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House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Bill S-13Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative Charlotte, NB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the government House leader. Is the government willing to provide government time for the House to debate and vote on Bill S-13, an act to incorporate and to establish an industry levy to provide for the Canadian Anti-Smoking Youth Foundation?

Bill S-13Oral Question Period

3 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I hate to disappoint the hon. member, but the negotiations between the opposition and the government in terms of House business occur at 3.30 today, not 3 o'clock.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

November 3rd, 1998 / 3 p.m.

The Speaker

Today is a very special day for us in the House of Commons. In just a few moments I will present some 17 World War I veterans.

I want to explain first of all how I would prefer to proceed in this regard. I will say just a very few words and I will present the veterans who are behind me. All of you can see them from your seats.

You will understand that when I call out their names some of them will stand, some of them will remain seated and simply wave, and others have hearing problems, but they are here and they belong to us. After I have read all their names I would like you to join with me in welcoming them to our and their House of Commons.

I am delighted to welcome some 17 of our World War I veterans who are, as I said, in the public gallery just behind me.

The wars touched the lives of all Canadians, without regard to age, race or class. Fathers, sons and daughters died in action, were wounded, and many came home changed for evermore. Those who remained in Canada also served—in factories, as volunteers and wherever they were needed.

Together they fought a war and they forged a nation, a nation that we proudly call our Canada.

The standard they set was repeated by those who followed in the World War II and in Korea. It is a tradition of service and international respect that continues today with the courageous efforts of our peacekeepers in hot spots around the world.

To all these people, these Canadian heroes, today we the representatives of 30 million Canadians say thank you. Parliament, as do Canadians in communities across the land, owes them so much also. Our pledge is never to forget their sacrifice and to pass on their legacy to our children and our children's children.

I will read out their names and, as I said, they will make themselves recognized by you in their own way.

Mr. Henri Allain, Mr. Henry John L. Botterell, Mr. Gordon Boyd, Mr. Frederick Connett, Mr. Fred Evans, Mr. Fred Gies, Mr. Lazare Gionet, Mr. Harold Lidstone, Mr. Walter Loudon, Mr. Paul A. Métivier, Mr. Lawrence Morton, Mr. Percy Perdue, Mr. Harry Routhier, Mr. Tom Spear, Mr. Ernest Stevens, Mr. Stephen Thorlakson, and we have with us today a man they call their mascot. He is one of two surviving Victoria Cross winners, Mr. Smokey Smythe. These are our veterans.

Remembrance DayOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Bonavista—Trinity—Conception Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Fred Mifflin LiberalMinister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency)

Mr. Speaker, I address veterans of the great war and other veterans who are with us today.

Clearly this is a special occasion for special people at a special time. As we approach Remembrance Day and we celebrate veterans week, we who are so fortunate to have largely known only peace in our lives would do well to remember those who built our nation in the earlier years of this century. For so many war was a constant companion of their youth.

This Remembrance Day is a special one for it is the 80th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that silenced the guns for the first world war. The killing fields of Europe became remarkable at long last for their silence. More than 650,000 young Canadian men and women served. More than one in ten or 68,000 never returned.

These figures are just figures. They do not show the human side of war. They do not show the cold, the wet, the rats and the stench of trench warfare. They do not show the fear and the horror of war. They do not show the sorrow, the broken hearts shared both on the battlefield and by friends and families back home when entire battalions and regiments would be cut down as they marched in the maelstrom of enemy machine gunfire, whether it be the virtual annihilation of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in a mere 30 minutes fighting at Beaumont Hamel or the 80% fatality rate suffered by Canadian regiments during 10 days of drawn out fighting at Passchendale.

These figures do not show the triumph of Canadian spirit, ingenuity and determination during such battles as Ypres, Vimy Ridge or Amiens. It was indeed during the first world war that Canadians would earn a reputation for being among the most professional and effective soldiers. These brave Canadians earned for our country international recognition, respect and independence.

