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 farmers.

Topics

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Divisions
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

June 10th, 2008 / 11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With respect to the vote that was just taken prior to the point of order, I wonder whether the member for Calgary Northeast would want to reconsider his vote in light of the fact that it appeared to me that he took his seat literally two seconds before the roll call vote reached him. He could not have been here for the reading of the motion.

Divisions
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I did walk in just as the call was being taken. I would like it noted that I would vote in favour of the motion that my party has supported. I was late in arriving.

Divisions
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The Chair has taken note of the fact that the hon. member entered the chamber late.

Divisions
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I do not want the member to be recorded as voting because members cannot vote if they are late. I would like to hear the position of the Chair.

Divisions
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The rules are clear. The Table will reflect the fact that the member entered the chamber late.

Resuming debate on questions and comments. The hon. member for Mississauga South.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion before the House is in the sixth report of the agriculture committee. It raises a very important point about transitioning for the tobacco industry. It would appear that there has been substantial discussion within the committee with regard to this important issue. The member is very involved in committee.

I am a little concerned that there is no concurrence by the government with regard to the importance of providing a transition strategy, which would appear to be consistent with good governance as has been shown on matters like this. It might be a matter of regional economic development or it may be a strategic initiative where there is an economic impact.

I wonder if the member would care to clarify the relative importance of dealing with this particular industry at a time of transition.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has hit one of the nails on the head. The answer is not only about any one piece. There are several pieces to the puzzle and one of them certainly is the economic development of an area that has been strongly hit because its main product is no longer selling as well as it once did.

The task force that I am chairing on the economic development for the area will be looking at that piece and the growers in the area. The minister has put forward what he is doing for them.

The answer is not only about the growers. The answer is about the economic development of the area. Barbershop owners, restaurants and implement dealers are all in the same straits.

The motion put forward continues to repeat over and over again the same solution, that being that only the federal government has it. The minister has been pretty clear. At a meeting with his counterpart, the Ontario minister of agriculture, the minister stated that it is not only about the government fixing this problem but it is also about manufacturers being involved. It is about the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers' Marketing Board marketing tobacco and helping sell more of the product.

On top of that, in the discussion today, we have already talked about two or three of the other problems, one of them being the economic development of the area, or at this moment, what the government is doing to decrease the contraband sale of cigarettes and illegal tobacco products in Canada in order for legal producers and sellers to do what they still do. Tobacco is still a legal product.

We can take the pressure off on the contraband side. We can do our best on the economic development side. As the minister has clearly stated, we will work hard toward a solution for the producers.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is very involved on this topic. He has been working on a task force in his area, trying to address the needs of the tobacco industry. There is no question it has gone through some really difficult times, and we have looked at a number of different ways of transitioning.

For 13 long years, the Liberals, when they were in government, did absolutely nothing for the tobacco industry other than ignore it. Now it is about looking at what the future really holds. I know the member has been very involved and has some ideas.

Does he feel it was fair that the former Liberal government pitted farmer against farmer rather than resolve the entire issue?

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course not. The answer is never found in conflict, or in pitting one person against the other. The answer is found in working together. That is apparently what the minister and the government have attempted to do. They have tried to put the right people together to make the solution happen. It is not about demanding a solution; it is about working together until we find one. We will never get there by putting one side of this issue against the other.

I recognize what the member says is true. For a number of years the Liberal government exacerbated the problem by allowing contraband to grow to such an extent that the legal sales of tobacco were lost to the tobacco producers in southern Ontario and that the manufacturers were forced to take other ways to deal with their problems, such as making cigarettes in Mexico instead of in Canada and not buying from our producers.

These problems can only be solved by us working together, but it is not only about producers. It is about the neighbourhoods in which they live. It is about the economy of all southern Ontario where tobacco is grown.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, for the previous questioner, let us set the record straight. When the previous government was in place, it announced a reduction strategy. It committed itself to that reduction strategy and followed through on it, according to what the tobacco industry requested. However, things changed and the situation for tobacco producers became worse. They realized they needed an exit strategy, given the contraband with which the current government has not dealt. Although Conservatives talk law and order, they have not really dealt with the contraband issue.

The member chairs the committee. He talks about the whole area, and, yes, that is important. There has to be regional development strategy for that whole area, and we support movement in that way. Specifically, there has to also be an exit strategy for the tobacco industry. It is in this specific area that the government has violated its word. The current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration committed to an exit strategy during the election and the government failed to follow through on that.

I met with those tobacco producers. Suicides are happening. The life work of people has gone down the drain. Even the lending community made a commitment to come forward this year based on what it thought the government would do.

Will the government at least keep its word on that specific area related to tobacco producers and commit to the exit strategy, which was about $275 million? Will it do that?

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that we are talking about some serious issues. There have been, as the member mentioned, some serious troubles in the tobacco area, and it is nice that he has gone to talk to the producers. These people are my friends and my neighbours. I do not only go and talk to them, I live with them. In my whole political career, I have spent time talking to tobacco farmers, looking for an answer to this.

The member mentioned the lending institutions. On a daily basis, I have talked to the bankers on behalf of producers. This is not about us against them. It is not about finding conflict. This is about working together to solve a problem for my friends and my neighbours, which is serious. No one asked for this to happen. We are working very hard. The minister has put together as much of a multi-faceted approach as we can to look at the economic development in the area, the contraband situation to reduce illegal sales, and a strategy for the producers. We continue to look at it from all sides, and we will find the answer for this.