers by bringing forward an amendment to Bill C-25 which would have limited the size of loans FCC could provide to businesses not owned by farmers.

Again, if the FCC is committed to primarily lending to farmers why would it object to the amendment? Why would the government object to the amendment if it had no intention of changing the focus of the Farm Credit Corporation without coming back to parliament?

We also brought forward two amendments at report stage that would have ensured that the Farm Credit Corporation complemented the services already provided by private financial institutions and crown corporations. Credit unions have testified before the agriculture committee that the Farm Credit Corporation has already undertaken predatory pricing actions. An example was cited from the Niagara region of Ontario.

One credit union told the committee how FCC deliberately lowered the interest rate to farmers after it learned that the rate provided by the credit union was better than the government rate. The credit union people came before our committee and their testimony is in the committee minutes. It is factual. They said it. They were not being dishonest with us. They were reporting the facts as they saw them in the business world.

This might have helped one or two farmers at the time, but what happens after the government forces credit unions out of business? Maybe in the Niagara region there is not much concern about the issue but I can tell hon. members that in many small towns in the maritimes and on the prairies it is very tenuous as to whether a town can keep a credit union or a big bank because the business volume is not there to keep them going.

The Farm Credit Corporation is expanding and taking predatory action that could cause small towns to lose their banks or credit unions. That would be devastating to many towns and communities.

The original wording of Bill C-25 would have formalized the Farm Credit Corporation's ability to own and lease land. The Farm Credit Corporation has stated that this is not the intent of the amendment. It claims that the leasing provisions are for equipment but this was not made clear in the legislation.

We brought forward amendments at the committee and report stages of the bill that would have corrected the problem. It is not appropriate for the federal government to be an owner of Canadian farmland. Allowing the Farm Credit Corporation to permanently hold and lease land could result in Canadian government holdings influencing the market value of farmland.

Allowing FCC to permanently hold and lease land would also have provided the corporation an incentive not to pursue every possible means to allow farmers experiencing financial difficulty to stay on the land. In short, the bill could provide FCC an incentive to prematurely foreclose on Canadian farmland.

Even under the current legislation, the FCC has significant land holding ability. In the year 2000, the FCC owned over 360,000 acres. Ninety-five per cent of that land was in Saskatchewan, the province hardest hit by the farm income crisis.

I am pleased that the government has agreed to the amendment to restrict the amount of time the Farm Credit Corporation can hold on to land acquired as a result of foreclosures and other means. Under the amendment, such land would be disposed of within five years of acquisition.

If the farming community and everyone else could rely on the good intentions of government, we would probably not have problems with a lot of the bills but governments over the years have often demonstrated changes of attitude to the good intentions they have brought out in legislation and promised in elections. That is why legislation must be framed and drafted so that it is clear what the government intends to do, in this case with the extension of credit primarily in the area of agriculture and agribusiness.

It is strange that the corporation and the government did not agree to defining primary producer and setting limits to ensure that the focus remains on the primary producer. That is what we are asking for in the bill. We did not get it, and that is why we are opposing the bill. I guess in the end we must rely on the good graces and good conduct of the federal government and hope it does not misuse the lending authority of the Farm Credit Corporation.

Farm Credit Corporation Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak to this bill, which is so important for the development of agriculture, I believe.

This brings back memories, since I worked all my life in agriculture. I know to what extent financing for agriculture was lacking in the past. I also know to what extent this financing played a major role in the development of our farms.

I have always great respect for family farms and I have always worked hard to promote them. When I was involved in Quebec's farm union movement, family farming was defined as an operation providing work for a single person work unit, that is a man and his family, or a woman and her family.

Today, with the development of agricultural technology, we know that the definition of family farming is no longer the same. It is definitely much broader because in the past a farm that was valued at, say, a quarter of a million dollars, was a big farm. Now, some farms are valued at $3 million or $4 million.

So, the Farm Credit Corporation Act has played a major role in the development of agriculture and it is normal to review it and to adjust it as needs evolve. The bill provides that, from now on, the Farm Credit Corporation will provide financing to businesses that are upstream or downstream from primary agriculture or traditional farms.

This could involve financing for the processing of products and for the commodities used in agriculture. This is where I begin to have some concerns.

It may be acceptable to modernize agriculture, but what is a cause for concern is the fact that farms have become so large and so specialized that we have in many instances completely lost the concept of the family farm. Increasingly, agriculture is becoming highly industrialized.