It is a sad fact that not many veterans of that war are with us. Perhaps there are a few hundred. Some would say their steps are a little more tentative these days, their hands perhaps a little more shaky, and their eyesight somewhat dimmed. After all, as the nation approaches the millennium, veterans of the great war are approaching and have surpassed their own centenary. Despite the many changes that age visits upon us, their legacy to their home and native land remains etched in time. We consider them a national treasure.

We are delighted, indeed honoured, to have our World War I veterans with us in the House today and, as we have done earlier, we salute them.

No sooner was that war over and won, a mere two decades later Canadians again were called upon to offer up their lives in the fight against tyranny in World War II. They fought on land, at sea and in the air. They fought for their homes, for their families and for their country. Just a few years later we answered the call to Korea.

Every time a country came under threat of occupation and enslavement, Canada answered the call, and our peacekeepers have kept up this military tradition by maintaining peace for over half a century.

This week it is our turn to say to those who lost their lives and to their families and to those who returned to build a great nation that we the inheritors of their courage and determination will continue to honour their sacrifice by acts of remembrance and the telling of their story to our children from one generation to another. We will not forget.

Remembrance DayOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

To the member who sent me this note asking how old our veterans are and to all members, the baby is 98 and the oldest one is 105.

Remembrance DayOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Remembrance DayOral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Reform

Peter Goldring Reform Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, as we rise in the House today to recognize the glory and sorrow of our veterans valiant efforts for Canada and Newfoundland in World War I in battles like Vimy Ridge and Beaumont Hamel, we should be reminded of the words of one young man from Guelph. No finer example of inspirational significance has been born by the horror of human conflict than In Flanders Fields :

We are the dead Short days ago, we lived, Felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Lived and were loved, And now we lie, In Flanders Fields.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae paused to reflect on the high price of peace and of man's duty to serve. His pen spoke out from the fields of war 83 years ago. He spoke for all who have faced their soul in the finality of the theatre of war. From Korea to the gulf and through two world wars he could well be speaking of all brave men who have soldiered the world to defend Canadian beliefs.

The brave young men who fought in the two world wars served in our armed forces and merchant fleet, contributing so much to the end of global war.

His words are carved in the walls of the House and are as enduring as is the threat of future war. This year marks 80 since the guns of the war to end all wars grew mute, a war the world learned not from even with a price of 60,000 Canadian dead. Canada's losses would continue in 20 short years.

Our veterans of Korea, the gulf war and peacekeeping duties know too well the significance of his words. This century the price of peace was war. One hundred thousand of Canada's young never grew old. One hundred thousand youths lie in foreign graves, one hundred thousand from the Korean and two world wars. When I visit foreign graves with Canada's war veterans I am deeply moved by their moments of reflective grief for their comrades they left behind so far from home so long ago.

Time has not yet healed their wounded souls. Near one century hence memories fade not. Near one century hence they still have not forgotten that by mere chance alone they survived as other did not.

As veterans grieve for long lost friends they ponder why the price of peace is war and is so very high.

Soon John McCrae's words will echo in this hall and resonate throughout the land as we pause to give respect to our honourable war veterans and remembered war dead. “If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, lest we forget”.

I am proud to be in this House today to speak to Canada's war veterans.

Remembrance DayOral Question Period

3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Maurice Godin Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure today to rise in honour of Veterans' Week, from November 5 to 11. This week is set aside to commemorate the contributions and sacrifices of the men and women who gave up their lives for peace, democracy and our freedom.

As they gather around the cenotaph on November 11, thousands of people will remember the courage of those who died at the front fighting for peace in the great world wars. This moment in honour of the memory of these people should be a time of reflection on the atrocities that have marked world history. Often, the past may appear to explain the present, but it can never convince us that human lives must be sacrificed for a cause, whatever it may be.

Thousands of them died in the line of duty, were wounded or taken prisoner. On Remembrance Day we honour their memory and that of all the other veterans of 20th century wars.

War also affected the lives of all those left behind by the soldiers who died in the war. Their families will remember this great meeting with destiny that was beyond their control and the painful moments that will remain always.

