House of Commons Hansard #81 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was coalition.


Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Gopher ControlPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should compensate farmers for damage done to livestock and crops by gophers resulting from the banning of effective concentration of strychnine thereby removing the ability of farmers to control gophers on their lands.

Madam Speaker, at a time like this with the tragedies in New York, Washington and near Philadelphia, I hesitate to even bring forth this motion dealing with control of gophers. It seems in some ways so trivial compared to the extremely serious issue of this terrorist threat. If this had not been scheduled ahead of time, I would be calling on the government to focus strictly on national security over these next weeks and months because we do have a serious problem in that area. We have to focus the efforts of the House of parliament on national security.

However, private member's motions and bills are scheduled well ahead of time, and this motion is important. We will see how important it is when some of my colleagues speak on it. We saw this by the size of some of the public meetings which were held in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.

Back in 1994 the government removed the effective concentration of strychnine which was used in controlling gophers, or Richardson's ground squirrels, from the hands of farmers and others who really needed it to control this pest.

To get an idea of what this problem really entails, gophers cost farmers losses of tens of millions of dollars every year at a time when farmers cannot afford the losses.

A terrible drought has hit farmers from one end of the country to another. Because of unfair trade practices, prices have been driven down, in grains in particular. Farmers in many of the grain sectors are hanging on by their fingernails. Quite frankly, the government has not taken the removal of these unfair trade practices seriously. As a result, Canadian farmers have been producing at a disadvantage. However, this has also caused many farmers to lose their land in spite of being very good managers and good farmers. We have also lost some of our best farmers, in the grain sector in particular.

Gophers do not only affect farmers in the area of crops, they also affect farmers with livestock. Acres of pastures have been destroyed. Farmers have told me that they have had large pasture areas completely destroyed by gophers to a point where the cows cannot even graze. Furthermore, there has been damage to livestock through broken legs. People riding horses through pastures with gopher holes and the badgers that follow have sustained terrible injuries.

This is an important issue from a dollars and cents point of view. It is an important issue in terms of animal and human safety.

I was first elected in 1993. Since 1994 I have been working on trying to get the government to restore the proper concentration of strychnine and to allow farmers to mix it with their grain so that they can control gophers. I have had bills and motions on this issue before the House on two or three occasions. I have focused and concentrated on this. I believe that was partly the reason we had a temporary registration on strychnine in a controlled way in the province of Alberta this past summer. It was that important that an emergency registration was put in place last summer. However, farmers say that is not good enough. They need it indefinitely into the future.

Unfortunately the province of Saskatchewan did not manage to get this until later and only in a very restricted way. Farmers from Saskatchewan were looking enviously across the border into Alberta, wondering why they could not have an emergency registration like the farmers in Alberta.

None of this is the solution to the problem. The solution is for the government to restore into the hands of farmers and others who have to control pests, like gophers, an acceptable concentration of strychnine which will save farmers tens of millions of dollars.

Through an order paper question back in 1995, I asked for all documentation from government and to government dealing with this issue. I wanted to know what led to the outlawing of this high concentration of strychnine. It was shocking. I was given a one inch thick pile of paper.

One would expect to have found a study which would have led to the conclusion that it is dangerous for farmers to be using strychnine. There was no such study. Then I thought that I would at least find that the government had seen a lot of cases where pests not targeted had been affected. That was not the case.

This important tool that farmer's desperately needed, the absence of which cost tens of millions of dollars a year, was taken from the market based on complaints from one environmental group. It was a completely unreasonable lobby on the part of a small environmental group, which was not even one of our major environmental groups. I was really shocked to see that. I was also shocked to see that this had gone through the process of the federal government even with some involvement from the provinces.

Farmers are in such need of having this product restored that they are willing to go to the extent of taking a special half day safety course on the use of the product. They are willing to have experts come in and show them how to handle the product to ensure that only the target species would be affected because this is important to them. However, the government has allowed this to fall on deaf ears.

What is shocking to me as well is I have asked to make bills and motions votable on many occasions and not once has that been allowed. It goes beyond any reason why a motion or a bill brought forth by a private member for debate would not to be votable. It is long past the time in a modern British style democracy when any private member motion would not be votable. This has to happen.

I know the government will not act on this. What does it mean to the government to have a few more farmers going broke? A few tens of millions of dollars a year in extra costs to farmers due to crop losses does not seem to mean a lot. We have seen the government's response to the agriculture crisis in the past. It does not seem to be that important, so I do not expect that it will be acted on this time, although I am somewhat hopeful because the province of Alberta and other provinces are now stepping in and telling the federal government that we need this back on a permanent basis.

