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House of Commons Hansard #10 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Business Of The House

11 a.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion dealing with speaking times during today's debate.

I move:

That, during today's sitting, the Member proposing a motion on an allotted day shall not speak for more than twenty minutes, following which, a period not exceeding ten minutes shall be made available, if required, to allow members to ask questions and comment briefly on the matters relevant to the speech and to allow responses thereto, and immediately thereafter a representative of each of the recognized parties, other than that of the member proposing the motion, may be recognized to speak for not more than ten minutes, following which, in each case, a period not exceeding five minutes shall be made available, if required, to allow members to ask questions and comment briefly on matters relevant to the speech and to allow responses thereto.

Business Of The House

11:05 a.m.

Reform

Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I notice that the motion contained the words “during today's sitting”. In fact the motion was established some time ago. I understand there may be a party in the House that wants to enhance its opportunities for speaking.

I just want to make the point that for today's sitting, as far as we are concerned, this is the motion that exists. If any other party wants to have more speaking time then it should elect more seats in the House of Commons.

Business Of The House

11:05 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As the House leader of the official opposition has indicated, the motion being put forward today is for today's purposes only. It is certainly something that will be discussed at a future House leaders' meeting.

It is put forward by the opposition House leader in the usual spirit of gentlemanly co-operation we have come to expect from the official opposition. We will be discussing it in the future and we will see about electing more members in the future as well.

Business Of The House

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Does he have the unanimous consent of the House to present the motion?

Business Of The House

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business Of The House

11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business Of The House

11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

SupplyGovernment Orders

October 25th, 1999 / 11:05 a.m.

Reform

Howard Hilstrom Reform Selkirk—Interlake, MB

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government has failed to defend the interests of Canadian farmers from the unfair subsidies and unfair trading practices by foreign countries and its Agriculture Income Disaster Assistance (AIDA) program is a catastrophe since Canadian farmers are continuing to face record low incomes, especially in the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan where the combined realized net income is 98% below the five-year average and, accordingly, the government should immediately ensure that emergency compensation is delivered to farmers that have not been served by AIDA and launch an international campaign against foreign subsidies, provide tax relief, lower input costs, reduce user fees, and address the inadequacies of the farm safety net programs.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. At the outset of today's debate on the Reform motion dealing with the agricultural crisis in Canada I would like to notify the House that all members of the official opposition will be splitting their time today.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Reform

Howard Hilstrom Reform Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the motion is seconded by the Leader of the Opposition. This debate should not have even had to occur today because at the start of this session on October 12, after the prorogation of parliament, the Reform Party had asked for an emergency debate on the issue of farm income.

The farm income issue has reached a crisis proportion in the past year to year and a half and has been identified as such through committee hearings, by farmers themselves and by Statistics Canada.

The motion today sets out both short term and long term problems that have arisen. Certainly one of the long term problems that is identified in the motion deals with the practices of our competitors, namely the United States and the European Union. The program the government designed to address the farm income crisis was called the agriculture income disaster assistance program. I will be dealing with that a little later in my speech this morning. As an aside, I believe I indicated I will be splitting my time with the member for Calgary Southwest.

In dealing with this income crisis Reform knew as early as September 1998 that the farm situation in western Canada, in particular, and the cash crop people in Ontario were hitting a financial crunch which they were no longer able to handle totally on their own. As a result, the advisory committee on safety net programs was called to examine this issue. Reform put forward a motion to the Standing Committee on Agriculture to hold hearings with regard to the situation.

What came out of that was a solid recommendation to the agriculture minister as to the seriousness of this crisis and a suggested solution, which was a program of domestic support based on individual farm income situations. On receiving the recommendations from the safety net committee, which included all the different farm organizations across the country, the government took the program called AIDA and made it fit the amount of money on which the agriculture minister was able to get a commitment from cabinet.

The fact that the crisis was real, that the statistics were there from Statistics Canada, did not seem to matter. It was a situation where the government made the program fit the budget as opposed to taking care of the income crisis.

