House of Commons Hansard #186 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was loans.


PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present four petitions to the House today from my riding of Prince George-Bulkley Valley containing several hundred names and dealing with the proposals for gun control.

One petition is from Mr. Dan Varma of Prince George, B.C.; two from Mr. Jim Eisert of Fraser Lake, B.C.; and, one from the Prince George branch of the Responsible Firearms Coalition.

All these petitioners request that Parliament support laws which will severely punish all violent criminals who use weapons in the commission of a crime; that Parliament will support new Criminal Code firearms control provisions which recognize and protect the right of law-abiding citizens to own and use recreational firearms; and finally, to support legislation which will repeal and modify existing gun control laws which have not improved public safety or have proven not to be cost effective or have proven to be overly complex so as to be ineffective and/or unenforceable.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the pleasure of submitting to this House a petition from the people of the county of Chicoutimi, who wish to draw the attention of Parliament to the following: considering that seniors are naturally the least familiar with voice mail technology and considering that seniors are entitled to appropriate service with regard to their requests concerning income security, the petitioners ask the government to abandon its plan to install voice mail for senior citizens.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.


Bernie Collins Liberal Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the pleasure to present the following petitions on behalf of constituents of my riding of Souris-Moose Mountain and other parts of Saskatchewan.

In the first petition, 238 people support the retention of the Canadian Wheat Board.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.


Bernie Collins Liberal Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the second petition contains 300 signatures of people who oppose Bill C-68 and ask that Parliament refrain from implementing any further firearms legislation.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.


Bernie Collins Liberal Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the third petition contains 315 signatures of people who oppose physician assisted suicide.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.


Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the pleasure of presenting petitions signed by 201 residents primarily from my riding of Simcoe North.

The petitioners request that Parliament ban the use of BST in Canada and not accept milk products from other countries where BST is used to treat cattle.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, under Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present petitions on behalf of 183 people in Prince Edward Island.

The petitioners humbly request and call on Parliament to desist legalizing the use of BST or rbGH in Canada. They further request that legislation be passed requiring it to be mandatory for all imports produced from BST treated cows be so identified. I so support.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 133, 141 and 159.

Question No. 133-

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.


Roger Simmons Liberal Burin—St. George's, NL

With respect to the search and rescue program, what action will the government take in response to the Auditor General's 1994 findings about the "lack of action on many

previous recommendations", specifically that ( a ) significant elements of a national search and rescue program have not been developed'', ( <em>b</em> )time-based search and rescue service standards-are lacking'', ( c ) expanded use of volunteer and other resources should be pursued'' and ( <em>d</em> )greater use of other federal resources for search and rescue is possible''?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

I am informed by the Departments of National Defence and Transport as follows:

(a) Relating to the federal government's area of responsibility, the system for directing the operation of SAR activities and resources is well established. There has also been good progress in developing principles and plans for managing the federal portion of the national SAR program. With reference to provincial and territorial governmental involvement in the national SAR program, progress has naturally been slower as the provinces and territories assess the value of their involvement in the co-operative program such as SAR. The federal government will continue to display leadership in this area.

(b) Since the original recommendation of the Auditor General (AG) in 1992, the Department of National Defence (DND) and Transport Canada have consistently maintained that they disagree with the AG recommendation for time-based SAR service standards. Both departments have developed suitable service standards and they do not judge that time-based service standards provide an accurate or effective indicator of program performance.

The Canadian Coast Guard responds to 6,000 to 8,000 search and rescue incidents, of all types, per year. The existing system includes coast guard, other government vessels, the Canadian Marine Rescue Auxiliary, and vessels of opportunity.

The present levels of service indicate that, on average, 90 per cent of lives at risk in marine distress incidents are saved by all responders, private and government. Thus, the Canadian search and rescue system compares favourably with systems of other countries.

The Canadian Coast Guard has published many standards for search and rescue. These standards pertain to operations, co-ordination and planning and performance. The standards apply to the rescue co-ordination centres and sub-centres, primary and secondary vessels, the Canadian Marine Rescue Auxiliary, and other components of the coast guard search and rescue system.

The Canadian Coast Guard has established levels of service (LOS) for search and rescue which focus on quality and extent of service and the effectiveness of response, based on the actual probability for effecting a rescue. On the basis of these LOS criteria, it should be noted that the comparable results between the whole Canadian marine search and rescue system and that of the United States for the period 1986 to 1990 are 90.5 per cent versus 80.3 per cent.

The departments involved in search and rescue are currently enhancing and integrating their information systems in order to improve performance reporting and analysis. Until recently they lacked an automated information system to provide timely data on the performance of federal search and rescue resources. In addition, further sophistication of analysis as to severity of the incident and the type of assistance provided continues to be required for decisions on levels of service, acquisition and management of resources.