While I have not seen any reaction from the federal government in the past, maybe the pressure from the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan in particular will force the government to reconsider this foolish move it made seven years ago and restore to farmers a concentration of strychnine of 2% or higher so they can effectively control Richardson's ground squirrels and gophers. I believe this is important.

Again, I would like to express that I have some concern talking about this issue when the House should be focusing strictly and in a serious way on our national security. With what happened in New York and Washington and finding out that the targets were much broader than publicly known, we have to focus on that.

However, this issue is important to people in my constituency and it is important to the farmers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and parts of Manitoba.

This is important. It is important to the farmers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and in parts of Manitoba. I hope for once the government will respond to what is really important to farmers. It has taken too many tools away, including the tools for farmers to market freely into other countries, which has cost farmers dearly. Let the government at least restore this one small tool which will save farmers tens of millions of dollars.

I would like to ask for unanimous consent to make this motion votable.

Gopher ControlPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is there unanimous consent?

Gopher ControlPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Gopher ControlPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members


Gopher ControlPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.

Waterloo—Wellington Ontario


Lynn Myers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I want to point out to the hon. member for Lakeland that if he is so intent on what the House should be debating he certainly had the option to withdraw this motion but he has obviously chosen not to do so. However, having said that, I am very happy to respond on behalf of the Government of Canada.

In addressing the motion before the House regarding gopher control measures, I would first point out, not only for the information of the member for Lakeland but all other hon. members in the House, that the government has not banned the effective concentration of strychnine. The concentration of strychnine found in today's ready to use products has been analyzed and found to be the same or actually greater than that found previously in baits prepared by mixing the liquid strychnine concentrate with farm available grain.

What has changed is that since 1992 only the much safer ready to use strychnine product is available. The liquid strychnine concentrate for use in the formulation of strychnine baits on farms has been withdrawn from the market. The use of liquid strychnine concentrate was withdrawn because the number of strychnine poisonings of non-target pets and wildlife associated with its use constituted a very significant risk.

I would also like to explain that the action to limit the availability of liquid strychnine concentrate products undertaken by the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the then pesticide regulatory body, was taken under the Pest Control Products Act or the PCPA as it is known. A pre-market assessment of a pesticide carried out by the PCPA establishes that the product has safety, merit and value, which includes determining that it is effective.

Registration under the PCPA does not however guarantee 100% effectiveness under all conditions. For example, some organisms develop resistance to certain pesticides over time where products could cease to be effective if climate conditions change. Because the action limiting liquid strychnine concentrate availability was authorized under the PCPA and the issue of compensation is not addressed in that act, there is no existing mechanism to compensate farmers for damage done to their livestock and crops as a result of gophers.

However the government does recognize that gopher control has been a very difficult problem for western farmers in recent years and is working actively with the provinces and with producers to find a solution.

When it was suggested that the level of strychnine in ready to use baits did not meet the guarantee of 0.4% concentration, an investigation was launched by Health Canada's pest management regulatory agency. The investigation involved visits to formulating plants and sampling and analyses of the product. The results showed that ready to use baits did meet the registered guarantee.

From 1998-99 strychnine registrants were required to submit quality control results on several batches of their product to the PMRA for review prior to its product being distributed into the marketplace for the upcoming new season.

Since the strychnine present in the ready to use bait has been clearly shown to be of a concentration adequate for the control of gophers, it has been suggested that other factors, such as baiting procedures, environmental conditions affecting the bait itself and lack of palatability, might be responsible for poor performance of the ready to use strychnine bait.

To help address these possibilities the PMRA has taken a number of steps. It upgraded the labels of all registered strychnine products to provide clearer instruction on the need to carefully locate and time bait placements to ensure optimum performance. These use instructions were developed in consultation with the provinces.

The PMRA also provided research permits to Alberta agriculture and the Alberta Cattlemen's Association to research the palatability of bait, the timing for bait placement and the question of whether mixing bait fresh using a liquid concentrate would in fact be more effective.

The results of the trials done in 2000 have just been received by the PMRA as of June 1 and they are now under review. There is not yet significant evidence to suggest or require that registrants change the bait of their ready to use products.

The seriousness of some of the gopher problems in some parts of Alberta this year has reached such proportions that the provincial government has declared an emergency situation. To meet this emergency, the Alberta provincial government has requested an emergency registration to allow it to use the liquid strychnine concentrate for on farm formulation of bait in those areas that have been identified as having a severe infestation of gophers.

