House of Commons Hansard #105 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was taiwan.


SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the member's last sentence he said that the U.S. is in favour of this observer membership, but I do not think it is the case that the hon. member is correct. Maybe he could discuss this with his colleagues and ask them exactly what the U.S. policy is on this issue. How does he compare his policy and that of the U.S. government concerning Taiwan's participation in the WHO?

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the question the hon. member should be asking is not what the United States feels about this issue but indeed what Canada feels about it. This is the Canadian Parliament. We represent the Canadian people. We have the opportunity to make some kind of decision that could be a world leader in this. Indeed, maybe my hon. colleague should consult his own constituents on this and vote perhaps more with the wishes of his constituents.

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate my colleague's stand defending the sovereignty of Canada. Last month when we were discussing the Iraqi situation he was against the sovereignty of Canada and said we should follow American foreign policy. Now he has changed his mind. That was April and this is May. Is this the way it is going to go? How far are we going to go in giving in to U.S. pressure?

Having said that, prior to becoming the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, I signed petitions supporting this concept, but however, now that I am the parliamentary secretary to the minister I suppose my position would be different from what it was. I would not vote against it, but certainly now I abstain from it.

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Reed Elley Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is asking the wrong member of this party that question. He says that I supported the United States position in the war against Iraq. Indeed, I was one of two members of this party who did not support my party's position on it. We have the freedom in this party to go against the wishes of our party if we can prove that our constituents are indeed against something. In fact, that was my position.

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I highly appreciate the opportunity to speak on this very important motion on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central. In fact, as the foreign affairs critic for Asia-Pacific for the official opposition, I have been quite interested in this particular motion. I have prepared for one week to make comments on it, but as my time is limited I will try to make the best use of it.

We know that for the last week or so we have had devastating experiences with SARS as well as the mad cow disease. We know that it has serious consequences for Canada as well as for the international community. With globalization the world has shrunk and where there are so many opportunities we have many challenges as well.

While domestic policies are obviously important, international perspective and foreign policy are acquiring more and more prominence. If we truly live in a global village there is a need to reform the global institutions, enhance global cooperation, share global information, share privileges and responsibilities in the global village, restore discipline, and have good standards, whether it is health standards or any other standards. We also should promote good governance, et cetera. The global village should have a global spirit and it is desperately needed.

Diseases do not respect political boundaries of nations. Therefore, the old saying is still true: prevention or control is better than cure. That is what today's motion is all about.

Taiwan has undergone a dramatic transition. On the economic front, Taiwan has continued to grow and prosper. It is the world's 12th largest trading power and has trade with Canada valued at over $5 billion.

We know that a huge Taiwanese community lives in Canada and that about 150,000 Taiwanese visit Canada each year. There are 150,000 immigrants of Taiwanese descent who live here and there are 15,000 students. We also have direct air links with Taiwan.

Taiwan's achievements in the field of health are substantial, whether it is in life expectancy, mortality rates, eradication of diseases or vaccinations. It has 14 internationally recognized medical schools and a sophisticated research system. These things are very important.

We know that the decades long dispute over Taiwan's status has impaired its participation in international organizations. The World Health Assembly, the World Health Organization's governing body, has 191 members, but Taiwan's bid to join as an observer was not successful two weeks ago. Member countries are allowing political pressure to stand in the way of what is right. Regrettably, it can come at the cost of human lives and fundamental human rights violations.

Taiwan was a co-founder of the World Health Organization in 1948 but had to withdraw. Taiwan now seeks only observer status, not full status. We know that non-sovereign bodies like Palestine, the Holy See, the International Red Cross and the Order of Malta all are observer members of the WHO.

With a population of 23 million, Taiwan is larger than 75% of the 148 countries that are members of the WHO, whose universal health mandate prompted it to include as member states even those that do not belong to the United Nations, giving certain states observer status, including Niue, whose population is less than 2,000, and the Cook Islands, whose population is only 21,000. We also know that Taiwan is a self-governing democracy, responsible for its own defence and international relations.

Taiwan's exclusion from the WHO means that the Taiwanese people are denied access to the newest medical treatments and procedures, also putting Canadians at risk because we have that direct link I mentioned earlier.

Since Taiwan was allowed to become a full member of the World Trade Organization, as was China, I find it very strange and surprising why the members on the other side will not support Taiwan being given observer status with the WHO. It would increase andenhance the global spirit in the international community to make the world a safer place for all of us.

I hope members from all political parties support the official opposition's motion and at least, from the Canadian point of view, give Parliament the mandate to support Taiwan being given observer status with the World Health Organization.

I see my time has expired. I had more arguments to make but I think they will be for another day.

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It being 6:15 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply is deemed to have been put, and the recorded division is deemed to have been demanded and deferred until Tuesday, May 27, 2003, at 3 p.m.

Do I have the unanimous consent of the House to see the clock as 6:30?

SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members


Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House will now proceed to the consideration of a motion to adjourn the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration, namely, bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

6:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB


That this House do now adjourn.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for Brandon—Souris.

I want to say how pleased we are that the Speaker granted my request, and I know there were requests by members of the Canadian Alliance and other parties, for the debate this evening on the threat to Canada posed by bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, better known as mad cow disease.

The recent discovery of a cow infected with BSE in Alberta is troubling. However thus far it is, thankfully, only a single case. The evidence indicates that the animal never entered the food chain for human consumption. The number of farms in quarantine in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia is so far not an indication of further cases but rather a testament to the speed with which officials are attempting to understand, decipher and deal with this one isolated case of BSE.

The very fact that the case was detected is a testament to the good work of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Province of Alberta. I commend the quick, efficient and dedicated work of all those officials involved in responding to this incident. Too often we forget and undervalue the tremendous work of people who work in the public interest and who are called to come forth in times of emergency. These people did that and they performed exceptionally well in this case.

However the reason so many members of the House sought an emergency debate is that we need to know precisely what the federal government intends to do now. It has the opportunity tonight to come and tell Parliament and the people.