On this Remembrance Day there will be veterans who are surely remembering their friends and colleagues as they were before they fell. I think of the wives making their last farewells as their husbands went off to war, never to return, of the parents whose children never came home.

Let us remember, so that there is never again an armed conflict, and our children never have to learn the horrors of war. We have a duty to ensure that Remembrance Day receives the respect due to it, and retains its position among our noble traditions.

I have travelled with veterans' delegations returning to visit the battlefield sites, and the graves of their fallen comrades. Veterans now in their seventies and eighties trying to locate the resting places of comrades who lost their lives in their twenties, if not younger.

I have always been impressed with their appearance at these ceremonies, as they stand stiffly at attention, just as they did when they were still in the Forces. As soon as the speeches and prayers are over, they wander off in search of the resting places of their dead comrades, lost in their memories and grief for a brief moment.

These unforgettable experiences have made me realize the reality of war. Such pilgrimages are both extremely sad and extremely gratifying, gratifying because of the appreciation shown by those who were liberated by our veterans. For instance, during my visit to Dieppe in 1997, I realized that our servicemen were true heroes in the eyes of the French.

These men and women did not forget the hard lessons of 55 years ago and they remember that our veterans liberated them. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the armistice that brought World War I to an end. On November 11, 1918, all of humanity pledged that there would never be another war. This universal hope was short-lived.

Twenty years later, the world had already forgotten the war's atrocities and launched into an even more deadly conflict, World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945. Six years of civilian and military losses. Six years of fighting for our freedom. These were the six most defining years in history.

On behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives during the two world wars, the Korean war and in numerous UN peacekeeping missions.

Let us hope, as they did, that there will never be another war.

Remembrance DayOral Question Period

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with great honour and humility that I mark Remembrance Day on behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus.

Eighty full years ago from this Remembrance Day, the great terrible guns of the first world war fell silent on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

When the great war began in 1914, the Canadian regular army was made up of only 3,110 Canadians. Yet over 66,000 died in the killing fields of France and Belgium, with so many more deaths of our merchant mariners, our navy, the Newfoundland forces and the Royal Flying Corps.

World War II brought our death toll to over 100,000. With great pride and great sadness and with tremendous respect I recognize the ultimate sacrifice given by those killed in all wars and the terrible sacrifice also of their loved ones and their friends.

I will soon be joining these honourable veterans and other members of this House in France and Belgium to pay our respects to Canada's dead from the first world war.

This day is marked to ensure we never forget those who gave their lives for all of us. Let us never forget those veterans who suffered unspeakable horror in Korea, Japan and Hong Kong.

Let all of us in this House commit to doing all we can to ensure that those who served in our merchant marine are treated with respect and justice.

Let us recognize those who fought fascism as part of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion in Spain. Let us also ensure that those brave Canadian prisoners of war sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp receive the justice they deserve.

As the first black member of parliament for Nova Scotia, it is my honour to remember those who served with the segregated Number Two Construction Battalion in World War I.

As aboriginal veteran day approaches on November 8, let us also not forget the over 7,000 aboriginal Canadians who served in the two world wars and in the Korean war.

Remembrance Day is honoured by many people in many ways. My comments have already spoken to those who died and their families and loved ones, but now as a parent I believe Remembrance Day must always address our youth. It is now their lives that we need to protect through remembering war.

If anything, let this day give each of us more strength and vigour in working for peaceful and democratic solutions wherever possible.

I finish with the words gracing the tombstone of Corporal Hugh Rocks of the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada who died on D-Day, June 6, 1944 and who is buried in the Canadian graveyard at Beny-sur-Mer in France: “There is a link death cannot sever. Love and remembrance last forever”.

Our duty especially today is to remember with honour and great thanks.

Remembrance DayOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

David Price Progressive Conservative Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Canada's veterans.

Although I pay tribute every year to the men and women who fought for Canada, this is the first time I have had an opportunity to do so in the House of Commons. I consider it a privilege.

Veterans served their country so that the inhabitants of Compton—Standstead and of all regions of Canada may vote for the candidate of their choice.

