Mr. Speaker, since 1970, Canada showed discipline by setting up a supply management system in the agricultural sector. Over the last 25 years, dairy, poultry and egg producers had to show self-discipline and comply with strict rules under this supply management system.
These producers have quotas which they must reach but not exceed. Everyone benefits: the producers, the processors and the consumers. Producers are guaranteed a stable price for their product, and processors benefit from a reliable, quality and stable supply; As for consumers, they benefit from a very high quality product at a fair and reasonable cost.
But then our good Minister of Finance decided to get involved. In March 1995, one year ago, he announced that subsidies to industrial milk producers would be reduced by 30 per cent over a two-year period. Twelve months later, the same Minister of Finance, a Liberal member representing the urban riding of LaSalle-Émard, once again targets industrial milk producers, and particularly Quebec's 12,000 industrial producers, who provide close to 50 per cent of the country's industrial milk.
To make things worse and even more unfair, in his 1995 budget, the minister not only reduced the subsidy by $560 million, thereby committing an injustice, but he also allocated close to $3 billion to western producers.
And in order to save the full amount of the milk subsidy he is abolishing, in order to save $160 million, he comes up with nothing to compensate the milk producers. These folks should not expect to be defended by Liberal members of this House.
I recall the Liberal candidate who won the election in Brome-Missisquoi, who is sitting here. There he is, looking at me obviously. He went around his riding saying: "I am going to Ottawa to defend you, to represent you", and this was in a largely rural riding. What does he have to say about these unfair cuts to milk producers? He remains silent. He does not say a word. And again on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I visited five ridings to meet with milk producers. They asked me: "Where are our government members in Ottawa?" Let us face it, MPs from the western provinces and the Maritimes will not be heard defending milk producers here. They hardly have any in their provinces: 50 per cent of milk producers are in Quebec and 30 per cent in Ontario.
But in Ontario, of 99 MPs, only one is a member of the Reform Party. I ask the 98 Liberal MPs from Ontario, what have you said in defence of your industrial milk producers? Nothing. We have not heard a peep out of you.
Last year, you managed to find $3 billion in compensation for western grain producers, but for milk producers in Quebec and Ontario, you came up empty.
So, the only ones you will see speaking out in this House against this unfair situation are the members of the Bloc Quebecois.
I remember very clearly at the time of the last referendum in Quebec hearing the leader of the opposition, a Liberal, say in the riding of Portneuf: "You cannot vote no, you are getting a subsidy from the government in Ottawa for your industrial milk". As it happens, I have been to see one of my friends, a producer, who told me about the subsidy he received for the month of January.
Mr. Speaker, would you like me to continue after question period?