Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Souris—Moose Mountain.
It is important that we are debating this motion today. I congratulate the member for Selkirk—Interlake for bringing it forward. The country's agricultural crisis is not being addressed properly. It needs to be discussed and debated. The issues need to be brought forward for all Canadians to consider. It is a simple fact that the agricultural industry in Canada is in crisis. There was no indication in the throne speech from the Prime Minister that he was going to adjust programs to handle this, which has necessitated this motion.
As we debate this today, family farms are being repossessed. Families are being torn from the land they have worked for generations. Families are losing a way of life that is unique to Canada and to their heritage. Their fathers and grandfathers sweated and worked hard for years to develop a way of life. Not only do they lose their farms and their jobs, they lose their homes, their heritage, possibly their pride and their self-esteem.
With all the hard work that went into their farms, things outside their realm are affecting what they do. No matter how hard they work and no matter how sharp they are in their marketing decisions, the fact remains that they cannot sell their product for enough to pay the bills.
Situations have come into the farm communities over which the farmers have had no control. Our farmers now need some help. They need help to compete against the monopolistic wheat board. They need help against European subsidies that drive up production and drive down prices. They need help against U.S. protectionism and subsidies that distort the marketplace. They need help against the natural disasters that have devastated the prairies in this and previous years.
Farmers need help to combat the attacks by people who know nothing about farm life and rural life. Environmentalists have come forward without any thought of what they are doing to our agricultural people, with unfounded allegations that are going to tremendously affect farm life. Farmers need help to fight the input costs that have been driven up, the input costs and taxes that have been created by this government.
The government they have to turn to for help is the same government that has put them in this position. It is a catch 22 situation. Most of their problems have been created by the people they are forced to go to as a last resort.
Farmers would sooner keep everything inside than say that they need help. They would not ask for help unless it was very badly needed. They have to go to the government that has its hands in their pockets right up to the elbow. We are here to find help from one of the sources that is creating the problem.
The east coast fishery is in turmoil. As mentioned earlier by a government member, the TAGS program on the east coast did not do what it was supposed to do. We can look at the dairy and hog industry in Quebec, or the diverse crops and farming in Ontario. The prairies have been devastated by low commodities. We can look at the B.C. forest and fishing industries, or the dairy industry in the Fraser Valley.
The one thing people do not want to hear is “Hi, I am a Liberal. I am from the Liberal government and I am here to help you”. That sends shock waves and fear through the hearts of all producers.
This country has come to a crossroads when it comes to agriculture. As a country, as a government and as a people we have to decide if we are going to put the measures in place to preserve a way of life that has helped to build such a great nation. We have to decide if the family farm and the family farm way of life is worth preserving and we have to decide now because if we do not, it is gone.
There has not been a crisis such as this one since the Great Depression. I did not live through that, having been born after it, but I listened to my folks talk about it. Terrible stress and duress was put on families and the things that happened then, we do not need again. We need to do things quickly. The problem is many faceted in the agriculture industry. We need to react quickly and respond immediately.
We need to have programs in place that will give some long term stability to the industry. We need to look at all costs. Commodity prices are down and revenues are low, but let us look at the other side of the issue.
The government has put a program in place that obviously is not working. It seems to be reluctant to move further. It is trying to match the amount of dollars it took out of the budget to suit the program instead of looking at the damage being done and then having the program match that.
We need a government that will stand up for farmers and a way of life that Canadians are proud of. We need a government that will go to bat for its people and not create bureaucratic nightmares that do not get the job done.
The official opposition has come up with a plan. Our job is to point out the shortcomings of the government but also to bring forward plans and ideas that will help to solve the situation. Five key areas need to be addressed.
The first one is a short term solution. We have to find some solutions immediately. The AIDA program is not working. It needs to be replaced or reformed. The hurt in the agricultural community is not being addressed by the size of this program. We have to look at all angles. Some of the provinces have come up with ideas. The federal government should look at what is going on in Alberta and what has been developed for the short term.
We also need medium and long term solutions. Every time we get in a crisis we try to develop a program to handle it. Let us develop that program when we are in good times to carry us through the bad times so that farmers do not have to come on bended knee to the government for help. Let us get something in place that will work.
Some changes are needed to the safety net programs. The three year average currently used in AIDA needs to be extended. We have heard that from other members. Negative margins need to be considered in the program. The application process needs to be simplified. For every farmer that is receiving aid, one is being rejected for various reasons. Are those people who are being rejected disappearing or is their hurt gone? No, they are still there and need to be addressed.
Crop insurance programs need to be put in place that would address those situations as they arise. The premiums must be affordable so that farmers can get in early and they are there to help.
We need free and fair trade abroad. We have done a good job in reducing subsidies but other countries we deal with have not. For instance, European subsidies on wheat production are 7.7 times higher than Canada's. U.S. subsidies are 4.5 times higher than Canada's. We have to address that situation. We need a government that will put a team together to say to the Europeans and the Americans that something has to be done about reducing the subsidies to bring up the commodity prices.
Trade laws must be modified. There is a situation very close to my home where groundless anti-dumping complaints have been lodged by the United States. We have to change the rules. We have to go to the bargaining table and stand up for our producers.
Many of my colleagues and I had the opportunity to meet with some northern state U.S. senators over the last year. We need to open up that dialogue. It became quite obvious through these talks that we need to know more about each other and we need to educate them on what we are doing in the House.
The government must actively promote value added processing. We should not sell a grain that has not been processed. We should not be selling our other products unless we can add value. We have to put some emphasis on that as that would bring relief to the prairies and add value to the products.
The government needs to open up the marketing choices that farmers have. They should not be restricted. There should not be a monopoly. They should be able to make the choices they want to make in order to improve their bottom line.