A new computer information system called SISAR is currently in use by the Canadian Coast Guard and the Department of National Defence. This new system, which captures accurate and consistent data on search and rescue incidents, establishes an information base which will provide essential information for consideration in the decision-making process concerning the search and rescue program.

(c) In 1978, the Canadian Coast Guard established the Canadian Marine Rescue Auxiliary (CMRA), an all volunteer force. It started with four members in Nova Scotia; by last year it has expanded to five separate associations in all areas of Canada with some 3,300 members and 1,200 vessels. Last year, these volunteers responded to some 1,800 search and rescue incidents-about 25 per cent of the total. The Canadian Coast Guard is continuing to support and expand the capability of this effective group of volunteers.

In 1992, the Canadian Coast Guard's Laurentian regional office was given a mandate to develop an approach to promote the co-operation of local resources to provide search and rescue services on inland waters, advise local resources and ensure technology transfer for search and rescue training, equipment and expertise. The Laurentian regional office set up a successful pilot project in the Lac St. Jean, Quebec area which is being used as a model for other coast guard offices across the country.

The federal government of Canada places a high value on the contribution of volunteer SAR organizations such as the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association (CASARA) and the Canadian Marine Rescue Auxiliary (CMRA). In the face of increasing fiscal restraint, the participation of volunteers in the national SAR program becomes increasingly important. To illustrate, the government provides $800,000 per year and the services of 12 Canadian forces training and support personnel to assist in training CASARA volunteers. Specialized SAR equipment is also provided for installation on CASARA aircraft. The federal government search and rescue officials will continue to pursue every opportunity to use volunteers in search and rescue activities.

(d) The interdepartmental committee on search and rescue (ICSAR) was formed to co-ordinate federal involvement in search and rescue activities. Currently, the federal government

actively pursues a policy of interdepartmental co-operation to enable utilization of federal resources for search and rescue and to provide a cost effective SAR service.

The search and rescue system maintains an inventory of all available federal resources in each search and rescue region. By law, all vessels have to respond to distress situations. The Canadian Coast Guard has primary search and rescue vessels and by policy, all other coast guard vessels are now assigned multi-tasking duties to cover primary search and rescue and other program duties in certain search and rescue areas. Further, some federal resources such as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Department of National Defence and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police vessels carry out search and rescue operations as tasked by rescue co-ordination centres.

Question No. 141-

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

With respect to the consolidation of office space planned within the national capital region by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, (a) what is the cost per year for each of the 11 office leases currently held by the department, ( b ) what are the expiry dates of each of these leases, and ( c ) what are the expected savings per year for this consolidation plan?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Cape Breton—East Richmond Nova Scotia


David Dingwall LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

In so far as Public Works and Government Services Canada is concerned:

(c) It is estimated that this relocation will result in savings of $1.4 million to 1.7 million per year for 10 years, based on an estimated net reduction of some 7,050 square metres at a market range of between $200-$250 per square metre.

The tender for this requirement closed on January 26, 1995.

Public Works and Government Services' analysis concluded that none of the six bids submitted met the technical requirements set out in the lease tender call. The financial envelopes were returned to the bidders unopended.

On March 3, 1995, I announced that the tender for this relocation would undergo a third party review before the project proceeds further.

Question No. 159-

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

In airports across Canada, is Transport Canada arranging for the collection of de-icing fluids in accordance with CEPA guidelines, and if so, ( a ) at which airports under Transport Canada management or jurisdiction is this collection taking place, ( b ) how is this collection taking place and, if not, when and where will such collection be installed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick


Douglas Young LiberalMinister of Transport

(a) and (b) The responsibility for the collection of de-icing fluids at Transport Canada airports remains with the air carriers or de-icing operators. The means of collection and disposal are outlined in the site specific glycol mitigation plan submitted to Transport Canada.

Glycol mitigation plans have been submitted at the following Transport Canada airports: Halifax International, Quebec City,

MacDonald Cartier International (Ottawa), Lester B. Pearson International (Toronto), Thunder Bay, Regina and Winnipeg International. The four local airport authorities also have plans in place, i.e. Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Aéroports de Montréal, Dorval/Mirabel.

The mitigation plans are designed to ensure that spent glycol fluids are contained, collected and disposed of in an environmentally acceptable manner.

The effectiveness of the plans are measured by the amounts collected and from stormwater analysed against the CEPA guidelines.

It should be noted that copies of the glycol mitigation plans were submitted to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

I ask, Mr. Speaker, that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed consideration of the motion. That Bill C-75, an act to amend the Farm Improvement and Marketing Co-operatives Loans Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Farm Improvement And Marketing Cooperatives Loans ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick things up exactly where we left off approximately 67 minutes ago. We were replying to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture on Bill C-75 which will raise from 1.5 billion to 3 billion dollars the maximum amount of government guaranteed farm loans.