As this violent and bloody century draws to a close, young Canadians must know that the values, ideals and institutions we hold dear today required sacrifices.

Too often during this century, tyrants and dictators tried to expand their empires by force. Many people saw their villages burned, their families killed and their freedom taken away.

Too many times this century tyrants and dictators raised their ugly heads and expanded their realm through force. For individuals this meant seeing their villages burned, their families murdered and their freedoms extinguished.

Against the expanding tyranny of Germany and Austria in the first world war, Nazi Germany, Japan and Italy in the second world war, and communist North Korea, China and the Soviet Union in the Korean War, Canada held firm. Young, vibrant Canadians with their futures ahead of them understood the importance of the call and put their lives on hold and at risk. Soldiers, sailors and airmen travelled to the farthest reaches of the globe to protect their families at home, safe in Canada. Too many of them never came back.

Today, thanks to their sacrifice, we continue to be safe here at home in Canada. While young people must learn the history of this century, our leaders must remember its lessons.

Tyrants must never be appeased. Dictators must never be welcome. True justice and freedom must always be the guiding principles for the leaders of Canada, leaders who inherited the trust of those who never made it back.

As I stand here in this House of Commons, elected freely by the citizens of Compton—Stanstead, I remember those who served Canada and on behalf of all Canadians and all people who love freedom, merci, thank you.

Remembrance DayOral Question Period

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, in your name I have invited our World War I veterans to be received in Room 216N. You will understand that it will take us a few minutes to get them all there and as many of you as possible could come to meet them.

I invite you to come and shake their hands and perhaps thank them individually for what they and all the others have done for us. It is because of men like them that we are here today.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is good to pause for a truce once in a while in the battles we engage in regarding the policies of the government and the affairs of this great country. We have a lot to be thankful for and many people have sacrificed their lives so that we may have peace. We pay them our respects. It is not easy to do battle in this House as we battle with words and that is what parliament is all about.

In posing my question I need to explain to Canadians that it is not easy to get a resolution on to the floor of the House to be debated and battled over. I want to thank all of those who helped me in the battle to have agriculture discussed. Farmers have gone to bat for us and they have done a lot for this country. We need to recognize that.

The government gets the chance to choose what is debated here most of the time. The official opposition gets to name the topic for debate about one day out of every month and generally the topics submitted for debate are much more important to most Canadians than what the government puts forth.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of this topic to all Canadians. We may not debate agriculture very often, but I have no control over that.

I did not want this to be a partisan issue and so I did not press to have it votable. However my colleague had become quite partisan in his comments by documenting the failings of the Liberal government. Would it not be more productive to work with the government rather than chastise it for its failings? That is the question I would like the member to address.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the question from my colleague. I would say yes, normally it would be much better if we could work together in a non-partisan way toward solutions. I think the member would know as well as anybody that in the last five years we have been in Ottawa we have tried that approach. We have worked hard in committees to try to move government along the way that farmers and Reform MPs think it should go. It has not worked. It is to the point where we have a crisis in agriculture that was completely unnecessary.

Before we can force or push this government into doing something about it, we have to make it very clear to the government how it failed farmers. The government has failed farmers in terms of the legislation it has brought forward, like the legislation that eliminated the Crow benefit. It was handled very poorly. The new Canadian Transportation Act does not encourage competition, is not fair and will not lower the cost to farmers. The privatization of CN which was a good idea has been handled poorly.

The ever increasing user fees and what the government calls cost recovery have put an undue tax burden on farmers and have made it so they cannot make ends meet. The increase in taxation at every level and in every imaginable way has been loaded on farmers.

All of these things together with the weak position of this government and previous governments during trade negotiations have allowed this completely unlevel playing field which our farmers are forced to compete on. This all shows that the co-operative approach does not work with this government. That is why we have to point out the government's errors of the past. Hopefully by doing that we will get it going in the right direction so this crisis can be dealt with.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the debate today—

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Excuse me. Normally we go from side to side and I did not see the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. I am sorry but I have already recognized the hon. member for Crowfoot. I guess I owe you one.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

If the hon. member across the floor is concerned about not having time and has to leave the House, I would certainly acquiesce and allow him to stand and speak. Nevertheless, I have been given the floor.