The PMRA has granted this registration for this season only. This liquid concentrate will be used under a highly restricted access program with the following conditions.

First, the sale and distribution of the 2% strychnine concentrate by the registrant is restricted to agricultural field men who are authorized by Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development for that purpose.

Second, agricultural field men can sell this product only to persons who are commercial agriculturalists.

Third, each agricultural field man who sells the product must maintain a record of the transaction, including the name, address, and signature of the purchaser, along with the quantity of product purchased.

Finally, any product sold must be mixed by or mixed under the direct supervision of an agricultural field man authorized by Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development.

On behalf of Canadians the government has taken a justifiably cautious approach to bringing back the liquid concentrate of strychnine, given its very hazardous nature. Strychnine has a very high and acute toxicity. It acts quickly on the central nervous system, causing frequent violent convulsions which eventually lead to death through respiratory failures. There is no effective antidote for this poison.

I emphasize that the original decision on strychnine registration and restriction was not taken lightly. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada recognized that these changes would involve some increased cost to users who previously had used their own grain for bait.

Prior to that withdrawal an extensive two year negotiation was carried out with those provinces where strychnine products are largely used. Those provinces are Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. This consultation involved the western forum and the then Canadian Association of Pest Control Officials.

At this time I would like to clarify my use of the word gopher. Although it is not scientifically correct I am primarily using this term to describe the Richardson's ground squirrel.

Many farmers consider a gopher by any name to be a pest. A gopher may eat a wide variety of grasses and broad leafed plants and compete with livestock for forage. The mounds of soil they excavate from their burrows can further damage crops, as well as livestock and machinery.

Due to an increase in the gopher population over the last number of years as a result of warm, dry conditions and a mild, dry spring, this year the number of gophers in Alberta and Saskatchewan is very high indeed. In Alberta there are 10 to 15 cases of strychnine poisonings per year, according to the provincial Agri-Food Surveillance Systems Laboratory in Edmonton. This number has been steadily declining over the past seven years.

In Saskatchewan 20 to 25 strychnine dog poisonings and occasional strychnine wildlife poisonings are confirmed each year according to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. I emphasize that poisoning wildlife and domestic animals using bait laced with strychnine is illegal not only under the Pest Control Products Act but also under the cruelty to animals section of the criminal code.

Canada is not alone in having taken action on strychnine. All above ground uses of strychnine have been prohibited in the United States since 1988. It is illegal to use strychnine for pest control in most European countries and its use is prohibited by the Bern convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats.

The Canadian government has acted prudently in the matter of restricting the availability of liquid strychnine concentrate for use in the formulation of strychnine baits on farms. With the co-operation of provinces it has moved to protect the health and safety of Canadians along with their environment.

When the effectiveness of the ready to use strychnine bait came into question, the government acted quickly and responsibly and took the actions I have indicated to address the concerns of farmers.

If the field trials now under way demonstrate a clear need in the future for the use of a liquid concentrate strychnine, the PMRA will work with its provincial partners to determine how to make fresh bait products available. That is the position of the Government of Canada.

Gopher ControlPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on this motion which, as the previous speaker pointed out, is talking about the need for higher levels of strychnine to control the gopher population.

When I first realized I would be speaking about this matter my heart immediately went out to the most well known gopher in Canada, Gainer the Gopher from Parkbeg, Saskatchewan, and his cousin, Leonard. For those who are not fans of the Canadian Football League, he is probably the most famous mascot in the CFL. I wondered what would happen to poor Gainer under these circumstances but then the way that the Roughriders have been playing for the last month he is probably thinking of taking it directly himself.

The debate is about the level of strychnine and the concern, as has been pointed out by previous speakers, is about a reduction in the potency or percentage of strychnine in the pre-mix, whether or not the 5% has gone to 2% or to 0.4% as is alleged by the member who moved the motion.

We too have some environmental concerns that were indicated by the government spokesperson. We are concerned about what has happened to the population of swift foxes and bald eagles over the last decade as well as burrowing owls which are very important in the Moose Jaw area. There was a story in the local newspaper within the last month about how the number of pairs of burrowing owls had declined rapidly in recent years. Dog poisonings have also been mentioned. In the volume of work in this area a couple of suicides were reported. All of these seem to be impacted by the use of strychnine.

The government has been prudent in reducing the way in which the bait has been used with no above ground bait stations in recent years. Farmers have to put the bait in the ground at least 18 inches. They have to bury the carcasses so that eagles, dogs and other animals will not be contaminated and spread the problem.