On top of that we had a situation where there was a natural disaster of flooding in southwest Manitoba and southeast Saskatchewan which certainly compounded the major problems in those provinces. We will see from the Stats Canada statistics that compounding will make for a negative realized net income in Saskatchewan and a drastically lowered realized net income in Manitoba.

Another statistic of great concern also comes from Statistics Canada. Total cash receipts for farms in Canada will be flat right through until the year 2003. When we look at whether or not the government has to do more for farmers in Canada to retain a viable agriculture sector, we see that the government has to do more in the area of domestic support than what it is doing at the present time.

The AIDA program was simply a two year program designed to provide funding for Canadian agriculture producers to cushion an extreme income reduction beyond their control. The government and the agriculture minister totally missed the point, missed the real crisis in farm income. The real crisis is that for many years now through the 1990s net farm incomes have been dropping due to the fact that commodity prices have been extremely low. This is mostly affecting commodities that are exported to other countries around the world.

We also see that input costs are rising dramatically. The cost of a pickup, for instance, which most farmers require, is between $30,000 and $41,000 for a decent half tonne. How can farmers continue to survive on commodity prices that are only designed to buy a $10,000 pickup? That is just one little example.

We can look at what the people who administer the AIDA program are saying in the media. The managing director said that despite all of the negative talk about the program not working cheques are flowing to producers. He said that he thinks the message is out there and that payments are going to the rural communities. Part of the problem is in getting our urban cousins, city dwellers, to understand and support agriculture. In essence, they are doing a spin doctor routine by telling Canadians that money is flowing, cash is flowing and that farmers are all right, when in reality there are tens of thousands of farmers who are not receiving any money. A relatively small amount of farmers are receiving money.

The results of this crisis are being reflected in the communities, in families and at the social level. In Manitoba even the United Church has seen fit to try to do something for farmers by way of financial assistance and by bringing this crisis to the forefront. That has not happened since the 1930s.

The Liberal government got us into this mess and it has failed in its efforts to fix it. That is why we had to force this debate today. The Reform Party has put forward many solutions for the government to consider because it has failed to bring forward a suitable long term program to fight this income crisis and it is now in the position of having to come up with some immediate domestic support to get cash into farmers' hands before the end of October.

The agriculture minister promised in December 1998 that he would have cash in the hands of farmers by spring. That did not happen and that is a condemnation of this government.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Reform

Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the member for Selkirk—Interlake for his presentation on the ongoing crisis in our agricultural sector and I urge him to persevere.

This is the fourth time in five months that the official opposition has tried to raise both the consciousness of the House and, more importantly, the consciousness of the government with respect to the seriousness of the income crisis facing our farmers, a crisis further compounded by flooding earlier this spring in certain parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

We are frankly at our wit's end as to what more can be done to get the Prime Minister to personally address this issue and to get the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to acknowledge the inadequacy of his efforts thus far, but for the sake of our constituents and Canadian farmers everywhere we will try again today.

Once again we will lay before the House the mounting evidence that Canadian farmers continue to face record low incomes due to factors beyond their control. We have already done so once before in this session during our replies to the Speech from the Throne, a speech in which the government completely failed to even acknowledge the problem. If only one fact could be cited, which should be sufficient evidence in itself to prompt the government to greater action, it is the fact cited in the motion that combined realized net income for farmers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan is down 98% from the previous five year average.

In human terms this means a lot more than the loss of income. It means tears and heartache. It means the churning of stomachs, worry and despair for thousands of farm families. It means a loss of the ability of those families to provide for themselves and their children. It means the loss of hope, which is the worst loss on the farm, a loss of confidence in the future and a desperate feeling of people not knowing where to turn. For some it has already meant the loss of the farm itself.

Once again we appeal to the government. If the government will not be moved by the statistics and the hard facts concerning the disastrous drop in farm income, surely it must be moved, and moved to do something more, by the human tragedy that surrounds those facts.

