House of Commons Hansard #210 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was languages.


The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-75, an act to amend the Farm Improvement and Marketing Co-Operatives Loans Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Farm Improvement And Marketing Co-Operatives Loans ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario


Allan Rock Liberalfor the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to.)

Farm Improvement And Marketing Co-Operatives Loans ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario


Allan Rock Liberalfor the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Farm Improvement And Marketing Co-Operatives Loans ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario


Lyle Vanclief LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food

Mr. Speaker, as members prepare to give Bill C-75, an act to amend the Farm Improvement and Marketing Co-Operatives Loans Act, or as we refer to it in the abbreviated form of FIMCLA, consideration for third reading, I would like to review some of the reasons we are anxious to have the bill passed into law as soon as possible.

FIMCLA is designed to increase the availability of credit on reasonable terms to farmers and farmer owned co-operatives. Farmers can borrow up to $250,000 to invest in new technology and equipment or for a wide range of farm improvement projects. Farmer owned co-operatives can get loans up to $3 million to invest in facilities to add value to their farm products, for example the washing or packing plants for vegetables, fruit juice plants or many other applications.

These loans to co-ops must be approved by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food. This is the only national loan guarantee program that can be accessed by farmers across Canada. Like other business sectors, the farm economy goes through cycles and changing credit conditions. Loan guarantees are an important tool that governments can use to ensure that credit is readily available to viable farm enterprises throughout the business cycle.

Bill C-75 will change only one clause in the act. That is the raising of the total amount of loans which can be guaranteed under FIMCLA over a five-year period of time from $1.5 billion to $3 billion. If this amendment is not passed we will soon reach the loan cap and we will have to suspend the program possibly for as long as two years. We have almost reached the point of having to suspend the program already it is so successful.

The Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food should give lenders 60 days notice if it will not be able to guarantee loans under the program. Since we expect to reach the present guarantee limit of $1.5 billion by the end of July, it is imperative that the legislation be passed as quickly as possible. Clearly, we do not want to reach the point of having to suspend the program.

The Farm Improvement and Co-Operatives Loans Act program is very popular. It is becoming more so every year. Over the last five years the number of loans registered under the program has more than tripled, from about 4,890 loans in the year 1990-91 to over 18,000 loans in the year 1994-95. The value of those loans has climbed from just under $82 million in the year 1990-91 to $515 million of loans that have been guaranteed in the year 1994-95.

We expect the activity for this year to reach $550 million. That will bring the five-year aggregate to the $1.5 billion level. With the current level of approvals, it should stay there for the next few years. At that level, a $3 billion cap will allow us to continue offering the program.

We attribute the increased loan activity to a number of factors: sustained lower interest rates and an improved farm debt situation, not as improved as we would like to see it but it certainly has improved from where it was in the past; greater participation by independent rural lenders; improved marketing of the program; and increased competition between lending institutions.

I would like to expand for a moment on the point about increased participation of rural lenders. In the early 1990s the

department began to encourage credit unions and caisses populaires to make the program more available to their customers. This has resulted in the addition of about 600 new designated lenders across the country. Besides adding more outlets for getting FIMCLA loans, this marketing change has also generated more competition between institutions for loans, all to the benefit of the borrowers, being the co-ops and the farmers themselves.

I said that the program had become more popular recently. Quebec and Alberta are the sources of most of the new growth. In Quebec we can thank the caisses populaires Desjardins. That movement has become a major participant. We can credit it for the rapid growth of loans in Quebec under FIMCLA. Quebec has now the third highest number of loans.

Just ahead of Quebec is Alberta which has the second highest number of loans. In that province the government owned Alberta Treasury Branches has become a significant lender under FIMCLA Saskatchewan. However, it is still the biggest user of the program. In 1994-95 that province accounted for roughly half of all the registered loans.

FIMCLA has proven to be a very inexpensive way for the government to support the agri-food sector. Over 30 years, costs have averaged over just $1 million a year, roughly 1 per cent of annual loans. Over the past three years the program has returned $6.3 million to the consolidated revenue fund.

In order to reduce the program costs even further, we will be increasing the registration fee by a small amount, one quarter of 1 per cent. This will raise the average registration fee by $67. It will now become $202 on average. Still, we must agree it is a very reasonable cost to provide such a guarantee and program to the co-operative movement and to the primary producers, the Canadian farmers. Had this fee level been in place over the past 30 years, net costs would have averaged $434,000 a year instead of $1 million.

To allay the concerns that the government's 95 per cent guarantee is actually a subsidy to lenders, I should point out that the net losses under FIMCLA have historically been lower than the losses lenders have incurred on loans guaranteed outside the program. We are certainly proud in the agri-food industry that those losses are at less than 1 per cent. That is a tremendous record and one which the agri-food industry should be and is proud of.