Canada's beef industry is one of the largest in the world, second only to Australia and the United States, earning around $8 billion a year. Many individual Canadians face serious financial challenges as a result of the concerns generated by BSE.

No one here wants to play games of jurisdiction and I would implore the federal government not to get involved in any of those. Canada is a federal state and we have made that federalism work. We continue to be a world leader in health and safety standards. Canada's record of herd health is beyond reproach. We have earned a strong international reputation as the provider of the safest and highest quality beef in the world.

It is obvious that the magnitude of the threat posed by BSE is much bigger than simply one cow in one herd in Alberta. The Prime Minister--and I understand he did it to minimize to concern--runs the risk of minimizing the size of the problem by talking as though it is only one cow. What is at issue here is the highly valued and hard-earned international reputation of an essential multi-billion dollar Canadian industry.

The top five importers of Canadian beef, the United States, Mexico, Japan, South Korean and Taiwan, have now closed their borders to our exports. Other countries are following suit. These actions are costing the industry an estimated $6.3 million a day.

More broadly speaking, this case of BSE will have wide implications across the Canadian economy. Related food, transportation, hospitality and tourism industries are also threatened by potential damage from mad cow disease and the damaged reputation that this find has generated. Some estimates have placed that damage in many billions of dollars.

Quick action must be taken to protect our reputation and restore the much deserved confidence in the Canadian beef industry.

The first action that must be taken is to ensure that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has the resources and the capacities to conduct a timely and thorough investigation into this incident of BSE. The government must quickly trace any cattle or calves that may have come into contact with BSE and/or with feed made from the remains of cattle or calves.

The Progressive Conservative Party has long called for additional resources for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The government needs to respond quickly to the agency's request for more funding for tracing and containment efforts.

Federal coordination is essential to ensure that all the facts are known, the history of the animal in question has been traced, any other potential cases have been tracked down and the incident of BSE has been completely contained and eliminated.

Questions need to be asked as to whether there is any way to improve federal coordination.

Questions need to be asked as to whether there is any way to improve federal coordination. Are there any improvements that can be made to our national standards and the degree of consistency in food safety from jurisdiction to jurisdiction? Should there be further prohibitions on the use of animal remains from being used as animal feed or should high risk animal parts, such as brains or spinal cords, be banned from any human or animal consumption?

Questions should be asked about whether the current amount of inspectors and labs is sufficient. While some additional funding has been added in recent years, some labs have had their capacities reduced and pathologists are in shorter supply. Alberta agriculture's chief provincial veterinarian has estimated that between $6 million and $10 million are needed to fully restore inspection facilities.

Canada needs to examine whether our current food and agriculture emergency response system, known as FAERS, is as comprehensive and efficient as it should be. There are, however, no set criteria that need to be met in order to enact that response system and emergency actions remain up to the discretion of the minister. Under what specific criteria will the minister decide what emergency measures are necessary in this case? I hope he will be in the House tonight to spell those measures out.

I want to come to the question of compensation. In response to the ice storm that ravaged Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick in 1998, the federal government contributed more than $717 million to counteract more than $1 billion in damage. The federal government should be prepared to compensate and protect industries whose business is damaged and whose reputation is tarnished as a result of BSE.

I should make the point that existing programs will not be enough. Existing emergency assistance programs, apart from taking too long to kick in, will not in the aggregate deal with the concerns and the problems that this is bound to cause in the industry across the country. Certainly programs of support in agriculture itself are not enough. The Prime Minister and the government should stop pretending that there is some money out there waiting to be called upon by individuals. What they need to do instead is very clearly and quickly ante up for people whose livelihoods may be devastated and severely affected in these cases.

We have seen what happened in SARS. In SARS the economic victims are people largely in the greater Toronto area who are people often of low incomes, people often operating small businesses, people not able to deal with this sudden attack upon their livelihood that came from the SARS case. The same thing applies in the cattle industry.

Today my colleague from Perth made the point about the layoff of some 100 people in Guelph. There are problems of that kind across the country and those simply must be addressed. There can be no playing around on the question of compensation.

Once the situation is under control and the major immediate questions have been answered, the government must take the lead in securing the Canadian beef industry's access to foreign markets. A concerted effort must be made to counteract any damage that has been done to our reputation abroad.

Obviously one area where the government has to move immediately to restore confidence is the United States. As the largest client of our beef industry, 40% of Canadian beef exports go to the United States. Another large segment of our exports traverse the U.S. en route to Mexico, our second biggest client.

We should, by the way, speaking of the United States, not to be offensive or combative, we should note the intervention of Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota. His intervention demonstrates that some Americans are prepared to exploit a crisis and misrepresent the facts to promote their own interests. In that context it is worth noting that between 1996-2002 several states in the United States, including Colorado, Kansas, Montana, South Dakota, have faced the challenge of chronic wasting disease in wild deer and elk. The Americans have also faced their own interstate bans such as the recent Ohio ban on importing deer and elk from Wisconsin.

This is a serious problem that needs to be addressed seriously on both sides of the border and it should not be exploited by Senator Dorgan or by anyone else.

The United States and all of Canada's customers have a right to demand assurances that Canadian beef is safe and the highest of quality. We must prove those assurances on the facts. We can work with the Americans and our other trading partners to avoid further drawn out border disputes that threaten an essential Canadian industry.

The Prime Minister should be involved in this issue directly. He should be talking directly to the President of the United States and making it clear that it is in both countries' interests to deal with the concerns raised by this discovery.

The government must assure that the free flow of goods across the border will resume and that the restrictions on Canadian beef are removed as soon as possible.

I see the signal that my time has expired. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for your attention and I thank the House for granting this emergency debate on what is undoubtedly a very serious problem that must be addressed in the country.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

6:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, this is an extremely troublesome and problematic issue facing Canada's beef industry, without question. It is the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in 10 years in Canada. It raises the issue of the human variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, and immediately Canadian consumers are on the defensive.