I have no intention of minimizing the issue. I note that the member from the North Battleford area is in the House. I know it is a much bigger issue in that area of the province than it is in the Moose Jaw and Regina area that I happen to represent. I know from reading that 100 gophers will eat as much pasture in a day as sheep, and that 370 of them will eat as much as a cow. I also know that predators such as badgers that go after the gophers can cause severe damage to livestock.

There have been injuries, as the member for Lakeland indicated, because of the lack of controls, but as I have tried to indicate there have been some injuries as a result of overuse of strychnine in the recent past.

The government member indicated that the federal government was working actively with the provinces and farmers to find solutions. He mentioned federal labelling, research permits and made reference to bait. I did not hear, however, what the government was doing about developing less lethal products for the environment at large that would be more effective for the problem that farmers are having with gophers.

The point I am trying to make is that the overpopulation of gophers seems to be a cyclical thing as is the case with a lot of wild animals.

A few years ago we had stories in Saskatchewan newspapers about how gophers had virtually disappeared from our highways and byways,. People were not seeing very many of them. Obviously now in some sections of the province and certainly in the province of Alberta they are back and they are back with a vengeance.

I would have appreciated hearing whether the government or the Pest Management Regulatory Agency was doing anything about developing alternatives to strychnine. I note that in Saskatchewan a farmer has developed an anhydrous ammonia vapour that he believes has been very effective in eliminating gophers. Although it is not licensed or registered by the PMRA, farmers know that anhydrous ammonia is a principal ingredient in nitrogen fertilizer and it is certainly registered for use in that vein.

I would be interested to know what the government is doing to develop alternatives to a recognized poison such as strychnine.

It is a serious problem. There are rural municipalities in both Saskatchewan and Alberta that have declared themselves disaster areas as a result of the overpopulation at the moment.

In the final analysis we have to be very cautious. We have to take the precautionary principle on this so that we do no harm until we ensure that we can do no harm. We should be very careful and very leery about the use of this product.

I remind members, in the words of David Suzuki, that the human race is the most predatory animal in the history of the world. We have a phobia about eliminating anything and everything that gets in our way. Some day that is going to come back and cost us in a very large way.

This is a problem and I do not want to minimize it, but I think we need to and should look at alternatives. The issue has been around for 10 years. The government has absolutely failed to develop alternatives that would work as a replacement for liquid strychnine.

Gopher ControlPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise today knowing full well that the private members' business item was brought forward before the events of last Tuesday. I echo the comments of the member for Lakeland that this does unfortunately seem somewhat insignificant in the big picture of things. However business must go on in the House, it does go on in the world and it goes on in the fields and the farms of western Canada. Therefore I will not be as sanctimonious as some members who suggested that it should have been pulled, because it should not have. It should be brought forward because it was a piece of business that was meant to come forward at that time and I will speak to the issue before us today, Motion No. M-13.

I talked to the member for Lakeland because the motion itself is not specifically to increase the concentration of liquid strychnine from a .4% concentration to a 2% or a 5% concentration. The motion suggests that there should be compensation given to producers who have suffered through a rather large proliferation of the rodent, the Richardson ground squirrel, particularly over the last year. The motion says that because of damage done to livestock and crops, farmers should be compensated. That has not been the tenet of this discussion. It seems that we are going on about the concentration or the use of concentrated liquid strychnine and I will speak to that.

First, I should suggest that I would not support the motion based on a compensatory package. I do not think that is where we should be heading. I do appreciate where the discussion has gone with having other alternatives and certainly perhaps even the reinstatement of the 2% solution so to speak.

Canadian producers and Canadian farmers are not pesticide crazy. They do not simply use pesticides on every animal that is in their jurisdiction. That is not the case.

As a matter of fact, Canadian producers are very cautious when it comes to pest control and certainly using pesticides. We are probably as good as any other jurisdiction in the world. When Canadian producers come forward and suggest that there have to be other solutions, they are doing so simply because they have run completely out of solutions and options and would like to see something put back into place.

It was mentioned earlier that since 1992 the 2% solution has been reduced to .4%. It has been proven and obviously the proof is in the pudding. If we went out to western Canadian farm yards, pastures and fields, we would see that the pest control program is not working. It has been a very dry year in western Canada and across the country and be assured that there are more pests right now than there have ever been. That is why we have to look at some sort of a control.

