Mr. Speaker, to pick up where I left off, I was in the midst of condemning the unfairness of the finance minister's last budget. I was saying that nearly 50 per cent of Canada's industrial milk comes from Quebec, and that the farmers in my region produce 10 per cent of Quebec's industrial milk.
I was also saying that the Minister of Finance will cut Quebec dairy producers' income by five to seven per cent. I was demonstrating how unfair it is by using the rule of three-and I urge dairy producers to listen closely to my reasoning. Last year, the Minister of Finance paid close to $3 billion to grain producers in western Canada in compensation for eliminating grain transport subsidies. The Liberal government gave $1.6 billion out of this $3 billion to individual grain producers, depending on the size of their farms. Again, this $1.6 billion was not taxable and, by giving $1.6 billion to grain producers, the government will save $560 million in the future. As a result of eliminating dairy subsidies, the government will save $160 million in Quebec. If, in order to save $560 million, the government spent $1.6 billion, how much should it pay dairy producers in compensation for the $160 million in cuts? Using the rule of three, I arrive at some $400 million.
The Liberal government is imposing a $400 million penalty on dairy producers, if we want to be as fair to them as to grain producers in the west.
The agriculture minister stated earlier that he had consulted with dairy producers. With all due respect, what he said is wrong. Last weekend, I toured five ridings and met with dozens of dairy producers. I have here a statement showing that, for all of January, the Canadian Dairy Commission paid a dairy producer in my riding $506 in subsidies.
Would dairy producers accept losses of $7,000 or $8,000 a year? No way. What the minister should tell us is that he indeed consulted, but with milk processors, not dairy producers.
Dairy producers managed to adjust to competition by reducing costs.
Today, they are being rewarded with cuts of five to seven per cent, which represent average losses of $8,000 per dairy farm in Quebec. The government is being unfair.
This government told us that it had not raised taxes. That is true. It will, however, raise the cost of the food basket, including dairy products like butter and cheese. The cuts imposed by this government will translate into a price increase of 28 cents a pound for butter and 50 cents a kilo for cheddar cheese.
I therefore condemn the 1996 budget as unfair to dairy producers across Canada.