House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Firearms Registry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, today we learned that the supplementary estimates show an additional $10 million for the firearms registry.

Access to information requests have revealed that between April 14 and June 30 there were no full time or part time employees of the Department of Justice working on the Canadian firearms program. Another access to information request showed that during the same period no employees in the department of the Solicitor General were working on the firearms program.

My question is, if no one in either the justice department or the Solicitor General's office is working on the gun registry, just exactly who is minding this--

Firearms Registry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Solicitor General.

Firearms Registry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I want to be very clear that the hon. member has his facts wrong.

We are not, through these supplementary estimates, asking Parliament for one more cent for the firearms program. Not one more cent. The money is not new money. The money was approved by Parliament and the money is within the spending targets that we announced earlier.

In fact, we are on target in terms of our action plan. We met the deadline for registrations. We are continuing to maintain registrations and we will continue until--

Firearms Registry
Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

That concludes question period for the day. We will proceed to orders of the day.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Supply
Government Orders

September 23rd, 2003 / 3 p.m.

The Speaker

Before we began question period, the hon. member for Peace River had the floor. The hon. member had four minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks.

Supply
Government Orders

3 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think where I left off in my speech was in regard to the all party delegation that should go to Washington to resolve the BSE issue in terms of opening up access for our beef cattle into the American market. In particular, it is in regard to live animals. That is where the pressure is these days.

This is vitally important to the people in my riding of Peace River. There have been many people who have diversified and switched over from cash crops and gone into the cattle sector. All of a sudden they find themselves on the wrong end of a border being closed which has the effect of depressing prices greatly.

In fact, I talked to someone shortly before I returned to Ottawa who shipped an animal and that individual received $88 for one cow. That is approximately 10% of what that animal was worth. It is like the Depression era where farmers would ship an animal and get a bill for freight. That would be their net loss in terms of income because there was no market there.

We have to remember that this is a very important issue for a lot of producers in the country. The request to have an all party delegation go to Washington was endorsed by the leader of the Canadian Alliance in question period. I think it is a good request. It means that more work must be done to put pressure on opening up that border for our products. We feel that this is a safe product. This has been clearly demonstrated. Canadian farmers rely on the government to make those kind of requests come true.

Before question period I was talking about the poor relationship that has developed as a result of an antagonistic Liberal party deliberately antagonizing the United States administration. It is not only the administration, but I would add the American people which is even worse.

We have the new Liberal leader who was basically all but elected on Saturday. He is on his grand tour, his royal tour across the country. He is out in Alberta and B.C. He is on his way to see the forest fires in British Columbia. He is about a month late though. Those fires have been put out by a lot of rain.

I can just imagine when he flies over Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba at about 35,000 feet, and he says, “Oh, that is really nice scenery down there. Look at all those nice cows”.

A lot of those cattlemen would like to see their cattle moved into markets in the United States which represents a $4.8 billion export a year. We need a little bit more from the soon to be Liberal Prime Minister than just platitudes. We need him to make some clear statements on what he intends to do about this serious problem.

When the new Liberal leader is out there looking for ways to solve the western alienation problem, I suggest he make a few stops along the way and talk to some real people out there. The cattlemen are concerned about the loss of income and how that border will be opened up.

I suggest the new Liberal leader should spend a sizeable amount of his time talking to Canadians. He should suggest some real solutions to a serious problem.

Supply
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his statements. It is important for farmers to hear what kind of thought is going on at least from this party on this issue.

I would like to ask the member whether in fact this is one of the most difficult issues that he has seen farmers face since he has been a member of Parliament?

I would like to point out what has been truly remarkable when looking at this issue is the support that we have seen right across the country from consumers. They have truly supported our cattlemen in every way that they possibly could, from eating more beef, which is extremely important, to putting pressure on the government saying that this is an important issue.

We know that cattlemen are going through a completely unfair situation which is devastating to them. That kind of support that we have seen is truly remarkable. I would appreciate it if the member could comment on that support.

Supply
Government Orders

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, in regard to the question from my colleague from Lakeland, I think that has been one part of this whole sad business we have been through all summer that has been very rewarding. Canadians got behind our cattlemen to a very great degree. Beef consumption has gone up. The Canadian public is not scared by this issue. Canadians realize exactly what issue is: one problem animal in a herd of 15 million. They have reacted accordingly. They have responded accordingly and they have supported the cattlemen.

I just wish that the federal government would now find the resources. The government ended its support program at the end of August. That is not good enough. The Canadian public wants to see our cattlemen supported through this tough time.

It really means that the federal program is going to have to be continued, because there are many calves that normally come off pasture this time of year and would move to market. This is the time of year that farmers have income to pay their bills. If they do not have a chance to pay their bills, the farm equipment dealer does not get paid and the fertilizer dealer does not get paid. It ripples through the whole economy.

