Mr. Speaker, it is a great concern to me as it is to my seatmate for Nanaimo--Cowichan that members opposite do not seem to be interested in this subject at all.
I would like to talk about another failure of the government. It completely failed in informing the U.S. government about the impact of the bill. It is interesting that government members can stand over there now and have a lot to say, but they do not seem to want to listen to anything about agriculture.
The government has not been lobbying the United States. It has not let the United States know what our issues are. For example, months ago bureaucrats from Ottawa decided to announce that we would be attempting to influence the U.S. secretary of agriculture. I do not know if this was done deliberately or if it was a mess up by the bureaucrats, but as soon as a number of Washington senators heard that, they told the agriculture minister not to bother going down there. We are back to moronic bungling in our bureaucracy that keeps us from being effective with our American neighbours. We made one call to the secretary of agriculture and basically have shied away from letting U.S. politicians know what our issues are.
That showed up a couple of weeks ago when a number of MPs went down to the United States and met with some congressmen and representatives. The member for Lethbridge who does a good job was on that trip. They found that American politicians did not know there was an issue. No one up here had bothered to tell them that the U.S. farm bill would cause tremendous problems for Canadian farmers. We need to do a better job in letting our U.S. friends know what is going on. That was not done with the U.S. farm bill. We can say that the Americans do not care, but we also have an obligation to let them know what is going on and what we feel about the situation.
The government also fails to respond to threats in the agricultural area. Its response has basically been nil on all fronts when it comes to agricultural issues.
We were aware that there would be a massive increase in subsidization included in the U.S. farm bill. Our government chose to do nothing. We were aware for the last several months that new crops would be included in the U.S. farm bill. There was no response from our government. We were also aware that country of origin labelling would be brought in and there was no response from our government. This is one issue we could have headed off with a bit of co-operation and a bit of work with the government. The cattle producers and the Canadian Alliance offered solutions months ago that would have prevented the inclusion of country of origin labelling in the farm bill. The government refused to listen.
At the beginning of February the Liberals were warned that their refusal to expand the terminal feedlot protocol would result in the inclusion of country of origin labelling in the farm bill. That terminal feedlot protocol allows the free flow of cattle between U.S. producers and Canadian feedlots. It is currently restricted because Health Canada has concerns over the spread of disease. Research has been done showing that these fears are unfounded. The government would not remove the restrictions, thus the Americans left country of origin labelling in their farm bill.
In response to questions on February 8, the minister of agriculture acknowledged the link between country of origin labelling and the terminal feedlot protocol but he refused to act. In response to a question from the member for Lethbridge his answer was:
Mr. Speaker, there is some connection between the terminal feedlot protocol and the country of origin labelling. I discussed that with Secretary Ann Venamen as recently as 6.15 yesterday afternoon.
If the government had listened to the official opposition, Canada could have prevented the inclusion of mandatory country of origin labelling which will be a huge issue once it comes in. Once again, Liberal delay and indifference to western Canada is threatening Canadian industry and jobs.
A lot of other responses from the government have been lacking as well. I was amused by the public relations exercise conducted last week. We were told we could not get ministers of the crown to go to Saskatchewan to talk to the government and to the prairie provinces. As soon as trouble started here in Ottawa, ministers were all over the country trying to take attention off of what was happening here. The government sent three ministers: the one in charge of softwood lumber, who has been a complete failure on that issue; the one in charge of agriculture, who is in the middle of being a complete failure; and the other was the senior cabinet minister from our province, who has done little or nothing for our province in nine years.
The member for Peterborough commented that the government made a commitment to long term funding in the agriculture policy framework. The reality is that the estimates are down $650 million this year from last year. We need to pay attention to that and realize that if this government comes up with a plan that puts in $650 million, all it is doing is replacing the money it had in the program last year.
In conclusion, I would like to make three suggestions which are suggestions of the Canadian Alliance. First, we need to challenge immediately on the world trade level the new crop inclusion and country of origin labelling. Second, we must begin to compensate the producers and the people who are affected by this international trade damage. Third, we need change on two levels. We need a change in our attitude toward the United States government. We also need to make the necessary changes within the federal departments in order to make agriculture competitive and effective.