There are some options, but they are difficult ones. It is obvious to anyone who has ever trapped a gopher that he or she can get a few of them but it is very difficult to get a lot. We talked about gopher hunting. That in itself does not eradicate the problem, so we have to look at other options.

The best option right now is the suggestion that we go back to a special regulation for the PMRA. There was a special call for the use of the 2% solution and it was granted for this year. An extension of that would be the first step as to where we should be going.

I do not think most urban Canadians fully appreciate the concerns that producers have. It was mentioned earlier that gophers can consume quite a substantial amount of product. To a farmer and a producer, that is their livelihood. They put seeds in the ground and they harvest those seeds in the fall. The cash they generate out of the sale of that commodity is what keeps them and their families going. That is an animal that can reduce those yields.

It has been suggested that up to $1,000 per quarter section of crop could be consumed. A thousand dollars per quarter section seems to be the number. It has been suggested to me by the author of the motion that it is higher. It may well be. Unfortunately, I do not have those numbers. They have not been forthcoming. It would nice to have the actual numbers.

That is why when it was suggested that there be a compensation package, I would suggest that it is hard to compensate when you do not have a real handle on what the real number is. It can vary between jurisdictions.

Let us assume it is $1,000, perhaps higher, per quarter section. That is only the financial impact. There is a financial impact as well on cattle producers. I do not know how many people in the House have actually walked through a pasture before but I can say that when cattle do walk or run through a pasture there is a terrible opportunity for them to trip, to fall or to break a leg in a gopher hole. It happens on a regular basis. With the price of cattle today, that poses a substantial financial impact on the producer.

This is going to come as a real shock. Even in the urban sectors there is an impact when there are too many of these rodents in the schoolyards, the soccer fields, and the baseball diamonds. They have to be controlled in these environments as well. This affects the urbanites, who, heaven forbid, seem to be more important at this point in time than a lot of the agricultural producers.

There are other options. There are some interesting innovations out there. I am not going to blame the government specifically, but I do think it is terribly regulatory in its demeanour. The government likes to regulate. Heaven forbid that someone should have the opportunity to put something in place themselves without having to be told to by the government. The government has decided that this should not be done for producers and unless it can tell the producers what to do, then it is obviously not good for them. That is a government ideological philosophy which unfortunately I do not think is going to change. I wish it would in this case, but unfortunately that is the way the government operates.

Other options are being developed. One which I mention tongue in cheek is a thing called the gophinator. It puts anhydrous ammonia in the gopher hole in the ground. It has not been approved yet. I do know whether some of my producers have used it, but they have some concerns about it as well. I do not know if the member for Lakeland has heard about it, but it is a rather interesting innovation. Producers and businesses should be looking at other ways when trying to control the gopher population.

I wish this were a votable motion and that we could go back to a simple solution with a 2% concentration. It seems that solution would suffice for the time being but that is not going to be the case because the government is not going to allow the motion to be votable.

I hope that we do not get involved in a compensation package and it seems that we have gone off of that. I believe that the motion as it reads now will not be supported by my party. Certainly I think we could, if it were changed to incorporate the concentrated strychnine.

In closing, I would just like to say that it seems to be an insignificant issue.

As I said in my opening comments, this is the first time I have had an opportunity to stand in the House since we returned, and since the events of Tuesday past. On behalf of my constituents in Brandon--Souris, I would like to pass on our condolences to the victims, the families, the firefighters, the rescue workers, and all of the people not only in the United States but in the free world who have been affected so severely by the events of last Tuesday. Please accept those comments from the Progressive Conservative/Democratic Representative Coalition.

Gopher ControlPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Canadian Alliance Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to discuss the motion brought forward by my colleague from Lakeland.

A lot of verbiage has gone on about should we compensate, should we not compensate, what the levels should be and so on. The bottom line for producers is that we do not have anything that will do the job properly. There is culpability with the federal government and provincial governments as well. Some of their departments recommended doing away with strychnine in the way it used to be handled and maybe that was not all wrong.

The end result is that the gopher populations have had eight or nine years of absolutely free run. There was some discussion as to the amount of damage that could be caused and a figure of $1,000 for a quarter section was bandied about. The damage is actually more in the neighbourhood of $16,000 on a quarter section, or $100 an acre.

When we talk of forage crops and so on, an average infestation of gophers costs around $120 per acre. Those 120 hungry little guys can do away with almost a tonne of good forage a year. Right now that forage is worth $100 a tonne. That puts the damage across that field at $16,000. No farmer or rancher can afford that type of a hit. No one has that type of infestation on a long term basis to that degree. There are some isolated quarters in my riding that are that bad, but they are not in forage; they are in a pasture type of thing. People are usually able to pasture 50 or 60 cows in that application. This year they could not put any on it. Because of the drought and so on and the gopher problem which compounded that, it was useless ground.The taxes are still due on that.

