Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure and sadness at the same time to rise in the House to speak on the crisis in the country.
Coming from the east coast and going through the crisis in the fishing industry, I say that the parallels are exactly the same. My colleague from the Conservative Party from St. John's East, the member for St. John's West and the five Liberals who come from Newfoundland and Labrador can eloquently state that the exact same thing that is happening to our farmers in 2001 happened to our fishermen and their families in 1993. What did the government learn from that? Absolutely nothing.
Two weeks ago a group of farmers and their children spoke to our caucus about the crisis in the industry. I asked a young man who was about 12 or 13 years old from Saskatchewan if he was going to go into farming when he was old enough. The young man said no. I asked if any kids in his school who were going to take up agriculture as a way of life like his father, his grandfather and his forefathers did. The answer was no. This young man came to the House of Commons. He was very nervous. He spoke to us as parliamentarians and told us very honestly that there was no future for him or his classmates in agriculture.
I want to say this to anyone who is listening to the governing party, the official opposition and other political parties. Just who in hell will our farmers be in the future? Who is going to feed us? Who is going to feed our children? Who is going to look after us?
When we wake up and have breakfast in the morning, and when all Canadians wake up and feeds their kids oatmeal and cereal, where do they think that food comes from? It comes from the farmers. We are losing our food sovereignty. The day we lose that is the day that will live in infamy. It will be a very sad day when we have to rely on other nations to feed our population.
Just recently an absolute shame happened on Prince Edward Island. On a corporate farm, Cavendish Farms in P.E.I., a few potatoes were found with a bit of a wart. They call it a potato blight. Immediately it was sent to CFIA. Immediately the Americans were told and on Hallowe'en they shut the market down to P.E.I. potatoes, causing a huge crisis. About $30 million to $50 million of agricultural funds are being lost by potato producers on the island.
What did the Americans have the gall to tell our Canadian representatives? They said that not only was P.E.I not allowed to sell potatoes to the States because of the blight, it was not even allowed to sell its potatoes to other parts of Canada because of the so-called fear that the blight might spread to other fields. Imagine that?
What did our minister say? He said they would talk about it more and discuss it further. The minister showed absolutely no backbone by not standing up and protecting the producers in P.E.I., and by not telling the Americans once and for all to take their agricultural concerns and shove them where the sun does not shine. I say that with due all respect to my American cousins.
If Canada does not stand up for its producers, who will? Who will stand up for the P.E.I. farmers? I give kudos to the member for Malpeque. He is not only a personal friend, and I know he is in the governing party, but he has done yeoman's work in his years as a president of the National Farmers Union and as a Liberal backbencher to pursue this issue within his own government. He has told me many times how frustrated he is with the department of agriculture and with the lack of attention it pays to Canadian farmers and their families.
It is an absolute disgrace that I, as an immigrant, have to stand in the House of Commons to try to defend the interests of farmers along with the eloquent speakers from Regina—Qu'Appelle and Palliser, and also my great colleague Mr. John Solomon of Regina stood in the House time and time again to plead, to bargain, to do anything to bring the attention of the House to the farmers.
What happened? We get the same old rhetoric. We do not know if we can do anything. We are not sure. We are going to have to pick up the phone and see what the Americans are going to do.
In the short amount of time that I have left, let me say that Mr. John Solomon, a former member of the House, was in Brussels once at a UN talk. He met a French minister. They talked about the agricultural subsidies and the battles which were going on. What was said to Mr. Solomon was very clear about how the European Union looks after its farmers. The French minister said to John that if he thought for one second that the French were not going to look after their farmers because of the States or Canada, then he was out of his head. He also said that France would do everything in its power to see that its farmers were taken care of. They wanted French farmers to produce food to feed them.
That is almost a revelation. It is unbelievable that in France ministers stand up for their farmers. However, what do we do in Canada? We play the boy scout routine. We cut, slash, absolutely annihilate the farmers and force them off the lands.
In Newfoundland many years ago there was a premier named Joey Smallwood who brought in the resettlement program. At least he had the intellectual honesty to tell the people he was going to move them from the outports and industrialize them into the major centres.
The government does not even have the courage to tell the farmers that it is going to force them off the lands, which is the exact same thing it did to the fishermen on the east coast. The same crisis is happening to the fishermen on the west coast. It is not a surprise. There is no secrecy in this issue. I honestly believe that the government has an agenda in place to get rid of the independent family farm and move it to major transnational corporations and to big agri-farms. I think that is the future that the government wants to pursue. That is absolutely incredible.
On the east coast we lost the independent fishermen. We lost our lighthouses. In central Canada they are losing their grain elevators and their family farms. How can the government stand up and call itself a national party that cares about all citizens when it will not even look after the people who feed us every single day?
I ask you, Mr. Speaker, in your role in this Chamber, and anyone who is listening, when you have breakfast in the morning, to say a little prayer for our farmers and for the women and the children on those farms. They are the ones who feed us. They are the ones who take care of us. If we cannot take care of them and look after them, then we do not deserve to be in government. We do not even deserve to be in the House of Commons.
In fact, I think it would be excellent for the House and the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food to get out of their ivory towers. Everyone should get on a combine or put on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and go out on the family farm. We should get up at 4 o'clock in the morning to see what it is like to plant the seeds in order to look after our farmers and our food. We must see where it actually comes from.
We have been sanitized to think that we just get up in the morning, we open up the fridge, the cupboard and, voila, there is all this food. If we run out, we go to the local store. That food comes directly from the farm from people who make a minimum salary and from people who love what they are doing. They feel absolutely out of touch with what is going on in the government. The government is absolutely out of touch with them.
I ask all members of parliament, especially my colleagues from the Liberal party for whom I have great respect, to please do something to help the farmers now. Bring in the long term plans for our farmers so that we can have farming in this country for many years to come.