The position of the government appears to be that it has done all that it can or can be expected to do. This position we categorically reject. We urge the House to reject it by supporting this motion. Instead of pursuing its current policy, we therefore urge the government to do the following six things.

First, we ask that it acknowledge that its ill-conceived, ad hoc AIDA program is a failure. It should be reformed or replaced so that it actually delivers payments to farmers in combination with provincial contributions in the order of the $25 to $50 per acre promised in the press releases and the public statements of the minister.

Second, we ask that it present to the House an immediate plan to provide tax relief to Canadians, including agricultural producers and farm families. This plan should include reductions in taxes on agricultural inputs such as fuel and fertilizer and it should include reductions in user fees such as those collected through the Canadian Grain Commission and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Third, in order to find the money to meet the cost of providing any additional emergency assistance, the government should make a formal and urgent request to the Standing Committee on Finance to do precisely that, to find the money; not by increasing total taxes or borrowing or returning to deficit financing, but by readjusting the government's current spending priorities. This is precisely what any family or business facing an emergency situation would have to do. It would have to take funds from other areas to address the emergency requirements. This is what the government and this parliament should be learning to do, whether it is to cope with the spending requirements of an agricultural emergency or to cope with the government's $5 billion pay equity bungle.

Fourth, in order to address the longer term dimensions of the problem and to ensure that there is a long term future for agricultural producers, the government should present a plan to the House to redress the inadequacies of its current farm safety net programs, in particular crop insurance and the net income stabilization program.

Unlike the NDP we do not advocate a return to the protectionist or dependency creating subsidies of the past. Such measures would not survive challenges under either the NAFTA or the WTO and proposing them only raises false hopes that will be dashed later on.

What we do advocate is reforming crop insurance to include disaster insurance so that programs like AIDA do not have to be invented on an ad hoc basis after the fact every time there is a major climatic disaster like a flood or a drought.

We advocate an expanded NISA-type program that will really do the job, a single trade distortion adjustment program, a single agricultural income insurance program that compensates agricultural producers for income injury suffered as a result of somebody else's subsidies in violation of the spirit and letter of free trade.

This idea was first raised in this House by Elwin Hermanson, our former agricultural critic and now the leader of the official opposition in Saskatchewan. He is a respected agricultural leader who has just received an overwhelming mandate to represent the farming and rural communities of that province.

Fifth, we demand the immediate formation of an emergency team Canada mission to Europe and Washington, led by the Prime Minister but including the Minister for International Trade, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and other provincial officials. Their mission would be to make the case as it has never been made before that European and American subsidies, contrary to both the spirit and the letter of free international trade in agricultural products, are killing our farmers.

We have one further proposal for the agricultural minister which we insist he convey to the Prime Minister and that is that the Prime Minister himself participate in this debate. The Prime Minister has consistently absented himself from every major discussion of this issue in the House since he became Prime Minister six years ago. This is inexcusable in a country where agriculture is one of the major primary industries and where hundreds of thousands of Canadians are dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.

We are aware that the Prime Minister does not know the difference between wheat and toadflax, but surely the agriculture minister could brief him before he came down, because the Prime Minister's continued indifference to this issue is an insult to farmers everywhere in this country, particularly in the west.

If the Prime Minister really cares about this issue, why does he not come down here and say so, and present to the House not the usual fluff and chaff, but a plan incorporating the emergency measures and agricultural reforms which this motion urges upon the government?

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Liberal Wentworth—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, in a major speech of October 13 the member for Calgary Southwest berated the government for not having a good policy or an aggressive policy with respect to tax cuts and debt reduction. While I have great sympathy for helping not only western farmers but farmers in my riding, particularly the pig farmers who have recently suffered considerably from low prices, he now proposes and is advocating increased spending for crop and disaster relief for farmers.

Within the context of his remarks about debt reduction and tax cuts, can he put a figure on what he thinks the government should be spending on farmers who are in difficulty? Is it $1 billion? Is it $2 billion? Is it $3 billion? Is it $4 billion? Can he be specific in terms of the money that he would spend?