There is a lot of discussion on the type of bait that was taken away, the strychnine and so on. There were reasons for doing that. The non-target species was a big thing. There are some products that have been mentioned, and I will get into that later, which do not target the non-target species.

A big problem was found with the old strychnine, or the new stuff that was brought out--it was called new but it was reintroduced. It was weaker, but there was a shelf life to it that nobody even considered. A lot of the baits that had been out there in the last little while were five and six years old and the grain product that was mixed with it had gone mouldy. These little guys are persnickety eaters. No animal in the wild that has a choice between lush forage and mouldy grain is going to eat the mouldy grain. They bury it in the dirt regardless of how the bait is placed.

Farmers and ranchers in my part of the country and across Canada are stewards of the land. They were environmentalists long before the term was even known. They do not hurt their own land. They know they need that productivity year after year. The very conception that they do not know how to mix the bait or do not know how to handle it is ridiculous.

My grandmother mixed bait for years. She died at 96 years of age. The strychnine did not get her; it was a lot of other things, but at 96 I guess she had a pretty full life.

The problem with the baits as we know them is their availability. There is never enough when we need them. There is a very small window of opportunity to place those baits. Gophers hibernate again during the summer. The gophers we see on the surface are the young that come out and roam around and the odd female, but the males tend to hibernate for the summer. There is no opportunity to get them at all. An average female will live to be four years of age and an average male will easily live a year. They are pretty tough on their males.

On an average piece of ground with average growth rates, they will have a litter of five or six young in a season. On good forage with good feed they will double that. There will be twice that many. In a lush situation there will be nine or ten little guys running around. Again that ups their amount of consumption.

It has become a huge problem in the eight or nine years that we have had no proper poisons available to keep the problem down. They have had free run. That is where the government's culpability comes in and we are asking for compensation, and I think rightly so. It should be added to the crop insurance lists that cover wildlife damage, ducks, geese, deer, elk and other types of wildlife that were covered for a time. Some provinces still have it, some do not. In Saskatchewan it has been really short and hard to get but we need this type of coverage added. The crop insurance program is a joint federal-provincial application. Somebody puts in the money, somebody administers it and they are always arguing over who does what and the farmers end up on the short end of the stick.

Some of the counties in Alberta applied for emergency registration. They knew that the only thing they could do quickly in the short term was go back to what had worked before and that is strychnine. They were granted the opportunity to get the 2% strychnine that is fresh, comes in a little bottle and is worth about $8. When that is mixed up, the amount that each farmer is allowed to use in my area ends up to be about a 20 litre pail.

By the time it is mixed up it has cost the farmer about $150. If there is a major infestation, the pail of bait that the farmer is allowed to get will do between five and ten acres, depending on the infestation of gophers. It ends up costing roughly $15 an acre to do that. If a farmer has a problem on 1,000 acres, he or she would be looking at a $15,000 investment, plus the time to do it. In a lot of instances it is just not feasible to do that along with all the other chores that are required.

It was mentioned earlier that we need to look for other solutions. One solution that has been developed comes from my riding. Maze Innovation from Unity, Saskatchewan has invented what is called the gophinator. It has all the CSA and ULC stamps and all that good stuff to apply an anhydrous ammonia, which is basically a fertilizer, into the gopher holes and it gases them. There are a lot of pluses to that application. For starters, it is much more humane than strychnine, which should speak well to everyone. It does not target the non-target species. It only goes after the gopher in the hole. There is nothing left on the surface for the hawks, eagles or coyotes to drag away.

When we talk about other animals, we did a short study this summer. We had a meeting sponsored by Senator Herb Sparrow, from North Battleford. Herb is actually a recognized environmental conservationist farmer. He has actually won an award to that end, and good for Herb. He sponsored a meeting that over 300 farmers, ranchers, municipal people and others attended this summer. He had a lot of quick facts that he put together, including the fact that 123 gophers per acre will eat up a tonne of feed, which equates to $15,000 to $16,000 a quarter in damage. He talked about the size of the litter, the lifespan and so on. The body weight of a gopher will double over the summer as it gets ready for the winter hibernation.They take in a lot of feed because they are hyper little guys.