This begs another question. I see the government on the defensive as well. It has reacted to this, and I thank the Speaker for granting the emergency debate. However I would like the right hon. member's opinion on this point.

I just left the aboriginal affairs committee, which has been meeting since 8 o'clock this morning. I asked the chair of that committee to cancel and abandon the committee to allow all members on it to participate in this debate because of the extreme set of circumstances.

This is an emergency, recognized by the House of Commons and the Speaker of the House of Commons, that takes precedence over the work of the House. Yet the chair of the committee completely refused to abandon debate at committee. It is still sitting, members are having their supper and the Liberal and opposition members on that committee will have no opportunity to participate in this debate. It is a total dereliction of duty on behalf of the government to recognize the important issue that it is.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Before I give the floor to the right hon. member for Calgary Centre, I made the mistake of asking for questions and comments, and there are none. However now that the hon. member for South Shore has asked a question, I will allow the right hon. member for Calgary Centre to respond.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

6:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Progressive Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I regret the behaviour in the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources. I have been there part of this afternoon myself, and it will be raised in the House tomorrow. There has been a series of quite untoward decisions by the chair.

Let me take the opportunity to make one thing very clear. There has been the discovery of a very serious disease that has apparently been limited now to one cow. However what has also been demonstrated by this experience is the excellence of the Canadian inspection team, the excellence of our scientists and the very high standards that protect Canada's invaluable reputation as a provider of food to the world. That is as important a reality as this surprise discovery on a farm in northwestern Alberta.

Without diminishing at all the importance of a threat that surprise discovery has generated, we should not allow any panic about the very high standard of food safety and the very high and exacting standard of inspection. Had there not been an exacting standard of inspection, this cow would never have been identified in the first instance. That is the message that should be sent to the world.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

May 26th, 2003 / 6:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Progressive Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the right hon. gentleman from Calgary Centre for allowing me to speak after him for a short period of time on this very important issue. I also thank the right hon. gentleman for taking the initiative in putting forward his request for this emergency debate. Coming from Alberta and from cattle country, I know he recognizes the importance of this issue. I know he recognizes the importance of the livelihoods that are currently being affected, not only in his constituency but also in many constituencies across this country.

I would like to open my remarks by saying something that I just said in the agriculture committee a few moments ago. I congratulate the CFIA, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and its staff for what I consider to be a yeoman's duty and job on this incident. I will never congratulate the government, but I will congratulate the department itself. It has kept an open line of communication, and it is transparent. It is a very serious issue, which the department dealt with immediately.

When officials found out there was a case in Alberta, it did not take CFIA very long to get the second test performed in our own labs in Winnipeg and to get a third test, confirming that test, out of London, England. The officials did what they had to do, and that in itself speaks to what the right hon. gentleman just talked about and that is the absolutely, totally safe food supply we have in Canada. I stand by that.

I say to every Canadian who will listen that we are very blessed to have a system in place to catch this type of incident. The fact is if that system were not in place, we would be suspect, but we are not suspect. We have very talented people in place. We have excellent individuals within CFIA who are prepared to put an effort into to ensure we have the safest food supply, not only in North America but in the world.

As mentioned by the right hon. member, one incident of BSE has been identified. I will not pronounce it as my colleague from South Shore did, but will just use the term BSE. In some 13.4 million cattle in Canada, one incident of this disease has been found. That is not to downplay what has happened because one incident is too much as we have seen already by the ramifications of that incident. What it tells us is that out of 13.4 million cattle, the process worked.

This debate tonight is more of an information session for the public than it is for us in the House. We in the House agree to the fact that our food supply is safe. The public has to recognize that this one incident involved an animal that never made it into the food chain. Provincial inspectors in Alberta caught the animal and disqualified it from the food chain. It went through a different process, and that is the rendering process. It did not get into the food chain, and that is a positive thing to know.

The CFIA got to work at that point in time and quarantined the case herd up in northern Alberta. Those animals were tested. Unfortunately, the only way to test is by depopulating the animal herd, and this was done. Officials tested all those animals and found they were free of BSE, as was expected by the way.

I had a conference call this past week with one of the doctors in which I asked him why the animals had to be destroyed. I told him I knew they had to test for BSE and that this herd probably did not have any other animals with this disease. The answer the doctor gave me was to bring consumer confidence back. He said that they were 99.999% assured that not one animal in that herd had BSE but the herd was put down simply to ensure people that we have confidence in our system. No other animals had BSE. I am sure the other quarantined herds that will be depopulated and will probably also be destroyed will show there is no other incidents of BSE. The system is all about that. It is about getting confidence back into the system.

I would just like to touch on a couple of things very quickly. One is to say to the government, let us be proactive in this issue and not reactive. That was touched on very eloquently by the right hon. member. We should not worry about nickels and dimes here. We have to ensure that the proper supports are put into place to ensure that the people, who are currently suffering, suffer no longer.

People in my constituency have called me and cry because they have no idea, no confidence, no understanding as to what will happen to them and their livelihoods from this day forward. We need to have systems in place. Financial systems, yes, but we also need to have social support systems in place to be supportive. We have agricultural people in every community in the country. Let us those people and that resource to assist the people who are currently in jeopardy. It is deep, serious jeopardy. Financially, yes, we have to have systems in place. Forget nickel and diming, as I said, and let us ensure we have it.

As the member said, when we had issues with the ice storm across Quebec and Ontario, dollars were there magically. Let us make dollars appear magically right now and let us ensure that those people who have those herds, who cannot sell those fat cattle and who cannot pay their farm payments right now have that support.

I had more people phone me up in the last week to say that they would be unable to generate enough cash to make their payments in the summer. As we probably know, or should know, agriculture payments are usually semi-annual, one in the summer and one in the fall. Unfortunately, now is the time they need the cash and they cannot get it. Maybe we should put in programs right now that allow Farm Credit Canada to allow dollars to flow so those people can make their payments or extend their payments. At least it would give them some confidence that there is some future for them.