Although I realize that we cannot stop this trend completely, I am not sure that it is necessarily good for the community as a whole. For example, one need only think of the concentrated livestock operations and the pollution problems they will cause, and in fact already have caused, for the water supply. There have been incidents in Ontario and there will be others elsewhere. We have seen how a single farm can contaminate the water supply of a whole town.

When it comes to financing for these major agri-businesses, particularly when one thinks of their effects on the immediate vicinity, I feel we should take a few more precautions. Why I am opposed to this bill? Because, in my opinion, it means opening things up too far without taking any basic precautions.

In the parliamentary committee, the Canadian Alliance and the Bloc Quebecois suggested amendments aimed at trying to set some conditions for the credit the bill proposes to offer to agri-businesses. We are far from the family farm type of operation. We have been told that the Farm Credit Corporation has already lent $20 million to a single company. We wanted the Farm Credit Corporation to be limited to $5 million, with our amendment.

We were told, and I can see the minister opposite saying he agrees with this to some extent, it was what the government wanted. However the problem with this government is that we have to trust its intentions. If the government really intends this, why did it not indicate it in the bill? It could have done so at least for a period of time, the time needed to see whether the intent was really there and whether the government would act.

To my way of thinking, this is an important matter. If we are going to provide financing for megabusinesses, it means that the family business is on the point of disappearing. That would be a real shame. Perhaps a way should be found to revive it at least, for example in specialty farming. We should make an effort to keep this type of business, which ensures a sort of food safety, security for Quebecers and Canadians.

These businesses are therefore on the brink of extinction. With almost unlimited financing, upstream or downstream, clearly the end of family type farms is in sight.

Another point I want to raise is that we were told that, just about everyone in Quebec approved the improvements to the Farm Credit Corporation. We have learned that the UPA, the labour organization representing all of Quebec's farmers, has serious concerns along the lines I have just mentioned.

That means that we were misled, when we were told that the government had checked with the UPA. It would also like guidelines and parameters in the bill. I think that when the UPA speaks, it speaks for Quebec's farmers. It is a highly credible organization and regarded as such.

Quebec's caisses populaires are also concerned. The Canadian Alliance member mentioned that the FCC is competing with big financial corporations. What we must remember is that, when the Farm Credit Corporation makes a loan, it includes a little of our money. There is a bit of us in it, as we say. This comes out of our taxes for the purpose of supporting farming.

However the idea is not to compete with a bank or a caisse populaire, for example, because it would not make any sense to use our tax dollars for that purpose. We would be competing against the private sector, which makes no sense.

When loans of $5, $10, $15 or $20 million are made to a single business, who are we competing with? The private sector. The minister mentioned that the caisses were a bit dubious, but it was more than a bit.

We do not want the Farm Credit Corporation using public funds to compete with the private sector. We are told that there is no risk, that that is not what they want to do. If it is not what they intend to do, if there is no risk, why not say so in the bill so that everyone will feel safer?

It is with regret that I oppose this bill. As I said earlier, the Farm Credit Corporation is a basic tool for farmers and for the development of agriculture, but it should not become a risk. It should not go too far and be too quick to rush into helping out megafarms. Time should be taken to study what is being produced.

With the concentrations of livestock and production, time should be taken to consider the direction being taken. The regulation also needs to be adjusted and more emphasis placed on research into such areas as environmental protection.

For these reasons, I will be voting against the bill at third reading. Since it is never too late to do the right thing, my party is calling on the government to include in the bill the safeguards we are requesting for everyone's sake.

Farm Credit Corporation Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to speak to third reading of Bill C-25, an act to amend the Farm Credit Corporation Act. I intend to be brief because we dealt with this at report stage yesterday. I made an intervention at that time and I have no intention of repeating myself.

The major provisions of the bill would allow the Farm Credit Corporation, soon to be called farm credit Canada, to lend money to farm related businesses not owned by farmers, in other words by agribusiness, and extend equity financing to producers and farm related businesses.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture, as I mentioned yesterday, supported the bill in committee. I failed to mention at that time that the Canadian Cattlemen's Association also supported the bill. Both groups indicated that more financing and more equity financing was required and, in particular, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture was confident that the primary producers would remain the primary focus for farm credit Canada.

Credit Union Central of Canada was not opposed to the bill so long as it complemented its work in the community. We endeavoured to have an amendment added to the bill to ensure that this kind of complementary activity worked. We were not successful but it was not for lack of effort.

In my legislative report, I said that the only farm group opposed to the bill was the National Farmers Union. The Canadian Bankers Association was also opposed. It indicated that a broader mandate would allow farm credit Canada to compete unfairly with private lenders.