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for paying attention to my speeches, but if he had paid a little closer attention he would have had the answer to what he is driving at.

I think we should wait until we see the further updated presentations from Saskatchewan and Manitoba later this week with respect to the figure. Whether the figure is $1 billion or $1.5 billion, this is what we should do to meet that.

First, we should try to meet it within the existing government spending envelope. We are simply going to have to learn to do that. If there is an emergency let us readjust our spending and tell the Standing Committee on Finance to do that. We have some ideas as to where to get that money. We would be interested to see if anybody else in the House does as well.

Second, I said in my reply to the throne speech that one of the answers was to cut taxes. That is still part of our solution. Why not cut taxes, including taxes on agricultural inputs? That can be done without increasing the deficit or the spending requirements of the government.

The third thing which answers the member's question is, if the House had listened to Hermanson when he was here, as early as 1995 he proposed the reform of the NISA and the setting up of a single trade distortion adjustment mechanism. If that had been done the amount of money in the NISA accounts today to deal with emergencies would be significantly higher than they are. We would be in a much better situation to address this problem.

The answer is to listen when reforms are proposed by the official opposition.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very intently to the member's speech. As someone who has farmed for about eight years, I can understand some of the concerns and issues that are going through our farm community today.

The member said that the finance department and the finance committee should find the money. If I recall, it was his party that proposed something like a $600 million reduction in spending for the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food in one of its budget proposals. We left that money in that envelope for financing, yet the member's party would have withdrawn it.

Second, he talked about taking the NISA program and expanding it so that we protect farmers from all kinds of trade distortions that are occurring all over the world. I agree with him. It is a big problem that our farm community is facing today. I know that the member also believes in equality. I hear him saying it time and time again. Is he also going to protect every other business interest in this country from trade distortions all over the world using government programs?

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Reform Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, there are two responses to that question. First, the point about Reform advocating a reduction in agricultural spending several years ago is correct. However, we also proposed these other measures, which more than compensated for that from the farmers' standpoint and which would protect distortion adjustment mechanisms.

Second, if the member does have this great background in agriculture, which I am sure he does, he will understand that there is more protectionism today in the agricultural sector than there is in many of the other sectors that are subject to free trade. That has been the case ever since free trade has been talked about. It has been the big problem in Europe. The big problem is getting subsidies down in agriculture.

Where the trade distortion adjustment program is particularly relevant is in the agricultural sector. That is why we advocate it. There are other measures in both the WTO and NAFTA to deal with other trade distortions. In agriculture, those measures are inadequate as is demonstrated by the situation our farmers are in today.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to make a few comments on the issue that is before the House and the motion that is before the House today.

There is no question that the financial difficulty facing many Canadian farmers this year is of great concern to all of us: to myself, to the members of the government, to the agriculture and food community and indeed, to all Canadians. I know very well how difficult the times are for a number of Canadian farmers every year, but in particular, this year.

At the same time, I do not want to lose sight of the larger picture, not diminishing the problems, as I say, that a number of producers have. I want to remind all hon. members that the fundamentals of the agriculture and food sector remain on the whole very positive. On a national basis, farm income is only slightly below the five year average. I remind the House that is on a national basis.

Thanks to the safety net programs that we have in place, the cattle industry is prospering, supply management sectors are sound and, in spite of price instability, our hog sector continues to claim an ever increasing share of North American production, laying the groundwork for the future.

In addition, investments in the agriculture sector are up and food exports are increasing, in particular those of processed food products so that we get the value added and the jobs here in Canada. That is certainly an important area of growth for the future.

Unfortunately, however, some commodities in some regions are in trouble. These farmers are dealing with an extended period of low commodity prices but not extended to the extent that some of the members opposite are trying to make us listen to. We know that the prices of commodities in 1996-97 were some of the highest prices that we have had in the industry for a number of decades. The situation, however, has been aggravated by turmoil in the financial markets around the world, prolonged by the increasing use of subsidies in the United States and the European Union and made worse this spring in some areas by excessive moisture or, in other areas, by drought in certain parts of the country.