When we talk about non-target species, such as foxes, coyotes, eagles, owls, hawks, and so on, he actually did some research on those species. A fox or coyote would have to eat 40 to 50 strychnine poisoned gophers at one sitting in order to have enough poison to do damage to that fox or coyote. Well they are hungry but they will not eat 40 to 50 gophers at one sitting. There is not a hope. They could not wash it down for starters.

When we start talking about hawks, eagles, owls or whatever, depending on the size of the bird, we are talking about five, ten or even fifteen gophers that these birds would have to eat in order to be damaged. That puts into question the whole idea of a non-target species, other than someone deliberately targeting coyotes with a deer carcass or something, which is a criminal offence.

The problem is we have to come up with a different way of doing it. I know the Maze boys have developed the gophinator. It works like a darn. We can target the animal in its lair. It can be done while they are hibernating. It does not have to be done during these small windows of opportunity as with the strychnine targets. It can be done at any time, even in the fall when they are hibernating. We can plug off one end of the hole and put the hose in at the other end, tapping the dirt in and giving them a shot of anhydrous and the job is done. There is no need to come back for carcasses. It is finished and very clean.

The other plus is that this can be used under barns while there are animals in there; pigs, chickens, turkeys, cattle or whatever. Dairy barns and so on tend to get rat infested and anyone with those types of barns will say that it is a problem. They cannot set out bait because the animals in the barn would be attracted to the bait. So this type of application works extremely well.

We are always worried about our kids and contamination from pesticides, insecticides and so on in parks and school yards. Again, it is the ideal answer.

We have pointed out all these pluses over the years to Health Canada, Agriculture Canada and so on. In fact, the Maze boys finally got off their combines on August 19 of this year and came to Ottawa. They arranged a meeting with Health Canada to find out what the problem was. There were a lot of hoops and hurdles. The pest management control agency wants the testing done on anhydrous ammonia to say that it is okay to put it in the ground and then it will give it a pest control number but the cost of that is $150,000. What an absolutely ridiculous and horrendous cost for a product that has already been accepted for use in the ground. If I go out and fertilize my pasture with the shanks, rip up the ground and put the anhydrous in that kills the gophers, that is okay, but if I use their machinery, which is CSA, ULC and all that approved, I cannot do it. Can anyone explain the logic in that to me. It does not make any sense to any of us out there.

There are applications and alternatives out there, but it is up to the government to get off its collective duff and make these things available to people. We are saying that there is culpability and that there should be compensation worked into the crop insurance program in the short term, and in the very short term we should look at registering this Maze Innovation gophinator.

Gopher ControlPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Canadian Alliance Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I very much appreciate the intervention of the member for Battlefords--Lloydminster. He brought out a great deal of good information on this subject.

I do appreciate as well the member from Brandon pointing out that the motion is about compensating farmers through the crop insurance program for damage done to crops, including pastures, as a result of them not having available the tools to control the Richardson's ground squirrel, or gopher as it is commonly known by farmers.

That is what the motion actually is. The intent of the motion or obvious solution that I was hoping the government would see is not to have to compensate but rather to restore an effective control product.

I can see the headline in tomorrow's paper: government will discontinue the registration of automobiles. I expect it will be there. The government will justify that by the same logic that has led it to discontinue the registration of an effective concentration of strychnine and by the same logic that led it to forcing people to register their firearms and to taking away many firearms whether or not people were using them properly and safely.

In the information I received in regard to my question on the order paper in about 1995, there was all the correspondence. I asked in that question specifically for all the correspondence to the government during the process that led it to make the decision to ban the effective concentration of strychnine and for the correspondence from government, so it was correspondence both ways. In that correspondence, as I said, there was precious little basis for the discontinuance of this registration.

We have a government in which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health said in his presentation that non-target species are hit. I think he said there were about 25 dogs in Saskatchewan and maybe 15 in Alberta that were hit.

In the case of the information I received, first of all the numbers are even much lower than that, but what it actually said was that those were intentional poisonings. In the logic of the government, it has removed the effective strength strychnine, a move that costs farmers tens of millions of dollars a year, because of the abuse of a few law breakers who chose to use this strychnine to poison their neighbour's dogs.

That is what the correspondence showed. The parliamentary secretary referred to that. Why not deal with criminals firmly for this kind of illegal activity? It is the same kind of logic the government used in taking firearms away from firearm owners and in registering firearms. Because a few people used these weapons illegally, they were taken away from everybody no matter how much they were needed as a tool, and when it comes to farmers, to control gophers, among other things. The logic was to just take it away from everybody or to force registration, which is extremely expensive and does not help solve the problem.