As I had to split my speech in two, I should perhaps remind members that the bill before us seeks to amend the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act. I will now continue reading my text exactly where I left off at two o'clock, about 67 minutes ago.

Let us say, for example, that the Quebec Société du financement agricole keeps a very close watch on the rate of increase of farmers' indebtedness and that, in so doing, it modifies its standards and criteria. It would never have the necessary leeway to implement its decisions because a federal agency would once again meddle in its affairs and muddle up the initial goal of the Quebec government. The federal government's eligibility criteria do not necessarily reflect provincial priorities.

Federal agencies compete with provincial agencies, which may have stricter criteria, and I must say that the provinces are in a better position to know the real needs of their citizens. In any case, they are certainly in a better position than the federal government, which has to enact general policies that must be realistic and applicable from coast to coast.

The thing that we must remember is that, once again, instead of eliminating overlapping and giving the provinces their own tools, the Liberal government has decided to keep everything under its control. By maintaining this overlapping, the federal government gives itself the opportunity to intervene in the management of our agricultural sector in Quebec.

It should also be emphasized that it is very strange that this act is administered by the department instead of the Farm Credit Corporation. Even if the programs are different, the Farm Credit Corporation already arranges loan guarantees. That is a striking example of administrative duplication. This is not duplication between government levels but in fact duplication within the same government.

We, in the Bloc Quebecois, wish that the government would give to the provinces the financial resources that belong to them. As the Prime Minister said earlier in answer to a question from the Leader of the Opposition, Quebec is not begging but merely asking for what it is entitled to.

Provinces will thus be able to take over the administration of programs like the one Bill C-75 deals with. It must be clearly understood that we are not against the bill as such but we firmly oppose the overlap and duplication it perpetuates, whether in the same government, that is the federal government, or between the federal government and provinces. We believe the bill is relevant but we regret that it maintains duplication.

I would now like to submit some statistics found by our researchers about FIMCLA or Bill C-75. First I wish to remind the House that since February 1988 when the above amendments came into force, over 65 000 loans totalling some $1.5 billion have been granted under the act.

I should also remind you that the province which benefits the most from the act is Saskatchewan, followed in second place by Alberta and third by Quebec. I believe Ontario comes in fourth place in terms of utilisation of the act but I must remind you the rural Ontario enjoys a high standard in terms of agriculture and investment needs. To this day, some 10 loans have been granted under the act for co-operative projets with a total added value of $14.2 billion.

In 1994-95 for example, 17,000 loans totalling some $475 million have been granted under the act. Again in 1994-1995, the average loan is $27,000 and the five-year average is $22,000.

In the last 25 years, net losses incurred under the act have accounted for 1 per cent of all guaranteed loans each and every year.

I would now like to talk to you about interest rates. I think that interest rates are reasonable and favourable to farmers. The maximum interest rate that lenders can set is the prime rate plus 1 per cent in the case of variable rates. Or, if you prefer, the variable rate is equal to the prime rate plus 1 per cent, so it changes like the tide. If interest rates go up, the interest rate paid by farmers on loans guaranteed under this act will go up as well. Conversely, if interest rates go down, the interest rate paid by farmers will also go down.

However, if the farmer wants a fixed rate for five years, the rate will be the prime rate at the time he negotiates his loan plus 2.25 per cent. But it must not go beyond a fixed five year period. According to the statistics I am quoting to you, in 1991, some 683 rural lenders such as caisses populaires and credit unions were accredited as lenders under this act.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, caisses populaires were treated inequitably in the past, because the caisse populaire network plays an extremely important role in Quebec. Often, it was less profitable for the large banks to do business in rural areas, so they withdrew to the major centres. They left rural communities to the caisses populaires, making it difficult for our farmers to borrow money since the caisses populaires were not even accredited.

How could the central government, with its so-called respect for institutions, have the nerve not to accredit the caisses populaires? Only large banks had this privilege, because, as we know full well, the caisses populaires never make financial contributions to political parties, be it the Bloc Quebecois or any other political party.

You see, since they were not major contributors to election funds, they were simply relegated to that kind of loan. It is a disgrace. Fortunately, staunch nationalists such as the Parti Quebecois members, whose courage I must salute, pressed and reasoned the the federal government into recognizing credit unions as lenders for the purpose of this loan guarantee.

While accounting for 25 per cent of the total Canadian population, Quebec is only the third largest user of loans guaranteed by the federal government at seemingly interesting interest rates under this act. Why do Quebec farmers not use this window? Because it is not well known at all. So, with your permission, I will try to describe it as briefly and simply as possible.

First of all, I must tell you that this act does not apply to anyone who wants to start a farm business. If you want to buy a farm with a view to eventually becoming an independent farmer, this act is not for you; you have to go either to the Farm Credit Corporation, which is a federal institution, or to the Société du financement agricole, which is a Quebec institution.