I remind the House that farmers have not been left to face these challenges alone. We have been working with them and the provincial governments to develop both short term and long term solutions. I remind everyone that agriculture is a joint responsibility of both the provincial and the federal governments as so declared in our constitution.

I want to begin by making some comments on the short term solutions. Agriculture income disaster assistance, or AIDA, is putting $1.5 billion into the hands of Canadian farmers in need over a two year period. So far 16,000 farmers across the country have received money from AIDA. Over $220 million has been distributed. It is averaging just a little less than $15,000 per producer. Applications are continuing to be processed and cheques are being mailed out even as we speak today. Over half of these cheques have gone to farmers in the hardest hit provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Farmers continue to receive support from other safety net programs as well. This spring changes were made to the crop insurance program to put money into the hands of farmers in southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Saskatchewan when excessive moisture prevented them from seeding. In addition, we worked with the province of Saskatchewan to give those producers access to up to $50 per acre for unseeded crop land this year and in future years.

A number of changes were also introduced to NISA, the result of which was more money for more farmers and faster. Twenty-four thousand farmers have already taken advantage of these changes. As a result, they have been able to get more than $260 million out of their net income stabilization account. That is what the program is there for. It is a contribution from the federal and provincial governments and individual producers. The account will be available for producers to draw on in the down years when it is needed.

I remind everyone that another 80,000 farmers have triggered the opportunity to take money from their NISA accounts. There is another $900 million in those accounts which they can withdraw right now if they need to. These programs and the adjustments we have made to them are closing the gap between farmers' current incomes and their five year averages. Our safety net system is helping farmers to stabilize their incomes in the middle range between the higher and lower income years.

I am not suggesting that our farm income protection system is perfect. There will never be a system that is all things to all people under every condition, every day of the year and every year. What I am saying is that we do have a solid foundation in place and, together with all the players, we are working very hard to build on that foundation.

We have already made changes to AIDA to keep money flowing to producers between now and the end of the tax year. Further changes are also being considered, including coverage of some of the negative margins.

I continue to meet with colleagues in cabinet, in caucus, in the provinces and with farmers themselves. I can assure the hon. members that the government is looking at a variety of options to give more resources and support to farmers.

In addition to the short term measures I have talked about, I am also working on long term solutions. Together with our partners we are rebuilding, renewing and revitalizing our farm income protection system. The system must encourage farmers to make production decisions based on market conditions. It must be national in scope and available to farmers across the country regardless of region or commodity produced. It must respect Canada's obligations under the international trade agreements. A safety net structure that invites countervail or other trade problems will only do harm not good. It must not encourage overproduction.

Canadian farmers are committed to responsible stewardship of their land and water. The challenge is to fashion these guiding principles into a framework that is acceptable to 10 provincial governments while maintaining a cost sharing arrangement of 60% federal money and 40% provincial money. I do not think I have to explain how difficult a task that is.

Provincial premiers and their agriculture ministers recognize how critical this matter is to the Canadian primary producers. I will continue to count on their goodwill and diligence to develop a solution that is in the best interest of farmers across the country.

I continue to work and meet frequently with the national safety nets advisory committee. Safety nets are only one part of the solution. Stronger international trade rules are another part. Canada cannot afford to match the huge injections of cash to farmers that take place in the United States and the European Union. The reality is that our pockets are just not that deep. In the final analysis it is probably not even smart to try.

Higher subsidies only serve to drive commodity prices down further, encouraging overproduction and hurting farmers not only in Canada but everywhere in the world. I have made that point forcefully to my counterparts in the European Union, to my counterpart Secretary Dan Glickman in the United States, at the Cairns group meeting in August and at the Quint meeting in September. I will continue to make that point because that is where the discussions take place, at the WTO and those types of forums.