The program and the amendments have the support of the major farm groups and the commercial lenders across Canada. I urge members on both sides of the House to support quick passage of Bill C-75 so that there is no disruption in the program for the agri-food industry in Canada.

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10:10 a.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise this morning to participate in the debate on Bill C-75 at third reading.

As we said earlier, the purpose of the only amendment to the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act is to double the number of loans guaranteed under this act.

As the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food explained so well, this change simply increases the limit of guarantees on loans made by banking institutions. The current limit is $1.5 billion. Bill C-75 would increase this limit to $3 billion.

This increase is said to be in line with the increased needs of many farmers and would facilitate access to financing.

Our position on Bill C-75 has not changed. To benefit our farmers and make their lives easier, we in the Bloc Quebecois will support the amendment proposed by Bill C-75. We therefore endorse raising the limit from $1.5 billion to $3 billion.

However, I wish to point out that, although we support Bill C-75 for our farmers' sake, this short term solution is not the one favoured by the Bloc Quebecois.

In the current federalist context, the provinces face the "mission impossible" of obtaining even a minimal degree of autonomy from the federal government, which is trying to take one power after another away from the provinces through its spending power. That is why we must support this temporary solution, to allow the government to go forward with Bill C-75 so that farmers in Canada and Quebec can have access to more funds, of course.

Although this is a fundamental aspect, I want to draw your attention to the duplication bills such as this one generate. The real question we should ask this morning is not whether the limit established by the Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act is high enough, but whether the program itself is basically sound.

According to Agriculture Canada figures, the increased demand for loan guarantees justifies the amendment proposed by Bill C-75. Farmers must, of course, have access to financing in order to improve or expand their facilities. We are not questioning this fact. The question we must ask this morning is, "What is the most efficient way to meet farmers' needs?"

In Quebec at the present time, there are three organizations that help farmers secure financing or can do so. There is the Société de financement agricole, which is under provincial jurisdiction, the Farm Credit Corporation, under federal jurisdiction, and the bill before us today, to amend the Farm improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act, the latter also coming under federal jurisdiction.

This is a fine example of this government's and this country's mismanagement. You have two different wickets at the same level of government offering loans to the same group of people.

Let me share with you what three farm producers from the federal electoral district of Frontenac told me when I had the chance to visit them a while ago. One of them described the problems he encountered trying to get funding to expand his family farm.

I phoned him this morning and took a few notes, because I wanted to be able to quote specific figures. I asked him if he was aware of the three choices he had. And that, I must point out, contradicts what my colleague, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, said a moment ago. He told me he was aware of only two sources of funding: the Société de financement agricole and the Farm Credit Corporation.

I said: "There is a third one, you know", and I gave him the seven or eight letter acronym. "Pardon my ignorance, he said, but I had never heard of this Farm Improvement and Marketing Cooperatives Loans Act until 8:20 this morning, when you told me about it". And this is a farm producer who had been negotiating with both the Société de financement agricole and the Farm Credit Corporation for five long months, from December to May. This is a good example of duplication.

If this government wishes our farm producers well, why does it not have a single wicket? At present, there are three choices, three wickets, and the third one, which we are debating this morning, is all but unknown to Quebecer producers. To decide whether to borrow from the Quebec Société de financement agricole or the federal Farm Credit Corporation, in many instances, our producers must set out on long and difficult consultations with financial institutions to make sure they get the best deal possible.

I asked that farmer: in the end, did you go to the Farm Credit Corporation or the Société de financement agricole? The Liberal members opposite, who are supposed to represent farmers from the Pacific to the Atlantic, should listen carefully. That person said that the best option for him was to go to the Société de financement agricole, which is under Quebec's jurisdiction.

I was happy to hear that, and I asked him how he came to that conclusion. It is not because he is a PQ or BQ partisan. He made that decision simply because it was the best option. He told me about contacting other lending institutions, namely the Royal Bank, the National Bank and the caisses populaires, and how he managed to get for his $750,000 loan a rate which is 0.75 per cent lower.

I am proud to say that our farmers have now become businesspeople running small businesses requiring investments which are often in excess of one million dollars. Consequently, they have to do some calculations, to think carefully and to choose the option best suited to their needs. This morning, that farmer also told me that this 0.75 per cent lower interest rate would result in annual savings of $6,000 to $7,500. He added that, by using these savings to lower the borrowed capital, he will, over the next 25 years, save an enormous amount of money, which is in the six figures.

This is the story of a farmer who talked to me this morning about these three borrowing options, one of which he was not at all aware of. I fail to see why the government is so intent on duplicating existing structures, with the result that in the same city and region there are two offices to deal with the same group of farmers.