The bill before us this afternoon is for farmers who wish to make improvements, expand their facilities, buy out a neighbour, those who want to build extensions, for example an addition to a hog house, build a road across their farm to get to the wood at the other end of the property, install an electric generator in a hog house or refinance and consolidate all their debts in a single loan. That is what this kind of loan is for. It could also be used to buy cattle, install a new grain silo or buy the neighbour's silo to move it to your land. As you know, the cost of building a manure pit or buying tractors, rotary mowers or combine-harvesters is always on the rise.

Of course, the government is not guaranteeing loans of less than $2,000. As you know, in 1995, we cannot afford to create paperwork costing more than the benefit provided. There is also an upper limit. For farmers, the maximum is $250,000, while in the case of agricultural co-operatives, it is $3 million.

Some purchases are not eligible, such as short term goods. Under Bill C-75, piglets weighing 35 or 45 pounds would not be eligible because such a purchase is for a short term of about five or six months. Consequently, it would not be eligible. The same is true in the case of repairs to the family home on the farm. Such an expense would not be eligible. Nor would the purchase of quotas. A dairy producer interested in buying a quota to generate a more substantial income would not qualify.

So, under that bill, a farmer can borrow up to $250,000 and an agricultural co-operative up to $3 million. The loan guarantee must cover the maximum of 80 per cent of the loan. We cannot guarantee more than 80 per cent of the assets bought. In the case of a farm expansion, the maximum period provided to repay the loan is 15 years, while it is 10 years for any other product or good. It goes without saying that, if the product bought will only last four years, the maximum period provided to repay the loan will not be 10 years but four.

Let us now look at payments. Payments could be made on a monthly basis, but at least one payment would have to be made each year. If someone says: "I only want to pay every two years", that would not be possible under this bill, since a minimal payment is required every year.

I have already addressed the issue of interest rates, so I will recap briefly. If you talk about the variable interest rate, the floating rate, that is the prime rate plus 1 per cent. If you choose the fixed rate, that is a lot more costly. A fixed rate is only good for 5 years and is equal to the prime rate plus 2.25 per cent.

Finally, I would like to take a minute or so to talk about the registration fee and the administration charge.

Farmers who ask for a loan under the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act must make a payment of one-half of 1 per cent, or 0.5 per cent of the total amount of the loan. This money is paid to the Receiver General for Canada so that the loan guarantee can be examined. Over and above this 0.5 per cent, the lender can also add $250 or one-quarter of 1 per cent of the amount, whichever is less, as long as it does not exceed $250,000.

As was said earlier, this also applies to co-operative agricultural societies, and there are quite a few of these in Quebec. The Co-operative Society of Disraëli, a town located not far from my area, contracted a loan a few years back when it built silos in order to produce feed. This loan was guaranteed by the federal government.

A co-operative agriculture society can therefore get up to almost $3 million at the same interest rate as the one mentioned earlier for farmers.

The Bloc Quebecois will support Bill C-75. But again, I want to make it clear that we support this legislation so that our farmers can receive the financial resources they need to expand and so that they can get from the federal government the guarantees to which they are entitled, since they pay taxes just like any other worker in Canada and particularly in Quebec.

But, as I said a few moments ago, we do have some objections concerning duplication and overlap.

During the four days of recess in the week after Easter, I visited several farmers who are friends and colleagues of mine. I told them that I was going to speak on this bill today. A very big majority of farmers, although not all of them, said to me that they were not familiar with this act. This is certainly why Quebec is only the third most important user of the services provided under this act among the ten Canadian provinces, even if Quebec farmers alone account for more than 17 percent of farm production in this country.

Saskatchewan, a province with a small population base, ranks first because the program was well advertised in that province. Mr. Fernand Fillion, a hog producer in Lyster, told me that, before building his new hog house, an investment of well over $1 million, he examined the services provided by the Société de crédit agricole du Québec, the Société de financement agricole in Quebec and under this act. He realized that the loan provided by the Société de financement agricole du Québec was the most profitable option in his case.

Farmers have three options: they can borrow money through the Société de financement agricole, the Société de crédit agricole du Québec, or under the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act. Why not save money through the single window approach? Farmers would not have to knock at three different doors, and travel to as many as three cities to meet with civil servants who cost the government a lot of money. It is always the same taxpayer who pays for this kind of inefficiency and duplication.

When we, members of the Bloc Quebecois, visit people in our rural areas, our concessions, our municipalities, our small towns, and tell them about all this duplication, they understand easily and quickly why we have a $40 to $45 billion deficit every year.