We talked about not just the producers being affected, but the people on the periphery around agriculture, and they are substantial. It is a $30 billion industry if we take in the trucking, the auction marts and the packing plants. People do not know whether they will have a job today, tomorrow or next week. We have to put the support systems in place. That is proactive. Let us take it off the shelf, put it on the table and say how we will help those people who now have some difficulties.

That is the minister's responsibility, the department's responsibility and the government's responsibility. They have to react quickly because right now there are too many people who do not see a tomorrow. We have to give them a tomorrow and we have to give them hope so they can feed their families, pay their mortgages and make the payment that is on the baling equipment sitting in their backyard.

The last thing I would like to say is Canadians must recognize that this is a one-of occurrence, we hope. I should say there are some positive things. Let us give the producers some hope.

One thing I have seen over the last week is that the Americans, as I understand, want this border open as quickly as we do. I can honestly say, and again I will give some credit where credit is due, we have not had a terribly good relationship with the Americans on a number of issues, agriculture being one. We have country of origin labelling and we have other issues with which this government and this ministry did not deal very well. However, I can give it some credit where credit is due; it has dealt with this.

The Americans have been helping. They have USDA people here. They have been helping with making lab facilities available for us. They know they need us as badly as we need them. If there is a little ray of sunshine, Secretary of Agriculture Veneman certainly wants this issue resolved as quickly as we want it resolved, as quickly as the producers who have their trucks sitting at the border with fat cattle sitting in them want it resolved.

I can see that this has some positive opportunities to it. I hope it is not a week, three weeks or three months that this issue has to go before we can resolve it. I hope we can deal with this in the next 24 hours. I would like to hear from the minister, when he gets up to respond, just what kind of a timeline he sees because there are too many people in my constituency and constituencies across the country who need that little ray of hope. We do not need something dangled out there saying that it will happen. We know it will happen but we need it to happen sooner. We need it to happen now.

I pledge, and I know my leader, the right hon. gentleman will also pledge, as much support as we can give them as the Progressive Conservative Party to make this work.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

6:35 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario


Lyle Vanclief LiberalMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the opposition for asking for this debate, more appropriately this information session. I had already spoken to our House leader saying that we needed to have an opportunity such as this to tell Canadians about the situation that we are in. Because of the press coverage that we have had this weekend and this past week, I am sure every Canadian already knows about it.

As hon. members who have already spoken have pointed out very clearly, and I thank them for that, this was one cow out of over 13 million in the Canadian herd and one cow out of 3.6 million that are slaughtered each year in Canada. The system worked because the cow was found and the cow did not go into the food chain.

As has already been said, I too want to congratulate the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the agriculture and agri-food people in the government for the quick work that they did. When we look back at the proactive actions that have been taken over the last number of years in order to be ready for this type of situation if, unfortunately, it did happen, it proves that being proactive is far more effective than being reactive.

And because of that, within a very short time of discovering this, the federal government was informed by the province a week ago last Friday that there was a possible positive case of BSE. We tested it in the Winnipeg lab. At the time, I was out of the country and scheduled to give a keynote address at an international conference on food production in London, England, on Monday morning at 9:30.

I was informed on Saturday morning, London time, that we might have a BSE case and that the sample was being retested. I was informed late Sunday night that, unfortunately, it was confirmed positive. This was one time that I wished that we had proven that some people read something wrong, but I am proud that they read it right.

However, I wish that they had not had the opportunity. I immediately made the decision that I would return home. Instead of speaking at 9:30 the next morning, I left for the airport at 8:30. When we had the final confirmation from the lab in England early Tuesday morning, I was with my provincial colleague in Edmonton at 11 o'clock Edmonton time, just about three hours after we received the final final confirmation.

We have an excellent system here. We have been able to trace that animal through a number of different approaches. We certainly know where the animal was in the last few years. It was not an eight year old animal. It was about a six year old animal. We traced where it was through most of its lifetime.

We are taking a couple of tracks and we are confident that one track is almost 100%. Just in case it is not, we are going in the other direction as well. We have traced the animals that have left that herd where that case cow was and gone forward. We have traced the meat meal that was made from the animal from the rendering plant out to the feed mills and to the farms, and all the places that it went.

Some people have had the concern that as there were more quarantine sites, it meant that the disease was spreading. The disease was not spreading, but the trace out system was. Certainly, we hope that as the science and the work is done that we will be able to remove some of those quarantines. Will we be putting some animals down? Yes, and we already have.

As has already been said, the only way to test for this disease is to test the brain. All of the case herd have been put down. They all tested negative and negative is good. We wanted a negative test for BSE. We have put other livestock down as well.

I know nobody likes to put animals down for this kind of reason. We will not put down more animals than is necessary, but we will put down as many animals as is necessary because safety is number one and we will base those decisions on science.

The question has been raised about the timeline of getting the U.S. border opened with our largest customer. Those who have been following this closely have seen and heard Secretary Ann Veneman. I have had numerous phone calls with her. Those who have spoken are right. She has said to me that she wanted the border opened as badly as I did and I said that I wanted it opened pretty badly. So, we both agreed.

The industry is integrated between Canada and the United States. There are over half a million Canadian cattle in American feedlots and breeding herds. It is an integrated market, not only within Canada but also within North America. We have a North American reputation to protect as well. She has recognized that it is one cow and she has highly recognized our system here.

For example, this morning I had a call from a minister in Uruguay telling me very clearly that our system is respected and that there is confidence in our system. The European Union has not banned our product. It says that it has full confidence in our system.

As we go forward over the next few days, and I certainly hope it is a few days, I will be unable to give a timeline of exactly when the border might be opened. We will move as quickly as we can. It does take a little bit of time to put the animals down and to test the samples of the brains.