I have been asked to meet with the municipal council of the town of Wainwright as well as the district council next week based on the crisis in the farming community in that area. Some of the farmers there have been told by the bank that they must list their land for sale.

This whole business of leaving things until we reach a crisis situation is not the way to do it. It seems that the only time the government will listen to us is when it is afraid of what the people are going to do at the next election.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I am sorry but I must interrupt. The hon. member for Lakeland for a very quick response.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Wainwright area was in the constituency that I represented last time but due to boundary changes it no longer is. They have the same situation there that we have in the Lakeland constituency which is a drought following several years of drought. The situation is made much more difficult because on top of that are the low commodity prices and all of the problems that have been caused by inaction and improper action on the part of this government. It is a crisis situation.

We have to get ideas from the people affected by this crisis and make sure that the government really listens to the ideas so that some action will be taken to deal with this crisis. It is an extremely serious one.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Reform

Gerry Ritz Reform Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the debate on the Canadian farm crisis. Of course we all know that it is Canada wide and that is why we are raising the topic here today.

I am sure all members of this House at some time in their lives were faced with the situation in which they had to scramble to overcome misfortune. Either due to choices they made or ones that were arbitrarily made for them, they awoke one day to discover that they were out of a job or that they had some sort of financial crisis looming over them. I just want members from urban centres to keep that picture in mind so they can appreciate what we are talking about today.

This is not like losing one's job. A Canada wide farm income crisis is like losing the best part of one's life and all that one has worked toward.

The present crisis in farm net incomes is nothing short of a financial earthquake rumbling across Canada toppling lives and livelihoods for years to come. One of the buzzwords we have heard in this House lately is child poverty. Child poverty is erupting and rearing its ugly head out on the prairies where I am from and across Canada due to the rural crisis. Like natural earthquakes, this one was preceded by tremors and will be followed by aftershocks that will reverberate in areas far from the epicentre on Canadian farms.

Unlike natural earthquakes, farmers cannot count on the Canadian forces coming to their assistance. In fact they cannot count on federal authorities to do anything except to keep many of the counterproductive, bureaucratic programs that they have loaded on to the Canadian farmer over the last number of years.

Simply put, the price that anyone can get for their produce minus their input costs and taxes determines whether or not they can succeed and invest for their future. Right now, economic turmoil in Asian markets is reducing demand and prices as well. The resulting oversupply in world markets is reinforcing this downward pressure.

But what about the input costs? In a free market, producers should be able to reduce their costs and adjust to a reduction in demand. That is not happening. That it is not happening is the fault of interference in the marketplace by a variety of players, including governments.

Canada's dollar is down and though the Prime Minister was too busy playing through to notice this summer, the effect has been devastating. For some exporters the low dollar stimulated sales, that is true. But for farmers the lower price for their products offset by massive agriculture subsidies by our neighbours to the south and even more by our so-called friends across the Atlantic have added to that situation. Furthermore, that low dollar cannot buy as much fertilizer, chemical, new machinery and/or parts which tend to be based on American dollars.

Of course the expenses connected to farming are not just the ones that go into the ground. Like every household and business in this country, farmers cannot seed or harvest a stock of grain without answering to a bureaucratic program or shelling out for a mandatory fee which is a tax. Farmers know as well as anyone that there has to be some tax to pay for government services, but we hold the opposite view of government members who display a desire to have constantly rising taxes pay for a constantly expanding government and its programs.

On a regular basis we have to question where these revenues come from, where they go and whether there is not a better way to provide certain services or manage public concerns. We do not see a commitment to re-examine the status quo on a host of issues from taxation to democratic accountability from that side of the House. We do not expect to see any imaginative resolutions to the present agricultural crisis either.

The farmers are doing their best. One of my constituents, Mr. Rene Cadrain, wrote in the Western Producer “They say diversify. I've been diversifying all my life and things are getting worse by the minute”.

