Mr. Speaker, on November 3 last I asked the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to admit that there was a real farm income crisis in western Canada and to announce some real farm aid. All he could talk about was that the Liberal government had done a great job and that farmers should not be worried.
Farmers are very worried. There are four major reasons the farm income crisis is in its current position. The first one is a 60% reduction in farm subsidies or supports for farm products.
In 1995 I attended the Council of Europe where members of parliament from all European countries gather together on a regular basis to discuss issues of importance. I attended a meeting of the agriculture committee of the Council of Europe and asked what they would do with their agriculture subsidies.
At that time European subsidies for farmers were about triple what Canadian subsidies were before the Liberals eliminated the transportation benefit for western grain farmers in 1995. We were told by the Liberal government at that time that the transportation subsidies had to be eliminated because of the World Trade Organization.
We were told by the Liberal government that the subsidy was being eliminated because of WTO regulations. I asked members of that committee what they would do because the European subsidies were greater than ours. They kind of laughed and said that I was gravely mistaken if I believed for one moment that they would eliminate agriculture subsidies because of the U.S.A. As well, they had five years under the WTO to address the issue of agricultural products and transportation subsidies. I was told that I was gravely mistaken if I thought that after five years they would sacrifice their farmers.
Here we are almost five years later and western grain farmers, particularly in Saskatchewan, have sacrificed $340 million a year in lost subsidies, which is a loss of about $1.5 billion in terms of income. As well we have seen increases in costs for transportation subsidies rise. In some cases they are triple of what they were at that time. This is one of the major reasons farmers are in trouble.
The second reason is that there was a 60% drop in commodity prices as a result of European and American farmers continuing to receive massive subsidies from their governments. This is really costing our farmers a lot of grief and a lot of money.
The third reason there is a major tragedy in the farm income of western grain farmers is the fact that input costs have risen unfettered. The Liberal government refuses to watch how the prices of fertilizers, fuel, and all kinds of chemical costs and pesticides increase. Farmers have to pay those increased prices. The taxes that are levied, the GST and other federal taxes, are crippling these farmers. Farmers need a tax break from the Liberal government, which they have not received in many years.
The fourth and major reason why farmers are in this huge income crisis is the Liberal government itself. It has lost touch. I guess the best example of that is the byelection in Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar that was held on November 15.
The Liberals who were touting one of their heavy duty candidates for election failed to address the issues of farm communities in the Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar district. As a result they went from a lead in the polls prior to the election call to finishing a dismal third and almost losing their deposit. They got 15.4% of the vote. That is all they got because they have lost touch with western grain farmers.
This is why we now need emergency assistance for our farmers who are very much up against it. Right now we are looking at about 40% of our farmers not being able to farm next spring and summer if an emergency aid program is not provided as soon as possible.