We heard yesterday, and just now from Bloc Quebecois representatives, that the UPA in Quebec, which represents Quebec farmers, have said that it has serious reservations about the bill. It is unfortunate that the UPA did not come before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food when we had the debate so that it could have informed the committee of its reservations.

At least one group from Quebec was present, a group that purported to deal with a number of co-operatives in that province. Overall it was supportive of the change in the mandate of Farm Credit Canada.

We heard this morning from both the Canadian Alliance and the Bloc Quebecois in committee. The objections to the bill were based on two major issues: first, to what extent a business has to be involved in farming to be considered a business related to farming and, second, with the changes to the mandate of Farm Credit Canada, how much of the corporations lending activities may be transferred from the primary producer to agribusiness.

In 1995 the FCC board of directors set the maximum loan size at $20 million. We were advised that less than 2% of the current loans in the portfolio of the corporation exceed $1 million.

Currently primary producers are about 94% of the FCC's overall clientele. With the proposed changes FCC president, John Ryan, anticipates that this would change to about 80%. There would be a change over the next five years as it grows and moves out into this emerging field. Some 20% of its lending would be to farm related enterprises.

I listened with some care to points that were made this morning by my colleague on the agriculture committee from the Canadian Alliance as well as by the member from the Bloc Quebecois. The Alliance member was concerned that the Farm Credit Corporation was intruding into the marketplace. Whereas I believe in many parts of rural Canada there is not an explosion of choice when it comes to lending institutions. It is just the reverse. There is less and less choice.

For example, in the province of Saskatchewan a number of small banks have recently gone out of business. In most cases the local credit union has taken over those operations. It is not that there is too much choice among lending institutions. It is that there is not enough choice. That was recognized by two Saskatchewan members who sit in the Canadian Alliance who I noted voted against their party's recommendation on the bill yesterday at third reading.

There is no doubt the primary focus will continue to remain on primary producers. There are times when Farm Credit Canada will probably have more land than it would want to hold on to, depending on the ups and downs and the cyclical nature of the agricultural industry. We saw no evidence that it is interested in getting into the landholding business in any serious way.

The Bloc Quebecois, which incidentally voted in favour of it at second reading but appears to have changed its mind, indicates that the gates are being opened too wide. However there is an ongoing revolution in agriculture across the country. We are trying to get more value added on the prairies and elsewhere. In order to do that we will have to take some initiative, break some new ground, get out there and encourage value added. Farm Credit Canada is one of the tools in the kit that we could use.

The New Democratic Party supports the changes and will be voting in favour of the bill at third reading.

Farm Credit Corporation Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and pose a question to my hon. NDP colleague from Palliser.

I listened very carefully to the speeches of all hon. members. I was a full time farmer for about 20 years on a family farm which eventually grew, through good management and a lot of hard work on the part of my family and myself, to the size of 3,000 acres in the Peace River country of British Columbia. In fact, my brother still farms the farm.

Having that background, one of the things that concerns me with Bill C-25 is what I see as a return to equity financing. Farms across Canada, particularly in western Canada, got into a lot of trouble back in the eighties when I was actively farming. One big problem was rather than base financing on cash flow, in other words whether the farmer could actually service the debt that he or she was carrying, the Farm Credit Corporation at that time and banks pushed financing to the farmers based on an inflated value for their land. When land values plummeted, farmers could not maintain their loans and the land was eventually repossessed by the lending institutions, including the Farm Credit Corporation, which ended up owning vast amounts of land in western Canada.

If we return to equity financing, what concerns me is we could see a similar situation develop in the future. The reality is the value of the land is of no consequence to a farmer if he stays in the business of farming. It is only what the land can produce and the money that can be turned over in order to service the farmer's debt on a yearly basis.

Is that concern echoed by the NDP and by the member for Palliser? I know he has been the agricultural critic for his party for quite some time and has a lot of background in this industry. It certainly concerns me when I hear these things.

Farm Credit Corporation Act
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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, yes it does concern me. The member has raised a good point. However I feel that there has been a significant change, not only within the Farm Credit Corporation but also among lending institutions themselves. There has been a dramatic shift since the late 1980s when equity financing began, which was the reference point that the member gave in his remarks.

I have talked with lending institutions in and around my riding. A lot more attention is being paid now to files and loans, and more managers are managing those files to make sure that people are not in a great deal of difficulty. The 1980s was perhaps more laissez-faire, and not as much attention was paid to the files of farmers.