We could easily save millions. I have a perfect case of duplication within the government. Just last week, a farmer was telling me: "We would like to deal exclusively with the Quebec Minister of Agriculture because he is the one that we know. We do not even know who the federal Minister of Agriculture is and, when he comes to see us, he has great difficulty talking to us in our own language". It is not a bad thing, of course, but it must be understood that Quebecers are a lot closer to their provincial government than to the federal government.

The Minister of Agriculture is constantly telling us that his ultimate goal is to help farmers. If he really wants to help farmers, why not make things easier for them by having a single window and using the money that the government will save this way to lower interest rates? It would not cost a penny more and farmers would be a lot happier.

I take this opportunity to invite the Minister of Agriculture to take a week off and to come and visit with farmers in rural Quebec. Among the 17 or 18 Liberal members who represent Quebec in this government, there are certainly a few who come from rural ridings. I am sure they are not all city members from the West Island. There must be a few among them who have seen a cow up close and who have been in a hog house. Let them come and visit. There is the Prime Minister, whom I know very well and who represents the beautiful riding of Saint-Maurice. There are fine farms in his riding. I invite, for example, the Minister of Agriculture to visit the riding of Saint-Maurice and to ask farmers what they want. In Saint-Maurice, which is different from the riding of Frontenac, there must be some federalists, since they elected the Prime Minister. So, that is where the minister should go.

I am telling you, Mr. Speaker, farmers know that they are being had by this government. Monday morning, I met a farmer who told me-because he had watched the debates of the opposition day concerning cuts in agriculture, being himself an industrial milk producer-that he thought he would lose approximately $4,000. And it is the last thousand dollars that is profitable, not the first.

You know, Mr. Speaker, in a cow barn, it is not the first cow that is milked in the morning that is profitable, but always the last. Indeed, the last one is all profit. With this 30 per cent cut in the industrial milk subsidy, the government is taking away from the farmer this last cow which brought him his $4,000 at the end of the fiscal year.

He did not need to convince me, of course, but the dairy producer's concern was that in August the price of dairy products would be increased. By increasing the price of dairy products, and this is a proven fact, we will diminish consumption, which, in turn, will entail a reduction of the quota. So, I get the picture, Mr. Speaker. I am explaining these things to you and I am sure you understood them before I started speaking about them. And you may share my point of view that we should try to work not for us, but for our farmers, once and for all.

Farm Improvement And Marketing Cooperatives Loans ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.


Allan Kerpan Reform Moose Jaw—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, as I listened to the debate I asked myself why we are here, why we have heard, as we have so often in the past, of amendments to particular bills or new legislation being introduced.

I would criticize the government for dodging what I think is the big issue. If I talk about the farm improvement loans act, I will not be specifically critical. By and large it has been a good program, as has been mentioned today. Especially in my province of Saskatchewan it has been very well received and very well used. The parliamentary secretary to the minister is absolutely correct. The default rate is not very high when one considers the amount of money lent through that program.

As I said before, perhaps the big picture or the issue is being dodged or avoided to some extent. I refer to what my colleague from the Bloc had to say. For obvious reasons the member from the Bloc has different plans, different hopes and aspirations for his province than I do for mine. I find myself agreeing very much with what he said today when he talked about the duplication and the overlap of these types of programs.

In Saskatchewan if farmers wanted to borrow money with some sort of government assistance or help they could look at this current program, the farm improvement loans act, small business loans, the Farm Credit Corporation or, only in Saskatchewan, the Agriculture Credit Corporation of Saskatchewan. A farmer has his or her option of four different areas or wickets, as my friend from the Bloc said, from which to borrow this money. I ask myself why. I see no reason for four different bureaucracies to get the same end result.

If I look back on the motion I put forward which is before the House now, one of the basic pillars my motion is built on is to reduce duplication and overlap and to bring the services that cannot be privatized into the lowest or the most local department for delivery of programs or services.

I do not think anybody would deny farmers need access to capital for the financing of their endeavours just as any other business does. Because of the unique characteristics of agriculture with its exposure to unique risks, the private financial services industry has at times been reluctant to provide the services farmers and agri-food businesses need. The unique risks the farming industry faces are related to being very much at the mercy of mother nature and the fact that for the most part we produce perishable goods that must be moved quickly to market and sold.

In our integrated global trading environment where food and non-food products are shipped across our borders, our oceans, our skies and our land, a natural disaster such as a drought, a flood or a hailstorm in one part of the world could create shortages that farmers somewhere else must fill.

The international agricultural marketplace can thus be very volatile and is affected from year to year by price hikes and price drops, by supply gluts and supply shortages. These unique facts of life that farmers face create unique financial needs that some financial services provider must fill.

Our discussion about farm financing should centre around asking the simple question: How can our society and our world best serve the financial needs of the agriculture industry and thus ensure that we have a safe, stable, affordable, and abundant food supply?