Even worse, there is an infrastructure built up for a certain size of cattle herd to be put through the winter. If cattlemen are going to have to carry that livestock over a longer period of time, they really do not have the resources for the extra numbers they need. They do not have the resources for the extra feed they need. It is a tremendous burden.

I think the federal government has to step up to the plate. It was not good enough to end its program at the end of August. This problem has not been resolved. The resolution of the problem will be when live cattle are allowed into the United States. Hopefully that is going to be sometime soon. In the meantime, in the interim I think the federal government has a responsibility and it would be supported by the Canadian public in doing just that.

Supply
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a few questions.

This BSE crisis, with $11 million lost per day, impacts even my riding, which is only one of 301 ridings. It even impacts my grandson, whose stepfather cannot pay the hockey fees for this year because he cannot send his cattle to market.

It impacts the meat producers. It impacts the transportation industry, which has lost over two-thirds of its drivers and cannot continue in business as it was. The implement and equipment sales are lost. Sheep producers as well as cattle producers have gone out of business. Equipment manufacturers are suffering lower sales. This is all happening in my riding.

How can the government claim to be doing all it can when the Prime Minister continues to heap insults on the people whom we are asking for help?

First, does the hon. member believe that we could try harder by sending a delegation of neighbour-friendly people to encourage the complete opening of the border rather than the partial opening?

Second, does the member believe this is an emergency issue even if it is not called SARS and is not located in Toronto?

Third, does the hon. member believe that the government is being insensitive to the many needs of the people who are involved in this industry?

Supply
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre has raised the key aspect of the debate today. This really is a true emergency for an awful lot of people. It does not end at the farm gate, as he has just pointed out. It ripples right through the entire economy. I know many people who are feeling the effects of this, because if farmers do not have money they do not spend money and they cannot pay their bills.

I would have to say that I think the current Prime Minister has been part of the problem and is part of the reason the border has not been opened. I think it is really up to the prime minister in waiting to talk to Canadians about what he would do about this issue. He has said he feels that there is alienation in some parts of the country. I am sure we would like to hear his point of view on how he intends to resolve this issue. It is not good enough to fly over the country at 40,000 feet and say, “I'm doing my royal tour”. He has to get down on the ground and he has to find out from people what they need, how they are going to make it through the winter, what government support is going to be required, and how he intends to get the borders opened.

Supply
Government Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Steckle Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey.

I am pleased to rise today and speak to the motion brought before the House by the member for Perth--Middlesex. Let me say from the outset that this motion calling upon the Prime Minister to lead a delegation to Washington in an effort to open the border to Canadian beef is sound. Recently the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food passed a similar motion. The only difference in that motion was that the committee also urged the Prime Minister to travel to Japan. The committee felt that both Japan and the United States must be lobbied at the highest levels so they would understand that our beef is truly safe and that our system really does work.

As members know, on May 20, Canada's world class beef industry was dealt a blow that would eventually cost the Canadian economy billions of dollars. With the discovery of a single case of BSE in an Alberta cow, Canada's beef industry was plunged into unparalleled uncertainty and chaos. The good news, however, is that due to Canada's active, targeted surveillance program, the single case was detected and a comprehensive investigation was immediately undertaken. The affected animal was condemned and did not enter the human food supply; again, proof that the system worked.

As chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, I have in the past three months met with countless individuals, businesses and organizations on this matter. We have met with farmers, with representatives of the packing industry, with grocery distributors and with most other components of the sector. I have also taken the liberty of addressing the matter with several Japanese and American politicians and diplomats at the recent WTO trade talks in Mexico. I would point out that while I was doing this, the CFIA and Department of Agriculture officials had been trying to allay the fear expressed by Tokyo and Washington.

Essentially, since May 20, the focus of the department and the committee has been primarily on the topic of BSE. The international team that reviewed Canada's investigation praised its thoroughness and quality as well as the effectiveness of measures already in place to protect our public.

As a result of the strong leadership demonstrated by the government and the Minister of Agriculture, today Canada is the only country that has experienced a case of BSE to be successful in negotiating access for its beef products into countries which have never reported the disease. In my opinion, this is a strong reaffirmation from our trading partners that they are confident that our inspection system works and that our beef products are safe.

I also believe it is safe to say that Canadian consumers share this confidence. The public has rushed to the aid of the beef industry by increasing their consumption of beef and beef products. This is also a Canadian first. For domestic consumption of beef to increase after a case of BSE has been identified is indeed a testament to all Canadians.

That being said, there is still much more to do.

Currently, as each member knows, the U.S. is permitting Canada to export the following: hunter-harvested wild ruminant products that are intended for personal use; caribou and muskox meat from Nunavut for commercial use; veal meat from calves that were 36 weeks of age or younger at slaughter; boneless meat from sheep or goats that were 12 months of age or younger at slaughter; meat from farm raised cervids such as deer and elk; boneless bovine meat from cattle that were 30 months of age or younger at slaughter; fresh or frozen bovine liver; finished pet chews that are made from bone, ligaments, hides or hooves; and calf milk replacer, pet food, and feed ingredients that contain processed animal protein and tallow of non-ruminant sources when produced in facilities with dedicated manufacturing lines.