For those who wonder about the compensation to producers, we have regulations in Canada for any of these types of situations. The producers are compensated for their animals. The compensation is based on the market for those animals for the last number of months, not the market just on that day. For producers who are not able to sell their stock now, there is also the proposed business risk management program.

I now have the authority from my Treasury Board to sign it. As soon as the province has signed it, the business risk management program will be available for producers. It is better than the programs that have been there in the past. That was verified by the third party review assessment group in the not too distant past.

We have tried to be, I hope successfully, as up front and out there as we possibly can giving everyone all the information as quickly as we get it. We have put in place toll free lines and we have received well over a thousand calls from people wanting more information. We have quarantined 17 different sites to date. The tracking and tracing system is working quite well. We have the best tracking and tracing system in the world. We can be proud of that and the work that has been done.

When it comes to food safety, the investment that the government made in food safety, the environment, different areas in research, and the announcement that the Prime Minister and I made last June showed the proactive approach. It is a proactive approach that we wanted to put in place, but certainly did not hope or expect that we would have to use it for this reason at this time. Nevertheless it is something that we certainly will continue to build upon and work with the industry as we planned by putting in place even more rapidly food safety plans on farms as well as all the way through the food chain.

That is there now, but what we have been doing, and will continue to do, is to look at this and if there are some changes we see that are necessary to make it even better we will certainly do that. It is the same with the tracking and tracing system.

Two and a half years ago we started working with the beef industry in an identification program for beef cattle in Canada. As of July 1, 2002, it became law. Any animal, whether it is a dairy animal that has finished its dairy production and is going on to slaughter, and any animal that leaves a farm in Canada must have an ear tag which is registered in the system so that we know where the animal came from and it can be tracked.

This animal did not have that. We know the farm it came from because it was after 2002, but since it was born before that system was in place we did not have that information. However, there was some excellent work done by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the provincial governments. I want to stress here that the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C. have been extremely cooperative on this and they have been able to trace through records. The farms have been extremely cooperative on this as well and that is why we have been able to trace it.

In the future we will be able to trace it even better. For any animals that leave farms, we will not only know where they have been but we will know where they are. When they go somewhere, we will know where they went because that will all be in the system.

We have provincial slaughter facilities and we have federal slaughter facilities. I have full confidence in the safety of the food coming out of both of those systems. The difference being that in provincial slaughter houses the meat that is slaughtered there cannot be marketed outside that province. As far as health and safety is concerned, it is the same as the federal inspection. It was the provincial system that pulled this cow out of the food chain and tested it, and then passed the results on to the federal government.

However, in Whitehorse, ministers at the federal-provincial meeting in June 2001 said very clearly not only on this issue but on environmental and farm food safety issues that we need to go to national standards. If meat is going to cross the border of a province or out of the country it must have federal certification. We are well along in discussions with the provinces to combine those two systems into one system of inspection and certification.

Anything that we need to do is already underway. There is no question that because of this incident it has demonstrated that we must move even quicker than we had previously planned on.

I also wish to thank the United States. It has sent pathologists and its top person on BSE to Canada for a few days. It has offered its laboratories as have other countries. The United Kingdom has offered support to us. We think back when it had the terrible situation of foot and mouth disease. We sent a number of veterinarians and people over there to help. The United Kingdom has offered to do that and we certainly appreciate the support from everyone.

I am not diminishing the seriousness of this in any way, shape or form. The economic effect that this is will have will hopefully be only short term, for everyone in the beef industry and the spinoff industries from that. However, as far as food safety is concerned, we must keep it in perspective.

In closing, we can be proud of the system that we have. We can be proud of the fact that we constantly review it. Resources will not and are not a limiting factor. I am pleased that the Treasury Board has already said to us that it will be there if needed. That may very well be the case. But it was one cow. Our system found it and it did not go into the food chain.

I look forward to the comments of others. I may not be able to stay for the whole session this evening because of another committee that I am supposedly chairing, but again I want to thank the opposition for giving everyone the opportunity for what I consider to be an information session for Canadians and the House tonight.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

6:50 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

I rise tonight to address a very serious issue that is impacting all Canadians. That is the recent confirmation that BSE or mad cow disease has occurred. It has sent shock waves through the Canadian cattle industry. It has also led our trading partners to question the safety of the product that they are consuming.

As Leader of the Opposition, let me make this clear. As someone who is no defender, as everyone will know, of the government or its performance, let me state as clearly as possible that Canada has the safest food supply in the world. I have complete confidence that our food inspection system would not allow any infected animal into Canada's food supply, nor does the system allow for any animals that might test positive for BSE to move into the ruminant feed supply. In fact, the recent testing of the 150 cattle from the index herd has revealed no additional incident of BSE. Therefore I state again that Canada has the safest food supply in the world.

The reason I can say this with such confidence is that after the outbreak of BSE in the United Kingdom in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency took steps to prevent the introduction of BSE into Canada. For example, it has done the following: first, prohibiting the importation of products assessed to have a high risk of introducing BSE into Canada; second, only permitting the importation of meat and meat products from countries considered BSE free; third, creating a surveillance program in 1992 to test the brains of cattle for disease, since which time approximately 10,000 cattle have been tested; fourth, since 1997 banning the feeding of rendered protein products from ruminant animals to other ruminants; fifth, since 1990 making BSE a reportable disease; sixth, implementing all advice based on scientific facts that have been learned in the past 17 years since Great Britain had its BSE crisis; seventh and finally, assisting in the development of the Canadian cattle identification tagging program which tracks individual cattle from birth to slaughter.

It was important to take these steps to protect Canada's beef industry not only for consumers and for our trading partners but for the industry itself. As of February of this year there were nearly 13.4 million beef and dairy cattle in Canada. That is one cow for every 2.2 people. It is a huge industry. It has an enormous economic impact in this country.