Even though we have a very steep downturn in the agricultural economy, when I talk to FCC, the banks and credit unions I have been told that the files of farmers who are in serious trouble are remaining relatively stable and are being managed more carefully than they were at the reference point that the member indicated.

Farm Credit Corporation Act
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10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's reply to the Alliance question and the fact that the Alliance member referred to his family farm. We all think the family farm is something which is very important and one of the bases of the farming economy, in part because it is the type of farming which produces farmers. This is a very special thing.

We on this side are strong supporters of the Farm Credit Corporation, and we look forward to it having strengthened roles in the future.

Could my colleague explain to me why in the debate on this topic yesterday the Alliance tried to take the family farm out of the terms of reference of the legislation? What are his views on that? Does he think, as the Alliance did yesterday, that the family farm should be removed from explicit mention in the legislation?

Farm Credit Corporation Act
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10:50 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, there might be an opportunity later to ask the Alliance why it did that. I will simply restrict my comments to say that the family is an integral part of the fabric of the country and hopefully will continue to remain so for a long time. That is the assurance frankly that we were given by Mr. Ryan and other representatives from Farm Credit Corporation when it was before the committee to explain why it was requesting the change in the mandate.

The NDP certainly has always been a strong proponent of the family farm and will continue be so for the foreseeable future.

Farm Credit Corporation Act
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10:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, I cannot believe the deception that is being laid out here today by Liberal members and the NDP member who just spoke.

The Canadian Alliance amendments, as I said in my speech in the House a mere 20 minutes ago, were designed to keep the focus of Farm Credit Corporation squarely on primary producers and the family farm.

The organic farmers of Canada came here from western Canada, from his province of Saskatchewan and said they would value add, that they had been value adding, to make their farms prosper without subsidies. They said it was the Liberal government and NDP people, especially the NDP parties, that were saying the Canadian Wheat Board had to be a monopoly, that they were the ones who were saying keep the wheat board and the thumb down on farmers.

Would the member stand up right now and free up farmers so they can market outside the Canadian Wheat Board? Would he stand up and talk about it?

Farm Credit Corporation Act
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10:50 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I will not talk about the Canadian Wheat Board today because we are talking about the Farm Credit Corporation. There are other opportunities to deal with the board. An effective member such as the member for Selkirk—Interlake ought to know that.

It is interesting to a number of us that two rural members from Saskatchewan chose to vote against the Canadian Alliance yesterday on this issue. That speaks for itself.

Farm Credit Corporation Act
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10:50 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to speak to third reading of Bill C-25 and to represent our PC agricultural critic, the member for Brandon—Souris.

I talked to the member and he wanted to go through a chronology of events on how it evolved in Canadian history from 1927 to the present date. I think there were five or six pages, which I will leave out of my speech today. However, a brief chronology is certainly in line.

The FCC, Farm Credit Corporation, was created on October 5, 1959, by the Diefenbaker Conservative government when the Farm Credit Act was proclaimed into law. It provided a consistent source of lending services that farmers could rely on through all the economic cycles, the ups and downs of the economic cycles. At the time the corporation was mandated to provide one product at one rate. First, it was mortgages to farmers to a maximum loan of $20,000.

During the first 34 years the Farm Credit Corporation and the Farm Credit Act went through many evolutions to keep step with the agriculture industry. In 1968 farming corporations became eligible for farm credit loans and loan limits increased to $150,000 in 1975. The 1982 amendments to the act led to the introduction of more loan product and the FCC made its debut on capital markets.

In 1993 the Farm Credit Act was replaced with the Farm Credit Corporation Act, which expanded the mandate of the FCC to better respond to the needs of the agriculture sector. Farm Credit Corporation could now offer producers financing to purchase or improve farmland and buildings, buy personal property for farming purposes and consolidate debts. It enabled the corporation to support value added production by providing financing for diversified enterprises on and off the farm.

This act helped bring the FCC in sync with the changing marketplace. The Farm Credit Corporation's loan portfolio has grown since those days from $3.4 billion in 1993 when the act was introduced to $6 billion today.

Today this crown corporation services 44,000 customers, has 900 employees and 100 offices across Canada.

It is important to understand that little chronology of events because what that tells us is the Farm Credit Corporation, from its introduction in 1959 by the Diefenbaker government, recognizes the needs and wants of farmers, and the agriculture community has responded and changed its situation, its portfolios and the services that it offers to accommodate changing times.