Generally, farmers and agri-businesses have proven over the years to be good borrowers to meet the terms and conditions of their loans on time and in full. As the parliamentary secretary has mentioned, that is the case in this program.

There have been years in which an onslaught of unfortunate disasters has occurred that has stretched farmers' income and expenditure balance sheets to the very limit. At times like these, provincial and federal governments have stepped in with emergency aid because the public's interest for a stable food supply has been put at risk.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, after spending my entire life in the farming industry, that no farmer wants government handouts. No farmer wants government to be his full time partner in business. We have said over and over again in this House that farmers, just like other business entrepreneurs, want governments off their backs and out of their pockets. We want lower taxes and input costs. We want a streamlined and efficient regulatory process. We want governments to negotiate good trade deals and to open up access to marketplaces so that we can develop to our full potential as world competitors.

What concerns me about legislation such as Bill C-75 is that government is stepping in and taking a role that the private financial services industry could and perhaps should provide. As long as this government or any government continues to

participate in this kind of financial activity, I do not believe that the private sector will ever become motivated enough or competitive enough to provide the financial services the agriculture sector needs. Why should it?

It also strikes me as ironic that the private sector would actually have the level of confidence in the federal government as its guarantor that it appears to have. I know the federal government will certainly have about $120 billion worth of tax revenue this year and that the $3 billion in loan guarantees that this act provides for is probably sound, even if it were all to be defaulted upon, which of course it will not be. This type of financial arrangement does raise the ironic question of how an organization that is $550 billion in debt and that will pay almost $50 billion this year in interest payments can be counted upon as a guarantor of anything.

It is the government that is in debt trouble and in need of a bail out, not the the farmers or the lenders. We might have the cart before the horse in this case.

Therefore I would assert that it is time to ask the question about what the proper approach to financial services for the agriculture sector is. Should government be increasing loan guarantee programs at this time? How can it really be a guarantor of premium quality when its own finances are in such bad shape? Should not the government rather be encouraging the private financial services industry to serve the agriculture industry?

I believe there would be financial companies that would move into this service market, competition would be introduced, and farmers would therefore get good service. The government should clearly indicate to the private sector what it sees as its limits of involvement and then develop policy in that direction.

There is no free lunch. As individuals, farmers, business people or whoever we are, we will all pay for the goods or services that we need. If we get what we need from the private sector we will pay in dollars. If we get it from the public sector we will pay in tax dollars. Mr. Speaker, it is a crying shame that my children and yours are going to have to pay back the $550 billion debt that we now owe for services that we enjoyed. Debt is nothing other than deferred taxes and the intergenerational transfer of financial obligation.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, before this problem gets worse, might this Parliament not be the one that recognizes the importance of a clear and better division of responsibilities between the private and the public sectors, between paying by taxes or by dollars. Surely, we should not simply approve this bill or any other like it before asking how much it will cost, how are we going to pay, and is there a better way to do this. If generational stewardship and self-responsibility mean anything, surely we must ask these questions and seek the best answers.

Government must no longer be allowed to continue to grind along day after day, year after year, program after program as a self-contained and self-propagating industry, completely insulated from and oblivious to the long-term consequences of its actions. We either repair and fix our economic house now or our children are going to have to fix it-or it is going to have to be fixed for us by outside sources.

At committee stage of Bill C-75, my Reform colleagues and I want to talk about these matters. We believe that there may be some amendments to this bill that would be in order. We will listen to what other members have to say, what the officials have to say. But rest assured that we will press forward and onward as Reformers in the last decade of this century and this millennium to ensure that our children are not saddled with the catastrophic results of irresponsible actions that we the parents take.

In conclusion, I want to say that the criticism of this amendment to Bill C-75 is not one that would see this act replaced. It is an act that could simply be consolidated, as I mentioned before, with the Small Businesses Loans Act, perhaps put under the auspices of the Farm Credit Corporation, if that is the most efficient and most effective way to do it, and get rid of the huge bureaucracies, as my colleague from the Bloc mentioned.

There are three federal bureaucracies in Saskatchewan. I firmly believe that at least one and most likely two of those could be eliminated. All those types of lending guarantees that the federal government produces for the farm industry should be carefully examined. The big picture of this issue must be looked at, not simply a band-aid measure to make an amendment.

The parliamentary secretary is correct in saying that if we do not make this amendment the program will have to be delayed for two years. However, we can do better than that simply by opening up what we believe and perceive to be a strangulation of the system by effectively not being prepared to look at consolidation and removal of duplication.

As I mentioned, my colleagues and I will be preparing amendments for committee stage of this bill. We would ask that the government and the official opposition would support and work with us on any amendments that would make our system more cost-efficient and effective.

Farm Improvement And Marketing Cooperatives Loans ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.