Another friend of mine, who is involved in the dairy industry, said, in reference to the 50/50 split between industrial and fluid milk, that dairy producers were privileged in that they have two ministers of agriculture. One, whom they do not know, does not understand them and looks after two teats-that is, those which give the industrial milk-and the other one, whom they know very well, Marcel Landry, the Quebec minister of agriculture, who is a Quebecer like them, who is accessible, who can be reached any day, who understands them, and who visits them not just once a year, but whenever they want to see him.

Can the same be said of the federal Minister of Agriculture? Unfortunately, he never has time for people from Quebec, but he always manages to make time for western grain producers. It sounds a little like the Supreme Court, this tendency to favour to the West.

I agree that these three agencies-the Société du financement agricole, the Farm Credit Corporation and the FIMCLA we are discussing this morning in this debate on Bill C-75-offer programs that differ in a number of respects, so they do not interfere with each other. That is the impression we get initially. However, if we take a closer look, we soon realize that farm producers would be better served if all these programs could be accessed in a single location. It would be much more efficient to have programs that are complementary but with the same requirements, than to face filling out three different applications because the criteria are not the same.

If for instance the Société de financement agricole had access to the resources of the two other agencies, it could offer new programs. The SFA could become a single wicket centre. For years, the federal government has made a habit of making certain programs unnecessarily complex and in some cases almost inaccessible. A good example in Quebec is manpower training, where we are losing $265 million because two levels of government are involved. And even worse, our people do not get full value for the money that goes into these programs. There is a lot of interfering and shoving, and the neediest members of our

society end up having to pay for this exercise in futility. Need I repeat that manpower training is a provincial matter.

In fact, a province like Quebec, may decide to set criteria that are not compatible with what the federal government has decided to do. These criteria may be better adapted to the province's needs and current situation but not fit into the federal mould.

Let us assume that in Quebec, the Société du financement agricole has standards that are stricter than those of the FIMCLA referred to in Bill C-75. By setting up parallel programs, the federal government would undermine what the provincial government is doing, in this case the Government of Quebec, and if the province's objective is part of a strategy to develop the agricultural industry, that is just too bad.

Let us assume that the SFA wanted to do something about the alarming increase in farm debt by adopting certain criteria.

But it would not really be free to implement its decisions, because some federal agency would come along and decide that this would conflict with its priorities. Period. Once again, the federal government, with its unlimited power to spend, has the bigger end of the stick. To hell with the deficit. In 1970, this country was almost deficitless. And now, 25 years later, it is saddled with an accumulated deficit of over $550 billion, and need I remind you of the unpleasant fact that, during those 25 years, with the exception of the nine year Conservative reign, this country has been governed by the Liberals.

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10:30 a.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

Two and two make four.

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10:30 a.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

In this case, apparently two and two makes four and a little more, it would seem. And now, I will open a chapter which will again be unpleasant for some of the hon. members opposite. The government of Quebec has decided to launch an investigation into the mismanagement of the crown corporation Hydro Québec. I must say that, when I was a teen, Hydro Québec was the pride and joy of all Quebecers.

Unfortunately, today, public satisfaction with this crown corporation of which we were so proud 20 or 25 years ago has sagged so low that obviously it has almost become a source of public shame. But, the government of Quebec was not afraid to launch an investigation. I ask my dear colleagues across the way why they refused to launch an inquiry into the attempted privatization of the Pearson Airport, from which, as everybody knows, the big wheels of Canadian finance made hundreds of millions? Why are you refusing to hold an independent investigation?

Because, my friends, the Conservative majority in the Senate overrode you on this issue. So, who will conduct the investigation now? Four Conservative and three Liberal senators. Of course, I have complete confidence in our senators. The Prime Minister just appointed Mrs. Bacon to the Senate. I have complete confidence, it goes without saying, that everything will be conducted above board and with the transparency that we should rightfully expect.

But, in Quebec, these people would not be selected to carry out such a task. Quebec will select truly independent investigators, who will probe the real wounds. If the wounds are infected, they will be lanced, and the infection will be drained off. I invite my Liberal colleagues opposite to reconsider their decision. If you are blameless, my friends, you have no reason to be afraid. Establish a royal commission of inquiry into the privatization of the Pearson airport. It would appear, however, that both parties, blue and red, are equally involved in this privatization. The numbers would appear to be the same on both sides, and, of course, they are. The situation is a bit like what happens with the leaves at this time of the year. When the wind blows, they turn over and their colour changes. When the blues are close to power, they change colour; when the reds are, they change colour too.

If the party that is currently running the country is blameless, it has nothing to fear. Let it establish a commission of inquiry, following the government of Quebec's proper lead.

To come back to Bill C-75, the federal government's entry criteria are not always what the provinces want. Federal agencies can therefore end up competing with provincial agencies, which may have different criteria.

