House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

8:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

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Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, the members of the Canadian Alliance will vote no to this motion.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

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Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Quebecois vote no on this motion.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

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NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the members of the NDP vote no on this motion.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

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Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, the members of the Progressive Conservative Party will vote no to this motion. I would also ask that the member for Fundy—Royal be included in this vote as no with his party.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

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Independent

Ghislain Lebel Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to vote no on the motion, like the Bloc Quebecois.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

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Liberal

Jean Guy Carignan Québec East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am going to vote in favour of this motion.

(The House divided on Motion 2A, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

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The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

The next question is on Motion No. 2B under Government Business.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

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Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you were to seek it that you would find consent in the House that this motion be deemed adopted on division.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

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The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

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An hon. member

On division.

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
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The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion, 2B agreed to)

Committee Business and Reinstatement of Government Bills
Government Orders

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The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. The House will now proceed to the consideration of a motion to adjourn the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration, namely the farmers' situation in western Canada.

Agriculture
Emergency Debate

October 7th, 2002 / 8:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

moved:

That the House do now adjourn.

Mr. Speaker, my party and I sought this emergency debate to raise the critical situation facing Canadian agriculture today.

I will be sharing my time in the debate with my colleague from Brandon—Souris.

In August, Statistics Canada indicated that wheat production in western Canada will be at its lowest level in 28 years. That is due in large part to the severe drought on the Prairies yet again this year. On many farms an infestation of grasshoppers further damaged what meagre crops did grow. My colleague from Brandon—Souris and I walked the fields in Allan, Saskatchewan in late July where the grasshoppers literally outnumbered the green peas and where weeks of relentless heat had shrivelled crops too low to combine.

Canadians across the country watched nightly news stories about cattle producers having to sell off their herds, often having to sell off their breeding stock because they did not have enough grass to graze the herds or forage to feed them.

In the best tradition of Canada, farmers in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada organized the Hay West campaign and shipped hay out west. I commend those Canadians for their initiative and their generosity. I have to note that the government's participation in this effort was minimal and it was slow.

New figures released only last Friday by Statistics Canada show that crop conditions have continued to deteriorate in western Canada. The report states:

After struggling with one of the worst droughts on record, western farmers encountered heavy rains and freezing temperatures in August and September... Some seeds waiting to be harvested sprouted, rendering them useless for any purpose other than for animal feed. Other cereal grains were stained or bleached by the rain, making them less suitable for milling and decreasing their value. During this type of weather, plants do not dry, delaying harvest and increasing the probability of frost damage.

Canadians in cities might miss just how tragic this is and what it means. Total wheat production is expected to fall from 20.6 million tonnes to 15.5 million tonnes, that is down 25%; barley production will drop by 29% this year; canola by 33%; field peas by 30%; and rye by 50%. While production is down, prices are up. Unfortunately, many Canadian farmers do not have the quality to fetch the high prices that the falling global supply for wheat is demanding.

The federal government announced new bridge funding of $600 million last spring. Glacier funding would be a better term than bridge funding. By last week, months after the announcement, that money was not reaching the farmers who need it. Indeed, by sheer coincidence, the very date we applied for this emergency debate the government began to send out the cheques. Some producers who do not have NISA accounts will not be able to access the bridge funding in any event.

Since 1996, Canada has lost 30,000 farmers. The census on agriculture has confirmed that more and more producers are packing up their dreams and simply moving off the land. Farm debt has grown to $15 billion between 1993 and 2000. Over 4,000 Canadian farms have declared bankruptcy.

Support levels remain very high in competing countries. Over past years that drove prices down. Canadian farmers fight the weather, they fight pestilence and they fight high subsidies in other countries.

The federal government can do much better than it has. I am proud to have been part of a government that ensured agriculture was a priority department. In 1988, when there was a severe drought, we responded with over $900 million for livestock and grain producers. That funding would be over $1.2 billion in today's dollars. Between 1988 and 1993, $800 million was paid to Canadian farmers through the Canadian drought assistance program. In the 1991-92 fiscal year alone, federal assistance to agriculture for income support was over $3.4 billion. That is one year and federal support only. Compare that to the new agricultural framework policy that the Prime Minister announced last June, $5.2 billion over six years, including the minister's glacier funds.

Farmers need a reasonable and reliable basis on which to plan. The government needs a quick and supple program to help respond to the disasters and the emergencies that are becoming more commonplace.

We need a long term disaster relief program so farmers will know there is money in the bank when they need it. The hon. member for Brandon—Souris proposes an ongoing fund of $600 million for disaster relief alone.

There has been enough wasted money by the Liberal government to fund it: $500 million in cancellation charges of the EH-101 helicopters; $101 million in new, unnecessary Challenger jets; and $400 million in additional costs to split the contract to replace the Sea King helicopters. That is a billion dollars alone that could go to agriculture.

An independent form of disaster relief would allow farmers to recover lost inputs, such as the price of feed, when harvests are poor due to a natural disaster or disasters such as drought, which are not normally covered by crop insurance.

In addition to dealing with the initial effects of a crisis, disaster relief would also help in maintaining fields after a disaster, in order to renew their production capacity. Money is often needed to establish infrastructure that could help in preventing another disaster, or to mitigate its effects.

We also need to review how such an assistance program would be funded. Currently, federal program costs are shared equally with the provinces at a 60:40 ratio.

When a disaster hits, like the drought did this summer, often the provinces most affected are the ones whose chief revenue comes from agriculture. Is it fair to expect a province that is already being hit hard with declining revenues because of the disaster to pony up the 40% required for the disaster relief program? Should we not be looking at some type of an equalization program for agricultural disasters?

Farmers already do that. The Hay West program, sending from one part of the country where production was good to another part of the country where production was poor, happened whether the government was going to be involved or not. Can we not develop a disaster relief fund that does not further punish the provinces that are already hurting?

We should support agriculture in this country because a viable agriculture industry is one of Canada's great national assets. Maintaining a viable agriculture industry is about neither special interests nor nostalgia. It is about guaranteeing Canada's secure supplies of safe food and harnessing the innovation of an industry that brings vitality to rural Canada. It is very much about the future of the country.