Despite all of this, there are still serious problems facing the industry. First, the products being imported by the United States are being authorized through a system of permits. This is a cumbersome system at best. Second, and most important, our live cattle and cull cows are not being permitted to enter the United States for slaughter. This poses a serious problem for both the dairy and the beef industries. Come winter, farmers will have cattle that are normally gone which must be fed and sheltered even though there is no room in their farm feedlots.

All in all, we have come a great distance, but there is a long road ahead. In the past three months our beef industry has forever been changed. Canadian farmers are hurting more than most of us can appreciate. We are all hearing stories of farm notes being called and other similar instances of economic anguish. It is primarily for this reason that I am prepared to support this motion today.

I do not believe it is fair to say that this government does not understand the urgency of the problem. As the BSE crisis was unfolding, members of the committee were in regular conference calls with the minister and with departmental and CFIA officials. This was required almost daily, as the situation was developing and changing so rapidly. Every attempt was being made to keep members engaged and involved in departmental actions. I should point out that this was being done regardless of political affiliation.

I must say to my committee colleagues and those with whom I worked on this issue that they have been most indulgent in the experience that we have had together in trying to resolve this issue. I thank them for it. Moreover, the agriculture committee met three times over the summer at what we called and considered emergency meetings. Never in my 10 years of political life have I been involved in emergency meetings on any issue. During this time, we met with witnesses and representatives of the industry. Without exception, all cylinders of the government were firing in an effort to open the U.S. border to our beef.

Today I heard the member for Cumberland--Colchester invite government MPs to join the fight for the Canadian farmer. By way of reply to that member, I must say that I would suggest we are already there. As chair of the standing committee, I have felt from the beginning of this crisis that all parties were working cooperatively together in an effort to put this behind us as quickly as possible. Had we followed the normal protocol, we would probably be looking at seven years to resolve this issue. That is not going to be the case, as we have already seen with partial border openings.

Accordingly, I am completely supportive of the motion before us today. I could not imagine that anyone would be against it in principle. The Prime Minister is the leader of Canada and, as our leader, he should continue to pursue all avenues to resolve this situation.

In Canada we know that our beef is safe. The science is complete and conclusive. In fact our beef is more than safe; it is the best in the world. If a meeting of our Prime Minister, the U.S. president and perhaps even the Japanese prime minister would help to demonstrate that fact to foreign diplomats, I am fully prepared to support it. I trust that my colleagues and others in the House will do the same.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the expression of the support the member is giving to the Progressive Conservative Party's motion today, but I am concerned about the tenor that things are going well. I think his point is well taken that we have done better in terms of responding to this crisis than a number of other countries may have, but I am concerned that the tone of his comments and the image he is leaving us are more positive than the reality. I know from his background and expertise that he may be able to help the House with this.

I would ask him specifically about Ontario and about the volume of exports leaving Ontario now compared to what it was before we were faced with this crisis. Could he give us any sense of how far along we are in getting back to where we were before the incident arose?

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Steckle Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think my colleague has asked a fair question. Certainly when we look at the partial opening of borders, the hon. member understands quite clearly that this is simply cuts of meats under 30 months of age. It is boneless beef in most cases. It is boxed beef. They are of course entering the United States under permits required and asked for by the Americans.

As the minister has indicated today, something like 70 million or 80 million pounds have gone. Or is it 70,000 tonnes or 80,000 tonnes? I am not sure, but it is on the record today in the minister's statement in regard to how many tonnes have left the country. In excess of 170 permits have been applied for, so we are moving rather quickly given that we started off with only three or four and we have moved to that number in such a short time.

In an earlier conversation with the member I believe we discussed the matter of sheep, goats and those kinds of things. Of course the same thing applies for those animals as well, so we have another industry that is also hurting. We need to hope it will be resolved and it will be fully appreciated once we see the opening of borders to live cattle and sheep and goats as well.

Supply
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the support of the hon. member for Huron—Bruce on this motion. As we know, the compensation package ended on August 31. It did not cover a wide enough scope of the agriculture industry, as we have talked about on various occasions. For instance, the dairy issue is very strong in my riding, yet is has not been a part of the compensation package.

I have one particular incident. An auctioneer held an auction in eastern Ontario and 130 head dairy cattle were purchased by a person from Michigan. That was on May 19. On May 20, as these cattle were being taken to Michigan, the border closed. The individual still has some of them boarded out at various places but they are still in his domain.

Along with that, this person also is a big supplier of replacement heifers in the dairy industry. At that time he had a lot of springing heifers. Of course right now they have all sprung and this is a problem. He has a lot more calves and so on. However just to look after them he has had to hire more staff to feed them. It has been suggested that he dig a hole and get a gun, a registered gun.

We do not want those things to happen. However there should be more compensation, and it should not have stopped at the end of August. What would your remarks be in this regard?