Agrifood contributes 8.5% to Canada's GDP, but of all the sectors in the agrifood industry, beef production is the largest contributor to that figure. Last year alone the farm cash receipts for the sale of cattle was $7.6 billion. The economic impact to the industry extends well beyond the farm gate. Beef production contributes to the processing, retail, food service and transportation sectors and with all of these considered, beef production adds about $26 billion to the Canadian economy and employs about 100,000 people. This is why this one reported case of BSE is so important to all Canadians.

I must admit that when the announcement came last Tuesday, I was very shocked. I was of course pleased by how so many people responded and not the least bit surprised by the strong response from my senior agriculture critic, the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake. He was right on top of this immediately, asking for this debate and consulting with his colleagues across all political parties. I was also pleasantly surprised at the speed at which the government informed the Canadian public, the industry and our trading partners. Unlike the outbreak of SARS in Toronto where the minister and Prime Minister were nowhere to be found, our ministers of agriculture at both levels were front and centre answering the tough questions.

The daily briefings by the CFIA to the public and by the minister's office to members of Parliament have been helpful. They have been required to keep everyone informed and to prevent any kind of over-reaction. It is imperative that these briefings continue and that information is readily available to everyone here and around the world.

However, despite the positive aspects of the government's response, there is a significant underlying problem that we have to be frank about. That is the failure of the government to maintain solid, positive relations with our largest trading partner, the United States.

Seventy-five per cent of the exports of the beef industry go to the United States. Therefore, as of last Tuesday Canadians lost access to about $3 billion worth of their markets. The industry is losing millions of dollars daily. Because of our poor relations, some U.S. senators are looking for protectionist excuses and are calling on their government to keep our borders closed for an extended period of time even if no more cases of BSE are found.

What influence do we have in this kind of situation? Obviously the influence that the Canadian government has most strongly to deal with protectionist pressures in congress is normally in the executive branch of the government. But who is President Bush more likely to listen to on this matter, his own senators or a Liberal government with members who insult the president and the American people with impunity?

The Minister of Agriculture has been in contact with Secretary Veneman, but why has the Prime Minister not called President Bush to discuss this situation? We have asked this question already about the reconstruction of Iraq. We have asked it about SARS. We have asked these questions over and over again because all these situations have the potential to have a serious impact on the Canadian economy. In the case of SARS and in the case of this problem, there is the potential to do serious damage to the Canadian economy. We will need the Americans to be sympathetic to our interests rather than be hostile. The eating of a steak by the Prime Minister is simply not enough.

The next question is what has to be done in the future. The ongoing traces must be completed as expediently and accurately as possible. The government cannot drag its feet in determining the origin of the cow or the extent of this problem. It must continue to work with our trading partners to ensure they have every confidence in our food exports.

We know that members of Canada's cattle industry have visited our trading partners. The Minister of Agriculture and the Prime Minister should be part of these face to face meetings.

Of course we all hope that the border will reopen as soon as possible, perhaps tomorrow. But if it does not, the government will need to have a contingency plan in place to help mitigate the negative economic impact on the Canadian economy. The disaster safety net component under the agricultural policy framework cannot respond to a disastrous loss of our export markets.

The recent outbreak of SARS in Toronto resulted in layoffs. The government waived the two week waiting period for employment insurance in some affected areas. Layoffs are already occurring as a result of the BSE case, as I raised today. These workers should be given the same consideration as those workers in Toronto industries affected by SARS.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate the Canadian cattle industry for its efforts in the creation of the Canadian cattle identification system. This system has enabled the tracking of some of the cattle involved in this investigation and will ensure that all are fully traceable in the future.

The cattle industry implemented the identification system in 2001. Unlike the bloated gun registry, this identification system has had 100% compliance and has registered nearly 25 million cattle for only $4 million. It is extremely impressive and indicates the efficiency of this system. Maybe the government should take some tips from people in the cattle industry on how to create an effective gun registry system, but that is a debate for another time. My guess is they would tell it not to create one at all.

I will be very brief as I see my time is almost out. Canada, we know, has the best farmers, the best food producers in the world. There are no straighter shooters and better people in this country than cattlemen. We should all be proud of that. We should not buy into the media hype. We should not buy into any doomsday predictions. Canadians should stand by our farm families through this crisis. Let us get past it and let us all go and have a steak for dinner.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

7 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Canadian Alliance Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, we meet here tonight in an emergency debate on an extremely serious issue. The issue is serious not in the area of health or food safety for Canadians. The issue is an economic emergency, an economic crisis that is affecting individual farm families and ranch families that depend on their cattle in particular for their livelihood.

It is not only the cattle producers of the country who have problems with this. It is every agricultural producer who produces ruminant animals. Bison is a growing industry in the country. I have neighbours in my area where I ranch who are exporting bison into the United States. There is a killing plant in North Dakota and from there it goes not only into North America but around the world. It is a delicacy in many areas.

The emergency is the economic well-being of thousands of Canadians and the stress it is putting on farm families, many of whom already have a lot of stress.

I will continue with that issue in just a minute, but I want to point out that when the issue arose on Tuesday and the government made its announcement through the federal Minister of Agriculture and the minister in Alberta, I commended the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and those two ministers in doing what was not done in Great Britain.

In Great Britain when the BSE outbreak happened 17 years ago, they tried to cover it up. They tried to tell the British people that there was no problem. That led to a distrust by consumers of their own government and their own industry. The reputation of farmers sank very low, almost worse than politicians.

In Canada we have a case where Canadians are looking at the reaction not only of the government members but the opposition members, all of whom wanted this emergency debate tonight. They are reassured that they can hear, see and question politicians and get the facts. We should not be believed blindly though. What has happened is that the scientific community and the university community have kicked in and are giving us independent facts.

That was the other problem in Britain 17 years ago. A lot of the science on BSE was unknown. No one had ever heard of this disease. For several years after BSE became known, Britain continued to feed renderings from ruminants back to ruminants and it spread the disease.