The federal government can try to pawn off its responsibility by saying that Asia has depressed prices and there is nothing it can do about that. But what is really happening to the price of grain worldwide? We can see that a loaf of bread still costs the same. As a baker, Mr. Speaker, I am certain you can answer to that.

The Europeans are injecting billions into subsidies to keep farmers growing wheat when the market is already well served in that area. Insulated from the real price they should be getting, European farmers are contributing to a glut that nonetheless leaves millions of starving people around the world. That is obviously something that needs attention all by itself. But this government has done nothing to counteract the mistaken policies of its trading partners.

We scaled back our agriculture safety net from $2.5 billion to $600 million in accordance with the world trade agreement. Good for Canada, but we forgot to hold our allies to that same standard. The Americans are getting into the act now with their own bailouts.

Despite Canadians selling only 1.5 million tonnes into that market that consumes 35 million tonnes, this government does nothing as frustrated Americans stop our trucks. It is certainly ironic when a prairie farmer tries to sell his own wheat in the U.S. and he is arrested by his own government, and when his government tries to truck the wheat down there, it is turned back by state troopers. It gives you a greater appreciation of the comment in the Lethbridge Herald recently that wheat production is 10% grain and 90% politics.

We know that this government will be going to international conferences soon to discuss these issues, but will it just be a replay of Kyoto? No plan until they step from the hotel, no idea of what Canadian farmers need to compete and prosper and no idea of the cost and implications until it is too late.

We should all recognize the difficulty that governments face when they try to satisfy many competing interests. This is a diverse sector. Any policy has unintended consequences and is bound to have as many detractors as it has beneficiaries.

Most of the difficulties experienced by farmers in this time of falling net income relate to the tax burden. Federal income and payroll taxes are bad enough, but due to offloading by senior governments, many rural municipalities are forced to rely on excessive property taxes to maintain their services. This type of tax is not tied to the ability to pay and looms larger as land values fail to reflect the drop in value of the crops grown on them.

Senior levels of government brag about how they have balanced their budgets, but they are bragging to the same taxpayer who is getting squeezed at the local level. It is a shell game that no longer fools many Canadians.

Of course jurisdictions cross at the federal and provincial levels with negative consequences. The federal government is responsible for the railways, but has not come up with a policy to make the system more efficient. It offered a one time payout to eliminate the Crow rate which equalled one year's worth of freight. We are still shipping product. The effect is that now farmers are paying an extra 30 cents a bushel for freight, a major input cost.

What we have now are piecemeal rail abandonments, the destruction of elevators and the towns that support them, and longer hauls to market for crops. The roads take a pounding without any dedication of fuel taxes to compensate the local governments to fix them. The farmers' costs go up and grain ends up sitting in bins.

The feds and the provinces cannot agree on who is responsible for the environment either. We all have a stake in it of course, but policies that impose flat charges on a whole range of goods and services without any recognition of whether a large western farm of 3,000 acres has the same impact as an eastern farm of 70 acres of a diverse crop can wipe out that narrow margin of income.

Taxes and environmental fees on automotive parts and petroleum products can loom larger for a farmer than a high volume urban operation. We are never sure whether that money is going toward an environmental purpose or into general revenues. Farmers are certainly willing to pay their fair share and they have been but the key word here is fair and we just do not see that.

I am calling for the government to stand up for Canadian farmers on the international stage and to re-examine how the agricultural sector is treated within our borders. Farmers as businessmen need flexibility, accountability and efficiency from government policies. They need to see a thorough re-evaluation of the many short term band-aid solutions that have piled up over the years. They do not want handouts. They are very self sufficient. But they could use a playing field that would allow them to compete fairly and efficiently now and when times are good.

I quote my constituent, Mr. Cadrain, again: “Wives have to work to put food on the table and pay utilities. Why should we who feed the world go with less than the people we feed?”