Here again, rather than eliminate overlap and give the provinces what is rightly theirs, the federal government is insisting on keeping everything for itself.

By keeping the overlap, the federal government reserves the opportunity to intervene in the way we manage our agricultural sector in Quebec.

It is very odd, I must point out, for the department to administer this legislation rather than the Farm Credit Corporation. Although the programs differ, the Farm Credit Corporation already guarantees loans. This, I repeat, is another striking example of administrative duplication. We are not talking any more just of duplication among different governments but duplication within in a single government.

With this duplication, the deficit continues to grow. When we reach the point of paying $40 billion a year just to cover the interest costs of the debt, and the deficit is likely to reach $25 or $26 billion, we are entitled to question previous administrations.

When I was the mayor of my small community before entering federal politics the government of Quebec, which governs municipalities, forced us to balance our budget every year, and I am grateful to the government for that.

A municipality is not allowed to have a deficit, but it can have a surplus. So in the beautiful municipality of Garthby, where I was the mayor, every year we had a nice little surplus. People were happy, and told us they were proud of their town council.

My colleague of Blainville-Deux-Montagnes, behind me, was also the mayor of his municipality for a number of years. He understands very well what I am talking about.

However, if you want a surplus you must do what you have to do for it. When it was time to say no, we said no, and when it was time to increase taxes, we did so. I would never have taken a mortgage on my house to buy food for my family. No one can afford the luxury of borrowing week after week to buy food. Yet, that is what my colleagues across the way are doing. Even worst, the Trudeau government did not know how to count. Unfortunately, the Conservatives were in power for nine years. They wanted to make up for lost time, and we did not stop them.

I was saying that municipalities have an obligation to present balanced budgets. Maybe the government should also consider passing a law which would force it to table balanced budgets. Since to have enough you must have a little more, municipalities used to set property taxes a little higher than they normally would, in order to have a little 1 or 2 per cent surplus, which is quite reasonable.

Consequently, we are not opposed to the amendments put forward in Bill C-75. However, we object strongly to maintaining overlap and duplication, whether they are in the federal government, in the federal machine, or between federal and provincial jurisdictions.

A moment ago, I spoke of the existence of two departments of agricultre for the dairy industry, one for industrial milk, and one in the government of Quebec for fluid milk. It does not make sense.

In closing, I can assure my colleague, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, that despite all these small flaws, we will vote in favour of this bill at third reading. This will accelerate the process. Yet, we will do so without much enthusiasm, because it is not in the interests of our farmers, in the long term. In the short term, it is not that bad.

I extend an invitation to my colleague, the parliamentary secretary, to visit Quebec. His is probably not as busy as his boss, and he could come to explain this bill. For my part, I will explain it to the farmers of my riding. They do not know very much about this measure. Is is incredible how often we have to explain to our constituents measures that are taken by the federal government, but that people are totally unaware of, especially in agriculture.

I spent a week in my riding, and when I meet farmers in my capacity as agriculture critic, which I have been for seven months now, I like to ask this trivia question: "Who is the Minister of Agriculture in Ottawa?" Only rarely do I get the right answer.

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10:40 a.m.


Maurice Bernier Bloc Mégantic—Compton—Stanstead, QC

There is none.

Farm Improvement And Marketing Co-Operatives Loans ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

According to my colleague from Mégantic-Compton-Stanstead, there is none. He is not totally wrong, because in Quebec, our Minister of Agriculture is Marcel Landry. It is Marcel Landry, and not the Minister of Agriculture whose name I will not tell, because the House of Commons Standing Orders prevent me from doing so. Therefore, I am not contributing to his promotion in Quebec.

All kidding aside, the parliamentary secretary should come to Quebec, and I would bet my bottom dollar that, out of ten farmers, not one would be able to give the name of our Minister of Agriculture in Ottawa. Quite often, those who can give it say it wrong and only give his last name.

Farmers in our province are much more attached to Quebec than to Ottawa, and I must say that I am proud of it. I am very proud of it. And the day will soon come, I think, when our farmers will understand that it would be so simple, instead of having three options for borrowing money-two of them being federal-, to at least combine them. It would be cost effective. This would be a good way to save $25 or $30 million without it hurting too much.

The other day, I was listening to the Minister of Finance say to his colleague, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe-Bagot: "Give me some areas where I can make cuts, where I can save some money". I am giving you one, the farming industry. Combine these two possible options for borrowing money. You will save at least $25 or $30 million. Taxpayers would be thrilled. Also, farmers would save time and effort. Instead of having to check which one would be best, they would have to see only one. The ideal solution for our farmers would be to keep only one of the two, the Quebec one: the Société de financement agricole du Québec.

Thank you for your attention and, in concluding, I would like to mention that we will vote for Bill C-75, because we cannot do otherwise.

