House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tobacco.

Topics

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join the debate. Many of the tobacco producers whom we are talking about today are my friends, my family, my neighbours. This is an important subject. I am pleased to stand and talk about our government's commitment to ensuring the long term success and prosperity for Canadian farmers, including the farmers in this country's tobacco sector.

Since taking office just over two years ago, this government has been putting farmers first in every action we take on agriculture. We know when farmers succeed, the whole value chain from the gate to the plate prospers.

We understand the hardships facing the flue-cured tobacco sector today. I understand them personally. I have many tobacco farmers in my riding.

On March 31 the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Ontario minister for agriculture, food and rural affairs met with the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers' Marketing Board. The goal was to talk about the future of the industry in Ontario. The minister has also met with area mayors to discuss support for communities struggling with tobacco issues.

I am pleased to point out that I am currently chairing an economic development task force in the five county area of southern Ontario that is addressing the economic needs of that region. Tobacco has been the main industry there for generations. It is waning. It is not as strong as it once was, certainly from what the previous member said from a tobacco grower point of view, but it is not just that. The businesses in communities surrounding this area, the barber shops, the implement dealers, the restaurants are also hurting.

We have immediately put in place a task force to look at the economic development of the area. There is great support from the mayors and county officials, the economic development officers and all of the chambers of commerce. We have had meetings in fairly rapid succession to put together plans for the economic development of that area.

Other agriculture sectors in Canada are also suffering difficulties. With this in mind it is only fair that any solution for tobacco producers take into account the needs of the broader agriculture sector.

The Government of Canada is committed to delivering stable, bankable programs that work for farmers. This includes assistance to Ontario's tobacco growers. Since this government has taken office, existing agriculture programs have delivered almost $20 million in support for the tobacco sector.

While both provincial and federal governments have been very clear that no new exit program is available to tobacco growers, I would like to outline the hard work under way to help tobacco farmers access existing programs. These programs include ones that provide farmers with financial stability and access to tools, such as business planning, that can help to diversify and identify new opportunities and programs that support community development.

With the economic development task force that I am currently chairing I have met with many groups on the ground in the five county area of southern Ontario where tobacco has been grown. I am going be a bit of a cheerleader about the entrepreneur situation we have. We have known for years that Canadian farmers are some of the most entrepreneurial people in the world. Some of the ideas that have come out of that sector from an alternative crop point of view and an alternative business point of view have been phenomenal. We are moving them forward.

The Minister of Agriculture is also looking at ways to make programs work better to respond to the needs of tobacco farmers in transition. Tobacco producers have benefited from programs, which include $400 million to help farmers address cost of production issues, and $600 million to kickstart new farmer accounts through AgriInvest. Tobacco producers continue to benefit from AgriStability, the margin based program which has changed to become more responsive when farmers face income declines.

Furthermore, the AAFC is taking a fresh look at how the programs we have right now can help tobacco farmers. I was at a meeting this morning with people from the ministry who talked about the new rural initiatives and different programs that we can use to help the tobacco area with economic development.

Prime Minister Harper recently announced that the province of Ontario will receive--

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

I hate to interrupt the hon. member, but I would ask him to use the member's riding or title, please.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister recently announced that the province of Ontario will receive $358 million through the community development trust. Programs supported by these funds will support: improved productivity and competitiveness; technology development; and training for workers and communities facing challenges in industries such as agriculture, forestry and manufacturing.

That is exactly what we are talking about here. The community development trust certainly fits across the country in different areas, whether it is forestry or manufacturing. In my area of southern Ontario, it certainly seems that the community development trust fits well into the tobacco area. It is an area with a single industry that is declining. The community development trust could certainly help in that area.

We are not sitting still when it comes to delivering assistance to Canadian farmers. We will continue to work at identifying practical ways to help tobacco farmers transition to new opportunities to grow their farm businesses. We are working with the provinces and territories on a new plan to make the Canadian agriculture sector not just viable but vibrant.

Growing forward is a collaborative vision of the sector that is focused on the future. It is a vision for a profitable and innovative sector. It is important that our agriculture be that. It is a vision for a sector that seizes opportunities. It is important that we do that in this case. It is a vision for a sector that responds to market demands and contributes to the health and well-being of Canadians.

This agreement builds on the best of the agriculture policy framework. It brings our producers the bankable business risk management programs, including the ones I outlined earlier. It builds on the ideas put forward by producers and others who work in the sector.

The bottom line is that there is tremendous opportunity in agriculture in this country. Certainly, there are areas that have more concerns than others. We will continue to work closely with the Ontario tobacco marketing board, the province of Ontario and manufacturers to address the situation facing our tobacco growers. Our goal is to help build a better future for all Canadian farm families, including those friends and neighbours of mine in Elgin—Middlesex—London.

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That this debate do now adjourn.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #143

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion lost.

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, on Wednesday, June 11, 2008, the House shall meet at 3:00 p.m. and proceed to Statements by Ministers pursuant to Standing Order 33 to allow the Prime Minister to make a statement of apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools; during this statement, Phil Fontaine, Mary Simon, Clem Chartier, Beverley Jacobs, Pat Brazeau, Mary Moonias, Marguerite Wabano, Sandra Linklater, Crystal Merasty, Peter Irniq, Don Favel and Mike Cachagee shall be permitted on the floor of the House; any scheduled votes on Wednesday, June 11, 2008 shall be deferred to Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 10:00 a.m.; after Statements by Ministers on Wednesday, June 11, 2008, the House shall adjourn to the next sitting day; and from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 11, 2008, no committees shall meet.

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. government House leader have unanimous consent to propose this motion?

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.