From 1984 to 1993 specifically, the Progressive Conservative government of the day improved the way the Farm Credit Corporation was managed. We brought in the Farm Credit Corporation equity building plan in 1990 to allow farmers to extend their leases and buyback land once they were on firmer financial ground. We moved the head office of Farm Credit Corporation to Regina, so it could be closer to those who used it the most. We passed a bill to expand the role of the Farm Credit Corporation allowing it to make loans to farmers who wanted to diversify their operations.

All these things were asked for by the agriculture community, and the Conservative government of the day responded to the wishes of the community.

There are a few major elements of Bill C-25. One, it would change the name to Farm Credit Canada. The mandate of the FCC would be expanded from financial services to farming operations and businesses related to farming to also include business services and products to such enterprises.

Farm Credit Corporation would have the authority to provide loans to businesses relating to farming in both cases where the business was majority owned by farmers and when it was not, quite significantly changing the mandate of the Farm Credit Corporation.

There is specific provision in the bill to emphasize the focus of the Farm Credit Corporation activities on farming operations including family farms. The FCC would be given authority to incorporate, amalgamate and dissolve subsidiaries. It would also provide lease financing for assets used or to be used in a farming operation or a business related to farming.

The Farm Credit Corporation would be given the authority to acquire and dispose of equity interests in farming operations or in businesses related to farming. The president of the FCC would be designated as its CEO and provision would be made for the appointment of an acting president and an acting chairperson when necessary.

The bill does not come to the House without some criticisms and it is only fair to mention some of those criticisms here today.

First, the name change is unnecessary and costly. It is certainly our belief that the minister is looking for a legacy for years of failed federal leadership in supporting agriculture from this government.

The bill has the potential to unnecessarily compete directly with credit unions and banks. We are not sure that will happen but the potential is there. The purpose of the FCC is to provide lending to farmers specifically, not to equipment dealers, wheat pools, for example the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool or any other wheat pool.

Although the bill expands lending powers of the Farm Credit Corporation, farmers do not need more debt at the present time. While the federal budgets for agriculture have been cut since 1993 by 65%, the total farm debt in Canada has increased by 44% since 1994. Statistics Canada and Revenue Canada statistics in 1999 report that the average farm debt in the country is $135,000.

Kidney Disease
Statements By Members

June 8th, 2001 / 11 a.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I presented petitions from thousands of people urging Canadian participation in research to develop a bioartificial kidney. This is a device for those who cannot be helped by kidney transplants or dialysis.

In the United States, this research is reaching the human trial stage. While kidney research in general is very active in Canada and has received additional funds, the bioartificial work is not active here.

Those who signed my petitions urge that organizations and individual researchers in Canada move to rectify this and consider co-operating with their U.S. counterparts.

I thank kidney researchers in Ottawa who responded to this by meeting with U.S. scientists recently. We wish them luck in their research. Ken Sharp of Peterborough, who initiated the petitions, wishes to thank all those who helped him raise awareness of this type of research. CPAC recently produced a film highlighting Ken's crusade. He can be reached through my office and I thank him.

Senior Citizens
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canadian seniors are supposed to be living their golden years, yet for many seniors in our country rising utility rates are posing a serious burden on their limited and fixed incomes.

Back in my riding, many seniors have conveyed to me their concerns about having fixed incomes yet having to deal with constantly rising utility rates. This needs to be addressed. The Canadian Alliance believes that not one senior in the country should be in distress because of a lack of services or support. We on this side of the House care about seniors.

The Prime Minister, being a senior himself, certainly cares about his pension and demonstrated his uncanny ability to ensure that his pension grows at a much faster rate by passing legislation in record time.

It is time that the Prime Minister addressed the issues that matter to other Canadian seniors. Perhaps he could do this with as much zeal and haste as he has used in addressing his own pay raise and pension.

Italian Relay Team
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, last Monday the Italian Relay Team for Peace, Friendship and Solidarity arrived in Ottawa as part of its relay run across Canada. The team, which consists of 24 athletes and 16 support staff, began its run in Vancouver on May 22 and ended on June 5 in Montreal.

Other runs have taken place in Piacenza, Italy; Moscow; Los Angeles; New York; and most recently in Sydney, Australia in 1999.

Here in Ottawa the team was welcomed by the Association Emilia Romagna which represents Italian Canadians from Parma, Piacenza, Bologna and Modena.

From all of Canada to the Italian relay team I wish them Tanti aguri .

June 10 through June 17 marks the celebration of Italian Week. On behalf of all of the communities I want to say congratulations on this great celebration and invite everyone to go to Preston Street and enjoy the Italian hospitality.