Glen McKinnon Liberal Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, let me start by saying that the level of interest in the agricultural community is very high with regard to this particular aspect of financing.

The access to capital is probably paramount to achieving long-term success in agriculture, as it may apply to farm improvements, processing, distribution and marketing of farm products. The program has proven very popular with farmers. The five-year, $1.5 billion cap has almost been reached. Consequently, we have two choices: increase the aggregate load limit

or suspend the program. I would like to examine those two options in greater detail today.

The first option is to increase the aggregate amount of loans that can be made under the FIMCLA program from $1.5 billion to $3 billion. In considering this option, one might ask how risky this program is and how many loans go into default. The record is really very good. The net claims rate-that is, the gross minus recoveries-is about 1 per cent, and has remained at that level fairly consistently over the last 25 years. There have been some blips. There have been occasions when it has risen as high as 1.5 per cent. On that occasion in the 1980s, it was caused by high interest rates, low farm income, and land devaluation.

Since 1992 there has been a significant reduction in claims and the program now has a positive cash flow. This is expected to continue at least through 1997. There will be some extra costs associated with the higher aggregate limit, but measures will be taken to offset this. For example, an increase of only 0.25 per cent in the registration fee would be sufficient to offset these extra costs and maintain the current level of liability for at least another five years. For the average loan of $27,000, this would amount to an increase in costs of $67.

The number of loans and any losses will continue to be monitored on an ongoing basis if the net claim rate is higher than anticipated. Program costs could be controlled. For example, the guaranteed level could be lowered from 95 per cent and loan eligibility could be limited or registration fees further increased. In other words, the aggregate limit can be increased at little or no cost to government, and should satisfy program demands for another 10 years. It is a positive measure that is supported by the agri-food sector and commercial lenders.

The second option is maintaining the status quo, keeping the current aggregate limit to $1.5 billion and suspending the program once the limit is reached.

In the first nine months of 1994-95, $422 million in loans were guaranteed under the act, bringing the five-year aggregate loan limit to $1.24 billion. If the current trend continues, the present $1.5 billion cap could be reached as early as June, at which time the program will have to be suspended. Since annual loan registrations are expected to continue in the $500 million range and the loans falling due are worth $80 million this year, $115 million next year, and $196 million the year after, the program would likely have to be suspended for about two more years.

Since no new revenue would be generated from registering fees during this period, the program's contingent liability will be no different from the first option; that is, increasing the aggregate limit to $3 billion, along with an increase in the registration fee of 0.25 per cent. Should the status quo be allowed to continue, long term program liabilities will likely be kept at today's estimate of $16 billion.

FIMCLA is supported by farmers and their organizations, especially the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, as well as the lenders. I believe it would be a mistake to allow it to be suspended. The program has been an inexpensive way for the government to support the agri-food sector. The net loss rate over 25 years has only been about 1 per cent. Increasing the FIMCLA cap allows for this low cost support to continue.

In conclusion, I ask the House to support Bill C-75 by increasing the aggregate principal amount of loans that can be guaranteed. The program can continue to be offered to farmers and farmer owned marketing cooperatives.

Farm Improvement And Marketing Cooperatives Loans ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Bernie Collins Liberal Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure today to address this very important bill, Bill C-75, an act to amend the Farm Improvement Marketing Co-operatives Loan Act. This act facilitates credit on farm improvements for processing and distribution and marketing of farm products. I am sure we can all agree the bill is very important to the agricultural sector.

The program has been quite a success, giving many farms and marketing co-operatives a hand in improving or starting new operations. In the year 1994-95, FIMCLA, as the program is called, was used to facilitate more than 17,000 loans totalling some $475 million. The average loan size in 1994-95 was $27,000 and the five-year average is $22,000.

It has been very advantageous to the agricultural group in Souris-Moose Mountain. My riding is concerned about the impact of recent GATT agreements and the World Trade Organization on the day to day lives and operations of our farmers.

It is very important to take a look at some of the restrictions farmers in our area may face now that we have to make our grain forwarding and other export practices acceptable to world markets. To improve our opportunities we have to turn to value added products.

I will tell the House about a group of people in my riding who have embraced this idea. A group of six farm families in Souris-Moose Mountain have formed a co-operative to begin a joint venture with a Holland firm to establish a nucleus hog breeding farm in Saskatchewan. It will be the first entry of continental European hogs into Canada in 37 years.

With the assistance of the loan through FIMCLA the co-operative farm has been formed. The joint venture is positioned to address the new opportunities brought about by the World Trade

Organization. The venture pioneers the process of the co-operative approach to improving the hog industry in Saskatchewan.

Farm members will be provided with superior animals that will increase the productive capacity of their existing operations and improve the profitability of their hog operations. The co-operative will be the first to introduce the Dalland hog to North America. As well it will be the first artificial insemination facility for hog semen in western Canada.