Farm Improvement And Marketing Co-Operatives Loans ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I assure the House that in Saskatchewan farmers do know the name of the agriculture minister but their faces are not glowing or smiling when they think of his name.

I rise in the House to indicate the Reform Party's support for Bill C-75. The program is being used by an increasing number of farmers. As we enter into the sunset phase of direct subsidies, it is imperative that farmers have access to proper financing. Excess cash flow that had been previously freed up from government subsidies is all but non-existent, and that is not bad. Farmers are now relying heavily on the banks and credit unions to provide them with the necessary cash flow to expand, diversify or maintain their operations.

However, as is the case with small business operators, farmers have had and continue to have a number of difficulties securing loans with financial institutions, whether for buying land or covering operational expenses.

Reformers believe farmers and farm marketing co-operatives have access to financial assistance not through government administered programs like the Farm Credit Corporation and its provincial counterparts but through chartered banks and credit unions.

The intent of the Farm Improvement and Marketing Co-operative Loans Act is: "to increase the availability of credit to farming operations and farmer owned marketing co-operatives to improve farm assets and strengthen production and financial stability". We are talking for the most part about farm improvement loans when we talk about FIMCLA.

Increasing the aggregate amount available to farmers and farmer owned co-operatives from $1.5 billion to $3 billion will continue to fulfil the objectives set out by the Farm Improvement and Marketing Co-operative Loans Act. Farmers have utilized this program from across Canada. The program has been extremely popular, with the number of loans issued in the past five years increasing by over 1,000 per cent. Increasing the levels of moneys available under the program to $3 billion will enable a greater number of farmers to secure loans.

There is some concern, however, with the reluctance of financial institutions to provide loans to farmers without some sort of guarantee from the government. This is not to say these financial institutions will not provide loans to farmers; they will, but with an arm's length of preconditions and unfavourable interest rates.

Why are the banks so reluctant to provide loans to farmers and farmer owned marketing co-operatives? Possibly it is because governments are so willing to get involved in financial guarantees, from megaprojects right down to small business entrepreneurs.

The program over the years has had a default rate of only 1 per cent. A 1 per cent default rate is quite impressive when we compare it with other sectors of the economy. That speaks very well of our farming community and tells us about the quality of the people involved in the agricultural industry.

The banks over the past couple of years have lost incredible amounts of money in defaulted loans to the likes of the Trizec Corporation and the Reichmanns. However, with individuals like the Reichmanns the banks are willing to bend over backward to provide financing for their risky ventures. The chartered banks appear to be prejudiced toward small business and farms or else do not care so much about the smaller accounts even though they likely compose the most reliable sector of bank customers. Farming can be risky as well, but looking at past performances farmers have been a very credible risk.

Farmers see this bill as the lesser of two evils. Ideally we would like to see the government get out of the business of guaranteeing loans to farmers and to farmer owned marketing co-operatives. We do, however, see it as an important step in the transition from a subsidy based industry to an entity able to compete on its own feet.

We have stated in the House a number of times that farmers can compete globally. This can be accomplished with government's getting out of the business of telling farmers or related industries how they should run their businesses.

Unfortunately Liberals have a long history of interfering in places they do not belong. All I have to do is say three letters and members will recognize them immediately, NEP. The blood begins to boil in my fellow Reformers and Canadians right across the country, particularly in the energy producing areas, when they think of the national energy plan. That is an instance where government got involved in business. It should not have done so. It got involved in industry when it should not have done so and messed it up. It is very important the government not get involved directly in business but that its members be the legislators who allow businesses to carry on in a fair and equitable environment.

It is sad to say the government continues to perpetuate the myth that it knows what is best for business. For the remainder of my speech I will address some of the areas the government must remove itself from. One is the lending business.

The Farm Credit Corporation, the FCC, seems to have outlived its usefulness in its present form, a dinosaur that should be put out of its misery. The FCC provides services duplicate to those services already provided by banks and credit unions. As pointed out by the member for Moose Jaw-Lake Centre, there are private lenders willing to do the job and they see FCC as a publicly financed competitor where borrowing money to lend money is not right.

It is ludicrous that a government in debt as much as this government is guaranteeing loans to farmers. The FCC is also in the business of loaning money to farm related industry. How many ways do we approach this? Certainly we are putting

ourselves as government in a compromised position when we are the legislators of the lending industry. We are guaranteeing loans and we are also providing loans. The waters are indeed muddy.

What is next for the Farm Credit Corporation? About the only thing the FCC does not do is provide long term loans at reasonably fixed rates. That was the original concept under which the FCC was created.

If this is not possible, why do we keep the FCC around? A related issue to the FCC fiasco is the amount of money being given to the western economic diversification program and the prairie farm rehabilitation administration, the PFRA, with regard to the farm machinery industry in Saskatchewan.