I would suggest that it is that same logic, if the government wants to extend it, that will lead to that headline tomorrow that will say the government will discontinue the registration of automobiles because some people use them in an illegal fashion.

It is the same logic and I believe it is flawed logic in all cases. I hope it will not get to the extent that we will see that headline in the paper tomorrow. It is a flawed approach and it is unacceptable.

The government has taken away this effective concentration and, on the other hand, has done what the member for Battlefords--Lloydminster said: it has not allowed farmers to use their own innovative solutions that do not include the use of strychnine. I am suggesting that they should have the effective use of strychnine returned and that farmers should be allowed to use their creative devices.

The member of the New Democratic Party suggested that the government should develop an effective alternate poison. That is nonsense. Farmers have developed effective alternate ways of controlling gophers.

Let us have the government quickly deal with the registration of those products. Let us allow this problem to be dealt with effectively and have the appropriate strength of strychnine returned. If the government refuses to do that, by gosh then it should carry through on my motion and compensate farmers for the tens of millions of dollars in losses every year.

Gopher ControlPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired.

As the motion has not been designated as a votable item the order is dropped from the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 36 deemed to have been moved.

Gopher ControlAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on a question I raised on April 25 regarding the issue of softwood lumber in which I asked the Minister for International Trade if he would immediately arrange a meeting of all the parties involved in the softwood lumber dispute.

Since that time I am pleased to report that the minister has had several meetings with members of the industry. He brought them all together in a very effective way. The right strategy is in place to bring all parties and all stakeholders together to deal with the American's approach to the softwood lumber issue.

Right now, as we speak, the department is hosting meetings among the province, industry representatives and the federal government with American state and trade officials in Toronto to deal with this issue.

I want to raise another set of meetings that were held in Washington about two weeks ago between the right hon. member for Calgary Centre, some other MPs, several trade officials of the United States and the vice-president of the United States.

At these meetings all individuals said they were totally committed to a long term solution. They did not want any more of these five year deals that were repetitive. Every five years they have to go through the awful process of the court system and the political system. They want a solution.

In the earlier meetings in Washington we pointed out that the new premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell, had said in his election policy that they would move toward a more market driven pricing strategy. This was the first time they had heard of it and it seemed to raise their interest. They were attracted to this proposal.

The right hon. member called the premier of British Columbia and had the information faxed to him in Washington. Then he presented the actual documents to the vice-president of the United States. These documents state that British Columbia is proposing to move toward a more market driven approach to lumber pricing.

The vice-president was very pleased to see that and felt it was a very positive move toward a long term resolution to the ongoing softwood lumber problem.

This year alone in British Columbia it is estimated that it will cost industry over $1 billion. Officials feel that a strategy such as has been proposed by British Columbia will remove the tools that the U.S. industry uses to put its politicians in a corner to force trade actions against the Canadian softwood lumber industry.

We in Canada know that this is a totally U.S. political football that is kicked around every five years. The industry takes advantage of any argument it can come up with and gets its politicians to raise this question. It pushes them to bring in countervail charges and anti-dumping.

If British Columbia is able to follow through with its proposed policy of moving toward a more market driven pricing schedule for its lumber and if Premier Campbell is able to achieve his goal as stated in his policy papers in the election, would the parliamentary secretary agree with U.S. officials that this would help resolve this problem once and for all?

Gopher ControlAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

London—Fanshawe Ontario


Pat O'Brien LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, I acknowledge the member's persistence in calling for wide consultation. He made that point repeatedly in the House and the minister certainly agreed with him. As he has noted, those consultations took place from coast to coast to coast with industry and all provinces.

My colleague from Cumberland--Colchester speaks about a long term solution that is wanted both in Canada and the United States. That is certainly the case in the House and in our country, as he well knows.

The long term solution is free trade on softwood lumber. That is what both the United States and Canada purport their goals to be in trade. We are simply calling for the same kind of free trade in softwood lumber that we have in many other commodities.

My colleague asked a question about certain statements of the premier of British Columbia. I guess time will tell and we will see what the premier does, but it is of interest to this government what the practices are in the various lumber producing provinces, B.C. being one of the most important of those.

We will have to watch and see what is done, but I want to emphasize very carefully that we feel that once again Canada's case can be proven and will be proven at the WTO. We do not subsidize unfairly in softwood lumber. That case has been tested before several times. We have always won the case and we will win it again this time. I think my colleague has raised some important issues that certainly bear scrutiny.

Gopher ControlAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.30 p.m.)