The co-operative will create spinoff employment and stabilize the incomes of farm members. Those in the Kipling area appreciated the opportunity to become partners with the agricultural sector in making sure the program moved forward.

For example, the distribution of semen and the marketing of breeding animals require transportation. The needs of transportation will enhance the use of one farm member's existing trucking equipment, creating additional returns for him. The co-operative will require production, management and clerical personnel that will be supplied by farm families to enhance their farm incomes and to improve individual farm returns.

The co-operative will be more than a primary producer of farm products. As a group they will market a product of high value to the benefit of their members. Their natural geographic advantage and lower cost of production make their product competitive in the North American market. This venture pioneers an innovative process of efficiently distributing new genetics to the North American hog industry and is very important to my riding.

None of this would have been possible if FIMCLA had not been there to guarantee the loans to meet their needs and to meet their new ideas, the new and better ways of doing things. With due diligence and proper assessment techniques, FIMCLA guarantees do not have to carry a high amount of risk. The past record shows that. Over the last 25 years net losses under the act have approximated 1 per cent of total loans guaranteed. In the terrible years during the 1980s when interest rates were high, low farm income and land devaluation caused more defaults than usual. The program is an excellent one. This is why the current legislation is required. It is a safe and inexpensive way for the government to help farmers help themselves in changing times.

As I drive around my riding talking with people I realize these sincere, bright, hard working individuals have hundreds of good ideas. Given a start, they could go far on their own. We need only to open the door for them.

Furthermore, the amendment includes measures to offset the natural extra expenses that would come with an increase in the cap. The amount of offsetting needed is small. For example, an increase of only one-quarter of 1 per cent in the registration fee would sufficiently offset the extra costs and maintain the current level of liability for at least five years. For an average loan of $27,000 it would be $64.

By not proceeding with the suggested amendment, lenders would have to stop and discontinue programs once the cap reached $1.5 billion. It would be irresponsible. Can we imagine saying no to the co-operatives in Saskatchewan I just mentioned? Can we imagine telling them that we understand the project will stabilize income, create employment and enhance Canada's exports but that some arbitrary cap says they cannot continue?

That we must increase the cap is positive. It means the program is doing well. More people are finding out about its successes and are deciding to use it. It makes possible what once seemed impossible for them.

With sustained lower interest rates and the improved farm debt situation approximately 600 new designated lenders and better marketing of the program have contributed to the success of FIMCLA. In simple terms, the aggregate limit can be increased at little or no cost to government and should satisfy program demand for the next 10 years.

This positive measure is supported by the agri-food sector and commercial lenders alike. The program has become increasingly important to rural lenders such as credit unions that offer credit to farm producers. The Canadian Bankers Association and Credit Union Central in Saskatchewan support the proposed increase. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture and other major farm groups have been consulted and support the proposed amendment. It is inexpensive and supports the agri-food sector.

Taxpayers are well served. Improvements made under the program contribute to the strength of Canada's economy and decrease dependency on government subsidies.

I ask members to support Bill C-75. By increasing the aggregate principal amount of loans that can be guaranteed, the program will continue to be offered to farmers and co-operatives and will make a difference.

Farm Improvement And Marketing Cooperatives Loans ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.


Allan Kerpan Reform Moose Jaw—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of comments for the hon. member for Souris-Moose Mountain. We are seeing a classic case of the government trying to close the door after the horse has escaped. I get back to what I said a few moments ago. I would like the member to comment on my idea.

Why could the government not support the idea of consolidating the three or four federal programs to offer lending assistance to the agricultural industry?

It is well known that the Farm Credit Corporation exists. Why do we not remove the other two bureaucracies, the Small

Businesses Loans Act and the Farm Improvement Loans Act, and put them under the umbrella of the Farm Credit Corporation?

It would seem a government guarantee to other lending institutions is a conflict in one way because we would be in direct competition with the Farm Credit Corporation. What does the member think about the idea of consolidation and removal of duplication?

Farm Improvement And Marketing Cooperatives Loans ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Bernie Collins Liberal Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the questions posed and with regard to FIMCLA we must remember the bill would increase the cap from $1.5 billion to $3 billion. We have to maintain that and keep it as the essence of the drive.

We have to review all government agencies, farm credit and the entire agricultural scene. With that in mind, I am sure the agriculture minister is looking at all available options.

However, in relation to Bill C-75, I would not want us to delay very important action on behalf of the agricultural community.

Farm Improvement And Marketing Cooperatives Loans ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Allan Kerpan Reform Moose Jaw—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to clarify for my hon. colleague that my criticism is not against increasing the limit to $3 billion. I understand the need and necessity for it. My only concern was that we were using band-aid measures and we could do far more to improve the situation if we opened it up and looked at the whole picture.