As a Saskatchewanian I see the importance of a home grown agricultural manufacturing business. I am in favour of creating new agriculture technology in responding to the desire for increased efficiency and diversification and creating jobs in a stable economy. If the government is involved in financing these ventures, it is of concern to us and taxpayers alike; often we are the same people.

There is no reason the farm machinery industry should be propped up either in the short term or the long term. Many of the Liberal hair brained short term financing schemes have turned into long term drains on the public purse.

In the past eight years over $34 million has been approved for loans or grants to Saskatchewan farm industry manufacturers. The agreements are a combination of grants and interest free, non-repayable and conditional loans. Although the $34 million is a combination of federal and provincial governments, the federal government through western economic diversification and the PFRA have provided a substantial amount.

It appalls me when the president of the largest agricultural machinery manufacturer in Saskatchewan makes the following statement: "A company has no choice but to look at what is there and to take what is offered if you are to remain competitive". This is from the Western Producer on June 1, 1995.

Flexi-Coil has received over $19 million in closing grants from the federal and provincial governments since 1987. Dale Botting, executive director of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, commenting on the grants and loans given out states that the days of government giving money to a chosen few has to stop.

A recent survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business members shows that most are opposed to business subsidies. Members who have received grant money in the past would have proceeded with their expansion without the grant by a margin of three to one.

Another farm machinery manufacturer, Bourgault Industries, is competing head to head with Flexi-Coil. Bourgault Industries has not received a single government dollar yet it has become a successful business, with sales of over $50 million each year.

In an article in the Western Producer Gerry Bourgault, president of the company, stated: ``Refusing government loans and grants shows up in a healthy bottom line. When sales are down the company is forced to reassess its equipment and make changes that farmers want. Government money clouds the financial picture. If you do not run your business properly, government grants are not going to make up for that. Governments should not be in the business of giving money away to businesses. In most cases it is just squandered''.

The Liberal government should be in consultation with the likes of Gerry Bourgault. There is no doubt the Liberals have been and continue to consult the wrong individuals. The Liberals must stop interfering in agriculture and business. As stated by Mr. Bourgault, refusing government loans and grants shows up in a healthy bottom line. Propping up business with loans and grants does nothing more than create a greater dependency on government. Reformers believe the economy should be market driven and not skewed by government interference and intervention.

The small business loans program should probably be merged with the farm improvement loan program. They are both attempting to do the same thing. They are both supposed to be financially sound and we as members of Parliament must insist both programs be actuarially sound and that all costs with respect to the program should not come out of the taxpayers' pockets but should be paid for by the users of the loan guarantee program.

I understand the farm improvement loans are not subsidized by the taxpayers. We as legislators must insist on proper accounting and it be maintained. The administrative costs must be covered by the users and the default rate must not become so high that the moneys are taken out taxpayers' pockets to subsidize any industry, whether it be my industry, farming, or any other small business or megaproject. We all have to operate by the same rules.

The Reform Party sees Bill C-75 as a small step in the right direction with respect to private sector lending institutions making capital available to viable farm operations. The government still has a long way to go in removing itself from the grants and loans to all areas of the economy.

FIMCLA must be made self-sustaining. It must not be a burden on the taxpayers and governments. Governments must get out of the business of being in business and they must provide fairness and equity to the business sector.

The government must set some priorities. I cannot enunciate this strongly enough. The first priority is to get out of the grants business 100 per cent; no more grants, period. Second, there should be no public financial lending institutions. They provide a conflict for the government with the private sector. Governments should be in the business of making sure business operates fairly and is honest. It should not be in the business.

Third, there should be no loan guarantees to megaprojects and there should be no political patronage. Fourth, there should be no guarantees to small business and there should be no loan guarantees to farms, and we should not treat them differently.

To reverse the order-

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10:55 a.m.

The Speaker

My colleague will have the floor when debate continues after question period.

It being 11 a.m., the House will hear Statements by Members.

AidsStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Jesse Flis Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, by the turn of the century the World Health Organization estimates that as many as 30 million people may be exposed to the virus which causes AIDS. It is therefore critical for Canada to create partnerships with other governments in an effort to combat the spread of this deadly disease. For example, the Canada-Ukraine partners program is proving it is possible to contain HIV infection and prevent the devastation of AIDS.

Yesterday by hosting the president of the Ukraine's national HIV-AIDS committee, I had the opportunity to learn about community health education programs which will have a direct impact on both of our countries.

We must continue to support these efforts which serve as model examples of international co-operation.

Recognition Of Same Sex SpousesStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the content of the speeches made last night in this House on the recognition of same sex spouses shows that this country still has a long way to go as far as respect for differences is concerned.