We do not do that in Canada. Since 1997 we have outlawed that as a feeding practice. That is why Canadians can be so confident that the food supply in our stores is as safe today as it was before last Tuesday when that case was discovered.

I know the government is working to do the trace-out and determine where the cow came from and where the offspring came from. It is working diligently to determine how the animal happened to come down with BSE and we will have to let that investigation go on.

I mentioned earlier the economic impact on the farm families. The average cattle operation, which relies on cattle and does not rely on grain or anything else, has probably in the neighbourhood of 250 to 500 cows in order to have a half reasonable living for a farm family.

Before last Tuesday, the inventory value for an average family with a small operation was anywhere between $500,000 and $700,000 worth of live animals out in the pasture and in the feedlot. By 4 o'clock on Tuesday afternoon their inventory value was at zero. The auction markets closed. That is what we are dealing with here. That is the importance of this issue.

Farm families have to make mortgage payments and they need to buy food. They spend on all the things that other Canadians, who have paycheques coming in, do. They still have these expenses but in fact they have no cashflow.

The urgency of the debate tonight is to re-establish our ability to export not only to the United States but to all our major customers around the world.

During question period this afternoon the member for Medicine Hat asked the Minister of Agriculture exactly what criteria was needed in order to conform with the requirements of our trading partners, the people to whom we want to sell our meat and our live cattle. The answer was accurate but only partially there. The answer was that they were doing the tracing. Well the investigation is very important but we know that the United States has questioned whether our regulatory system is in fact capable of guaranteeing this level of safe food supply for our exports. That has to be addressed.

We know that certain senators down in the United States have said that the timeframe of four months was too long from the time the animal was slaughtered until the brain tissue was actually examined. I agree that the timeframe was too long but my question and the question from the member for Medicine Hat for the minister was whether that was a requirement. We wanted to know if the United States was asking us to fix that.

The government has to tell Canadian farmers what the criteria is that not only the government has to meet but that they have to meet in order to reopen these borders. Tonight I am hoping that the government members, in consultation with the minister, can expand on just what Ann Veneman, the secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, has said is the specific criteria that we need to meet in order to start exporting again. Is it more inspectors? Is their HACCP program right? They are criticizing a certain part of it. We know that Senator Dorgan of course is criticizing but we will take that with a grain of salt. However they are not to be taken lightly and that is what we need from the government.

We do not need to be talking about compensation programs right now because there is no compensation program that will be able to cover a livestock industry that is based on exports. There is no market in Canada today because the price for our cows is based on exports. It is not based on a closed domestic market. If it were we would not be worrying about this. It is based on exports and that is why reopening the borders to our trading partners is so important.

Once again I want to emphasize this because it is so important. The government needs to tell farmers, ranchers and all Canadians exactly what it is that will open up that border. That is a reasonable request. If the answer is that they have not really told us specifically, that is fine, that is a legitimate answer, but I believe they may have given some very specific suggestions and I invite the government members, in response to these speeches from the opposition side, to try to cover these and give us some assurance that the border will be open within the next few weeks.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

7:10 p.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this emergency debate requested by the Progressive Conservative Party and consented to by all of the political parties. It goes without saying that the first priority for the Bloc Quebecois is protecting the public and the need to protect the confidence of our trading partners.

We must point out the good work done by food inspectors, as well as the organizational work that this crisis requires. We commend the efforts of those involved, but we also need to learn lessons from the experience and the Bloc Quebecois would like to suggest a few solutions.

First, we need to take a more regional approach to health practices. While only one case of mad cow disease was diagnosed in Alberta, all of the provinces were affected by embargos from our trading partners. The American embargo on all ruminants has hit us especially hard, because the U.S. is our main buyer. While the Bloc Quebecois acknowledges that the American decision was reasonable during the diagnostic stage, we feel that it is unfair to continue the embargo when only one province is involved.

I would like to point out that with the controls Quebec has in place, if it controlled its own borders and health policy as a sovereign state, it would not be affected by the American embargo today.

I would also like to quote the president of the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec, Laurent Pellerin, who said on May 21:

If we were separate provinces each with its own distinct inspection system and if we had a more regional approach to product marketing systems, only one province would have to deal with this problem.

The current situation is especially frustrating for Quebec producers who, for a long time, have had a series of restrictions for the very purpose of ensuring the health of their livestock and the quality of their products. Quebec has not imported any product from countries considered at risk for contamination from mad cow disease for years now. Also, detection procedures were implemented and there has been mandatory reporting of the disease since 1990. Since 1993, well before the 1997 federal ban, Quebec cattle producers have made a commitment to not using meat meal to feed their livestock.

One example of the superiority of the Quebec program is without a doubt the tagging of cattle. Tracing cattle has been implemented in parallel in Canada and in Quebec. Quebec producers had until 2002 to tag their stock. Let us compare the two systems. The Canadian system has no centralized data base, for example. The Quebec system does. Canada collects only birth and death information, while Quebec collects information on all of the animal's comings and goings, such as birth and death, attendance at an agricultural exhibition, sale to a breeder.

The prevention system in place in Quebec is, therefore, highly efficient. The federal government must do everything within its area of jurisdiction to reassure importing countries immediately, so Quebec producers can resume exports.

In the weeks to come, once the federal authorities have established the diagnosis and we have a better idea of the scope of the crisis, the Bloc will ensure that the new measures implemented in order to regain the confidence of our partners will not be imposed coast to coast, that there is some flexibility in the regulations imposed by the government.

Second, it must be admitted that the federal government has neglected food safety. The federal government's inflexibility has kept the strategic framework for agriculture from being put into place so far. This strategic framework, which comprises a food safety and quality aspect and a disaster insurance aspect, needs greater flexibility if the provinces are to accept it and implement it promptly.

The provinces began their negotiations in good faith, and in June 2001 Quebec and several provinces gave agreement in principle. There is, however, no agreement on regulations based on a federal promise that it will show flexibility as far as the mechanisms for application are concerned. The federal government is proving to be inflexible, more concerned with its visibility than with producer safety.