I plan to continue working to shore up support at the WTO negotiating table. Meanwhile, the government is working in other ways as well to provide support to the industry and the tools farmers need to adapt, diversify and compete in a rapidly changing global marketplace.

In the Speech from the Throne, we reaffirmed our commitment to research and trade development, two major building blocks of the future, particularly in the agriculture and agri-food sector.

We are also in the process of reforming the western grain handling and transportation system to ensure that farmers have a competitive, efficient system to get their goods to port and from there to markets around the world.

I am absolutely committed to working with farmers and provincial governments to build a highly competitive, increasingly diverse agriculture and food sector in the country. We are doing that through the short term and long term measures which I have outlined today.

I look forward to the constructive comments from members in the industry and members of the House. As much as we would like to have an ideal situation, there are always limited resources. Our challenge is to target those limited resources as fairly as we can to those who need the support.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Reform

Preston Manning ReformLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, the agriculture minister began his remarks by saying that the situation is not too bad. I would remind him that was the theme of R.B. Bennett's speeches in the House a long time ago. He might reflect on what happened to R.B. Bennett.

We have to get real in this discussion. We appreciate the minister's presence here. Could he give straight answers to the following questions? We made six proposals for fixing the situation. Could he tell us whether he supports: replacing or reforming AIDA; providing tax relief now; asking finance to readjust the budget priorities; reforming crop insurance to include disaster insurance; expanding NISA for the long term; and, leading an emergency trade mission to Europe and the United States and getting the Prime Minister engaged?

Does the agriculture minister support those specific proposals for dealing with the situation, yes or no?

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Liberal Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have already been flexible and have made changes to AIDA. We are not finished yet.

The second point was tax relief. The government has given $16.5 billion in tax relief in the last two budgets. Farmers have benefited from that as well.

It was very clear in the budget. Before last year's budget there was a $900 million contribution made by the government toward the situation and along with the provincial government's contribution that comes to $1.5 billion.

Regarding NISA, we made changes to NISA this summer that lowered the triggers. We made another $121 million available to producers and, if everyone had listened, I said in my speech that we were looking at that as well.

Regarding trade, I outlined the only approach that can be made. When we talk about trade, it is not just between two countries. It is in the form of WTO and we have a strong approach to that.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, the minister of agriculture shows a fairly rosy picture but I do know that he recognizes it is not quite that rosy in western Canada.

He talks about the 14,000 to 15,000 people who have been approved for AIDA. For each one that has been approved there is one who has been declined.

I wonder if the minister of agriculture would please tell the House if those people who have been declined are simply on their own and should not expect any further assistance from the government.

Lastly, there are extraordinary circumstances with respect to some areas that have been dealt another blow of natural disaster. The AIDA program is not sufficient for those particularly extraordinary circumstances. Will the minister tell the House if there are going to be additional programs for natural disasters?

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11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Liberal Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, the applications that have come in have not all triggered a payment. I would put to the hon. member that there is never a situation when 100 per cent of the applications for anything, whether it be this type of program or any type of program, have been accepted.

I have put criteria in place so that all farmers no matter where they live in Canada receive assistance, if they trigger those criteria. As I said, unfortunately the program cannot be all things to all people at all times.

The provinces have a role to play as well. Recently one of the provinces came forward with more support for its producers. Other provinces can do so if they wish and we would welcome those discussions with them.

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11:45 a.m.

Reform

Howard Hilstrom Reform Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Mr. Speaker, I would like you to ask the House for unanimous consent to have the minister stay just a few minutes longer so there can be more than the 10 minutes of questions.

SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake has asked for the unanimous consent of the House to extend the time provided for questions and comments of the minister of agriculture by five minutes.

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11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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11:45 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly it is not surprising that the Liberals would not want to keep the minister here. Obviously he does not have the answer to the agricultural problem.

I want to know what responsible government would abandon its farmers by cutting subsidies by unnecessarily high amounts before ensuring that they would be on a level playing field with other countries.