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Malpeque P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I really would have enjoyed getting up for the previous speaker but you would not allow me. I do not want to get into a partisan fight on this issue although it is awfully hard not to get drawn into one by the remarks made by the last member, especially with some of the less than accurate information he was talking about on what this government is doing.

The reason some farmers were arrested for trying to move grain to the United States is that they were violating the marketing system in this country which is there to maximize for producers the returns that are in the marketplace. Thank goodness we have the Canadian Wheat Board or the returns would have been even lower. That's a fact.

Give us a little credit. We have some programs that make sense. The supply management industries, which the member's party is not too supportive of, are reasonably healthy because we have organized marketing. Perhaps we should be looking at organized marketing in other areas.

There is a serious farm crisis that is increasing. In this debate we have to try to find some solutions. We on this side are willing. I did not hear any proposed solutions in the member's remarks. Could he give us some solutions to consider rather than his rant against past policy?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Reform

Gerry Ritz Reform Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful the member did not get partisan. I would not know where to start. He speaks about the marketing system of the wheat board maximizing returns. A while ago I heard the movie line “show me the money”. I have not seen it. I am a western Canadian farmer who is under that system. Of course the parliamentary secretary is not because he is in a different part of the country. I have not seen that maximization of returns. Nobody can show me the bottom line.

People are trying to take their products across borders because they are frustrated. They do not have any black ink on their bottom line. Bankers are saying the only way they are going to get out of it is to sell their land. Where do they go? What do they do? I have farmers in my riding who are 55 to 60 years old who are ready to pull the plug because there is no tomorrow for them. They have diversified, they have agriculture, they have done everything government levels have told them to do, and they cannot be there for next spring's seeding. Where are they going to go? At that age what are they going to retrain in or retool to do?

Liberals have killed jobs in this country. What jobs are these farmers going to take on? Their wives are driving school buses, they are driving school buses. They are doing everything they can to put bread on the table and they cannot keep it up. So where do we go?

There is no open accountability in the wheat board. The member says the board maximizes our returns. Look at the continental barley market a couple of years ago. It took barley and drove it right through the ceiling for price. Everybody loved it. It had to shut it down after two months because it was competing against other forces that the wheat board did not want it to be competing against. When we took oats out from under the board, productivity in oats went up by 2000% on the prairies.

Those facts and figures are there to be verified. I could go on all day.

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3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

You're not making any sense.

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3:45 p.m.

Reform

Gerry Ritz Reform Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

I will answer to that at home. I will not answer to it to the member's potato producers in P.E.I.

We have a cheap food policy in this country. We have not seen the cost of a loaf of bread following the price of wheat. If it were we would be buying bread for two bits a loaf, and we are not. Mr. Speaker, you are a baker. You know the price of bread is up there on the quality stuff. You pay for that quality.

We have a quality wheat product in this country which is better than anywhere in the world. But we do not get a premium price for it. Why is that? The wheat board is maximizing our returns. We have high protein. We have the best milling wheat grown in the world. We have the best durum grown in the world. The Italians like it for their pasta, but we cannot get it to them. The Americans love it. Why are we handcuffing our farmers by not letting them have the flexibility to make their own decisions?

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3:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Liberal Charleswood—Assiniboine, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time.

I am very pleased to participate in this debate and to speak about one of the principal strengths of Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector, its innovativeness.

The sector has long been a leader in forward thinking and strategic planning. The agri-food sector demonstrates a keen business sense and a healthy enthusiasm for competition. Staying at the forefront of developments in this sector is a constant process, a process of adapting to changing conditions, of adopting new technologies and improving one's position in the marketplace.

Clearly if we are serious about this effort we have to put the money where it matters. Research is a critical investment. The work done by scientists in the agri-food area provides the foundation on which farmers are able to build a competitive business that returns them a reasonable income.

For example, a recent study by the Government of Canada called “The Economic Benefits of Public Potato Research in Canada” found that from 1971 to 1995 public research on potatoes returned $10 to the industry for every $1 invested. Other studies have shown that the return on investment in cereal research is 30%. That means for every dollar we spend we make $1.30 through things like increased exports, higher quality products and lower production costs. This is a very important figure when we consider how important and competitive the world market is for cereals.

