Madam Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food for being in the House this evening.
On October 18 I had the opportunity and the pleasure to rise in the House to question the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food about an issue that is very close and dear not only to my heart, but to the constituents of Brandon—Souris as well as to agricultural constituents all across this fair country of ours.
As the House has been told many times, the minister of agriculture and his department have put forward this wonderful program called AIDA that is going to solve all of the problems of western Canada and western Canadian producers.
I had the opportunity to rise on October 18 to ask the minister of agriculture why it was that only $90 million had been distributed to the four provinces for which the federal government administers the AIDA program.
For those who do not know, and perhaps the parliamentary secretary does not know, there are four provinces that have the AIDA program administered for them by the federal government, and those provinces are Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
With the commodity crisis that we are now suffering throughout western Canada, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are without question the hardest hit because they have a dependency on grains and oilseeds more so than other provinces and other commodities that are being grown and produced throughout Canada.
The $90 million is very important because as of October 18 that was the amount of money that was distributed to those four provinces. However, the minister of agriculture, in response to my question, suggested that in the four provinces where the federal government delivers the program well over $200 million had been delivered, as identified in Hansard . That, in fact, was not true and I would like the parliamentary secretary to explain to me how a $90 million distribution of funds could be mistaken for a $200 million distribution of funds.
The reason I brought this up was because not only was the money not being distributed, the applicants for the AIDA program were being denied. In those four provinces, 8,000 applicants had been approved for the AIDA program and some 10,000 applicants had been denied.
Supplementary to that question, I asked the minister if in fact he thought that the 10,000 applicants who had been denied did not require any assistance with the farm crisis. Needless to say, it was question period, not answer period, and the minister decided to go off on some different tangent and he never did answer the question.
Maybe the parliamentary secretary would like to answer tonight. Did those 10,000 applicants who have been denied apply simply on a whim? Did they apply because they thought there was going to be $900 million distributed, which we have seen is not happening? Did they apply because they did not need the assistance? Or, did they apply and get refused because the program itself is flawed?
The program is definitely flawed, as we have found out. There are no negative margins covered in the program right now. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary would like to explain why, when the program was designed and developed not to include negative margins in the process.
I should tell you, Madam Speaker, that the process of application is very—