The Liberal member for Central Nova, who made hateful and disparaging remarks on the gay community last winter, expressed her contempt again last night when she said, and I quote: "Canadians do not have to accept homosexuality as being natural and moral. Homosexuality is not natural, it is immoral".

The comments made by the Reform member for Calgary Northeast also reflect a narrow mindset.

The members of the Bloc Quebecois strongly denounce the contemptuous attitude of some Liberal and Reform members toward the gay community. We will never accept the attacks made against this community by small minded politicians, when all homosexuals want is the same rights as those enjoyed by other citizens.

National Awareness WeekStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, today wraps up national awareness week. This week was a time for Canadians to have a special opportunity to focus on promoting and creating barrier free learning for people with disabilities. It was a time to recognize the thousands of volunteers and the partnership of organizations and governments that adds strength to the message of access. One aspect of the program is the face to face program that matches employers with those with disabilities.

I am pleased to thank many of my colleagues, as many members from the House, including Reformers, are participating again this year.

As part of awareness week the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons had the opportunity to present the Centennial Flame award. As a member of that committee, I congratulate this year's winner, Miss Laurie Bellefontaine.

Opportunity is not created by quotas and coercion. Opportunity becomes real through community based initiatives such as this that promote understanding of the abilities and strengths of the disabled in the workplace.

I salute all who participate in this worthy program.

Child SupportStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Audrey McLaughlin NDP Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, 62 per cent of single parent families led by women live in poverty. Two weeks ago, the courts ruled against Suzanne Thibaudeau, who had challenged the law requiring custodial parents to pay taxes on child support payments. The law is unfair and simply impoverishes women even more. We have waited long enough.

Parliament has already debated this issue in the form of a private member's motion. There has been a task force on child support payments. The minister has had ample time and opportunity to act.

The minister has stalled on this issue for too long. It was this government that appealed the Thibaudeau case last year, causing another year's delay. I urge the minister to act immediately to change this unfair law.

EnvironmentStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently the United States Senate passed legislation allowing oil and gas development on the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd in the Alaskan wildlife refuge. This action contravenes a 1987 agreement recognizing Canadian and American joint responsibility to protect the habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd and the Gwich'in people who depend on it.

I urge the government to ensure both the continuation of the U.S. government's commitment and the right of the Gwich'in people to their traditional food source and longstanding way of life. We owe this action to our aboriginal people.

Royal Canadian Mounted PoliceStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Herb Dhaliwal Liberal Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to inform the House that the appeal challenging the wearing of turbans by Sikh RCMP officers has been summarily dismissed in the unanimous decision made by the Federal Court of Appeal in Calgary.

The measure of a strong and just society is its ability to weave our differences into the fabric of our national identity. The dismissal of this challenge has once again proven that Canada is a strong and just society.

These decisions reaffirm that the wearing of articles of faith by a Sikh police officer in no way impedes their ability to perform their duties with impartiality and fairness.

Let this decision be a wake up call for the Reform Party. Its opposition to Sikhs in the RCMP is out of line with the Canadian legal tradition and demonstrates an intolerance to cultural diversity. When will the Reform Party realize the 1930s are over? It is 1995 and the time has come for it to support the religious freedom of all Canadians.

Violence Against ChildrenStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, each year over 225,000 Canadian children are abused. According to the committee on sexual offences against children and youth, 53 per cent of females and 31 per cent of males have been victims of one or more unwanted sexual acts.

Approximately four in five of those incidents happened to victims when they were children or youths, and one-third of all assaults against children occurred within the family. In addition, at least one million children in Canada have witnessed violence by their fathers against their mothers.

Children who witness violence by one parent against another are often considered children at risk by child welfare authorities because of the lasting emotional and psychological consequences for the child. In many cases the children grow up to be abusive themselves, thus perpetuating the cycle of violence.

I appeal to all levels of government and to all Canadians and organizations that we must do a better job related to violence against children.

Sharing Of Federal DebtStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the sovereignists have always maintained that a sovereign Quebec will negotiate sharing the federal debt with the Government of Canada on an equitable basis. A study conducted by the Institut national de la recherche scientifique and released yesterday shows that a sovereign Quebec's share of the federal debt would have to be reduced by $24 billion on account of the fact that, over the years, Quebec has paid more than it has received from the federal government. The INRS study concludes that a sovereign Quebec should therefore be responsible for 17.4 per cent of the federal debt.

It is important to note that in the present federal system, Quebecers currently assume 23 per cent of the federal debt with the $30 billion in taxes that they pay each year to the federal government. Hence the INRS conclusion that the total debt burden of a sovereign Quebec would amount to 103 per cent of GDP, as compared to 108 per cent for Canada at the present time.

According to the INRS study, a sovereign Quebec would therefore have a lower debt level than Canada now has.

HealthStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Philip Mayfield Reform Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, the time has come to give Canadians freedom of choice in health care.

Every year Canadian taxpayers put tens of billions of dollars into health care premiums to pay for our medicare. Yet many of these same Canadians make the conscious decision to drop out of the conventional health care system, choosing alternate forms of health care.

One of my constituents, Mrs. Margaret Wiens, recently wrote to me: "A change in the way we deliver health care is long overdue. It is discriminatory to only cover and recognize conventional drugs. I and hundreds of thousands of others in Canada faithfully pay our medical premiums, and therefore we should have freedom to choose our preferred type of treatment".

I am confident that Canadians are capable of making intelligent decisions on how they will care for their bodies. It is time for the government to share this confidence. The Canada Health Act must be changed to return to Canadians the freedom of medical choice they are calling for.

Health Care ReformStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Robert Bertrand Liberal Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the PQ government refused to support an opposition motion on health care reform. It read as follows: "That this Assembly support the proposal by the Leader of the Bloc Quebecois, Lucien Bouchard, to broaden the scope of the ongoing consultations on health care reform in Quebec".

This failure of the PQ government to accede to this legitimate request by their separatist friend and partner clearly shows that the coalition in Quebec City has two faces. They are partners for promoting sovereignty but when it comes to health, they are on opposite sides of the issue.

Does this contemptuous rejection of their Bloc friend's proposal a sign that, this time, the PQ will not let him dictate a new "virage" or change in direction?

Ontario ElectionStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, ten good reasons to vote Liberal in Ontario:

(1) With the Liberals you know you are always safe.

(2) Bob Rae and the NDP have done enough damage.

(3) The Liberals always care.

(4) Mike Harris is harmful to your health with his foolish tax proposals.

(5) In one way or another, if you are a single mom, youth, middle class, senior, or own a small business, you can be certain that Harris is after your pocketbook.

(6) You could not sleep at night knowing that there are Tories in Ontario.

(7) If you are injured, disabled, sick, or looking for your annual check up, Harris will be waiting for you to add salt to your wounds and do more damage to you.

(8) You have fooled with the Tories federally and with the jacuzzi socialists provincially and you were badly wounded.

(9) In the blink of a eye, Tories will suck the blood and money out of the most vulnerable in Ontario.

(10) With the Liberals, you will not take a chance. Your satisfaction will be guaranteed.

Sharing Of Federal DebtStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Quebec minister responsible for restructuring released the findings of another study. According to the minister, the results of that study, which focused on the proportion of the national debt that would have to be assumed by an independent Quebec, are very positive.

Of course these results are positive. Do you think for a moment that the Quebec minister "responsible for propaganda" would have agreed to release a study which would not serve the separatist cause of the PQ government?

Rather than continuing to spend Quebec taxpayers' money with impunity, in an attempt to give some credibility to a project which does not have any, the PQ government should concentrate its efforts on job creation and economic recovery.

Otherwise, at the rate it is spending public money, there will soon be nothing left but the debt to share in the PQ and BQ kingdom.

Aboriginal NationsStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


André Caron Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, we were very disappointed by the editorial of free lance writer Gilbert Oskaboose in The First Perspective magazine.

His disparaging remarks on Quebecers and sovereignist leaders do not in any way reflect the feelings expressed by the First Nations chiefs and members with whom we meet as part of our work. Our differences of opinions usually do not keep us from having civilized discussions. Unfortunately, the tone used by the editorialist does not reflect the respectful attitude which we are used to in our contacts with members of the First Nations.

Quebecers, including a sovereignist government which was the first one in Canada to recognize the existence of aboriginal nations, have, for a long time, been more open minded toward these people than Canadians have in general.

The Bloc Quebecois hopes that aboriginal leaders will denounce the comments made by Mr. Oskaboose, so as to promote, on both sides, the open-mindedness which will lead to agreements such as the ones which were recently signed by Quebec and the Crees and which will foster peace and co-operation between our peoples.

InfrastructureStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have been down this road before: Liberal, Tory, same old story.

If the minister of public works is not too busy pork barrelling or designing a statue of himself for his memorial parkway he might want to take a Sunday drive down the scenic 104 highway, where he will find a message on a billboard unveiled today by the Reform Party and concerned citizens of Wentworth Valley.

Up until this point the minister has refused to listen to the people. Maybe this message will get through to him. Diversion of $26 million so that the minister can buy votes in his riding is simply unacceptable behaviour, and taxpayers are not going to take it any more. Nova Scotians and all Canadians are sick and tired of the despicable political practices of the Conservatives and now the Liberals, especially of the minister from Cape Breton.

What does the sign say to the minister? It says "$26 million is highway robbery. Give it back to highway 104".