With its commitment to both basic and applied research the Government of Canada is working hard with the agri-food sector to make that return grow. Canada's agriculture and agri-food research capabilities amount to a success story. They are key factors in helping our agriculture and agri-food innovate for further economic development and environmental sustainable. With the inevitable downturns that are a fact of life in the market system the strength of the connections between the research and technology development community and the wider agriculture and agri-food sector has never been more important.

In Canada public and private spending on research in the agriculture and agri-food sector amounts to $1 billion, and $350 million of that comes from the Government of Canada. If we think research is expensive just try competing without R and D against the likes of the United States, the European Union and our other main competitors. It will not work.

Producer organizations representing farmers in many commodities are participating in steering committees on research and development at the national level of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's research branch as well as at individual research centres across the country. This means that producers are playing a direct role in the direction of research and technology development activities. These activities will lead to new products and new processes to enhance productivity, open new markets and add value to agricultural products.

Through programs such as the matching investment initiative and the Canadian adaptation and rural development fund, producers have contributed both input and funding to support research and technology development activities in a wide range of areas, from biotechnology to environmentally sustainable farming practices. They deserve praise for their proactive efforts.

Research activities are supporting diversification by developing, testing and adapting new crops and techniques to Canadian conditions. Scientists are working to develop new applications for existing crops such as varieties of wheat better suited to pasta. From cranberries to canola, Canadian farmers have access to expertise and advice from researchers on lucrative new crops or niche marketing opportunities.

Research is also helping farmers lower their costs of production, whether through new soil conservation methods or high technology for livestock grading.

Research also facilitates the transition to a more global market. We are in a difficult stage of that transition right now, no doubt. The current situation has been shaped by an almost unprecedented combination of events. But both the sector and its partners in the federal and provincial governments remain actively engaged on all fronts to see that the farm income support system continues to work well and to evolve. That is what the meeting the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has called tomorrow is all about.

In the background, research and technology development activities across Canada are laying the groundwork for future success. That helps explain why Canadian agriculture is among the best in the world. Our expertise in things like irrigation, tillage, crop breeding and disease control is no accident. It is the product of hard work and investments on the research side.

Agriculture is high tech. Farmers make great use of technology. In wise and skilful hands the tools of technology can bring rich harvests. Go to any region in this country and look at its farms and its processing operations to get a measure of that.

Moving technology from the lab to the farm requires a close and ongoing relationship between Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's 18 research centres and producers in their regions.

Here are some examples for my hon. colleagues to consider. At the Lacombe Research Centre in Alberta, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association is involved in a study using computer vision technology to accurately grade beef.

At the Saskatoon Research Centre the Canola Council of Canada is working jointly with federal researchers on a study using the latest biotechnology methods to improve the quality of canola oil and meal.

At the Horticultural Research and Development Centre in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, work has led to diagnostic standards to correct mineral deficiencies for peas, beans and corn.

The Fredericton Research Centre, in a project supported in part by the New Brunswick Potato Agency, has developed a technology to improve blight forecasting.

These are just some examples, and they dramatically illustrate the point that whether it is new approaches to crop and animal production or learning how to control weeds and combat diseases that can cripple a harvest, what is accomplished at research centres will positively affect us all.

Increasing production is a great thing but we know that we are living on borrowed time if we ignore the long term quality of the soil, water and air. Using water and fertilizers more effectively means improved soil structure, conservation of water and a reduction in the so-called greenhouse gases that are behind global warming.

Hon. members wish to debate the current situation in agriculture, but I would think we should broaden the debate to focus on now and the future, because research is helping to shape the future of agriculture. In many ways it is helping to ensure there will be a future for agriculture.

In assessing the current situation we must not lose sight of what is being done to build on the many strengths of Canadian agriculture, and there are many strengths. Without question the agriculture and food sector in Canada is leading the way in setting priorities and making decisions and investments that will generate long term benefits at all levels of the food system, from producers to consumers.