Yet what Quebec is calling for is simple. The Financière agricole du Québec must continue in its role as designer and administrator of the farm risk management program. This is the most significant of Quebec's demands. The farm income stabilization program for Quebec and the farm income stabilization insurance program must be eligible for federal funding. The hang-up as far as the strategic framework for Quebec is concerned is a risk management envelope of $1.1 billion.

The producers say that the federal proposal is less generous than the previous programs. The federal government must review the methodology of its income stabilization project in order to ensure that producers do not accidentally lose out. The burden of proof is on the shoulders of the federal government.

At the same time, I would like to say something about the neglect that has led to a lack of renewal in the veterinary profession. Let us remember how the faculties of veterinary medicine have struggled for survival. The mad cow crisis reminds us of the importance of trained personnel. The Alberta minister of agriculture pointed out that his province has a severe shortage of veterinary pathologists. In Quebec, Maurice Vigneault, president of the UPA, Lotbinière-Mégantic, recently explained that many producers in his region are suffering because of a shortage of veterinarians. He said that everyone is stressed out. He even reported that five veterinarians at a clinic in Plessisville had chosen to limit their practice to the dairy sector, leaving 80 beef producers to find veterinarians from outside the area. There is a problem.

That is why the Bloc Quebecois fought so hard to save the Saint-Hyacinthe faculty of veterinary medicine. Briefly, the facts are as follows.

The faculty of veterinary medicine of the Université de Montréal is the only veterinary medicine research and teaching facility in Quebec and the only French-language veterinary medicine faculty in North America. There are four faculties of this kind in Canada. The faculty's problems began in 1999 after four lean years during which the budget was cut by 20%. That is when the American Veterinary Medical Association asked the faculty to improve its infrastructures by December 2001. The school had to submit a recovery plan and evidence that the budgets to correct the problems had been approved, which it did in December 2001. The North American association found the medical school's efforts to be sufficient and gave it two more years to find funding. After dozens of interventions and an act of good faith by the Government of Quebec, which came up with $41 million to modernize the faculty, the federal government agreed, under Bloc Quebecois pressure, to contribute $35 million. It should have contributed $59 million. Not enough effort was made in terms of funding.

As for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, I will repeat what the Auditor General said:

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency should take additional action to identify what it needs in a future work force.

This was said in reference to the major staff shortage. The urgency to act went unanswered.

Mr. Speaker, you motioned to me. Do I still have one minute or five minutes to finish my speech?

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

7:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In fact, time has elapsed. The Chair will agree to grant you one more minute.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

7:20 p.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to finish. There are many points I would still like to raise, but I would like to conclude quickly by saying that the borders should be opened as soon as possible for Quebec. I hope that the federal government understands that the debate is about flexibility according to the regions affected. Rest assured that the Bloc Quebecois will continue to exert pressure at every opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe I was entitled to 20 minutes and you stopped me after 10 minutes. Could you please check with the clerk?

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

7:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The member is completely right. The timer showed 10 minutes, but in fact, you have 20 minutes. The hon. member still has 10 minutes to continue his speech.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

7:25 p.m.


Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for this very acceptable ruling, except that it has thrown me slightly.

I would like to tell the federal government that it has not done its share to compensate the workers of the softwood lumber industry affected by the trade dispute between Canada and the United States. Furthermore, the workers affected by the cod moratorium and the crab dispute are still waiting for federal assistance.

It must be said that, in all these instances, Quebec acted rapidly so as to focus on priorities. So, a comparison can be drawn with the compensation expected by Quebec and Quebec workers, as well as by those in the rest of Canada in this sector. This industry will be greatly affected by mad cow disease.

According to estimates, the various bans are costing Quebec producers $2 million per day, without considering the costs to the truckers, auction workers or meat packers. The economic consequences of a sustained ban on exports are astronomical, even though Quebec had taken all the necessary precautions to prevent such a situation.

Quebec's minister of agriculture has already announced that his department would study the need for compensation. It appears that, already, the price stabilization programs will not be sufficient to cover the losses. Some outputs will not be covered by these programs, for example, dairy calf and cull cattle. Price stabilization mechanisms are not designed to absorb the heavy losses associated with a catastrophe.

Despite appeals for aid, the minister remains silent. All he says is that the measures in place are sufficient. He even said this during a Canwest news broadcast on May 23. However, the minister needs to understand that he must act, as Quebec has done and as some of the provinces are doing. He must do his share. This is an emergency.

The Bloc finds it equally paradoxical that the Americans have imposed a ban on Quebec meat when some American states are much closer to Alberta than Quebec. As long as we belong to the federal system, we will continue to be subject to such paradoxes.

Once the diagnostic phase is complete, meaning once inspectors for the Canada Food Inspection Agency have identified the cause of the disease and the scope of the crisis is known, the federal government must work hard to restore the confidence of consumers and foreign buyers.

We also think that veal could be treated separately right away. That was the case in Europe, because there is no chance that calves could have ingested animal meals, which cause mad cow disease, because they have all been born since the use of animal meal was banned. This means veal could be exempt from the moratorium immediately.

There is also an example that is puzzling. New Castle Disease, which affects all birds including poultry, can destroy a flock quite quickly if animals have not been vaccinated. We know that certain flocks in the United States have been hit by it. What is the CFIA doing? Is it closing the border to all American states? No. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has said that California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas may not export poultry, but that the rest of the states may. Should the same not apply to beef?

There has been only one case in a very specific region. Should Quebec and Ontario not be considered separately, and each region of Canada be considered separately, as we are doing with the United States when it comes to New Castle Disease in poultry?

In closing, I would like to remind the House that we have already experienced a similar crisis in 1993, when one case was discovered, and we got through it. What is encouraging is that the American minister of agriculture says she is satisfied with the work of the CFIA. She says that the measures are temporary. So, we have hope, but the Canadian minister must lobby hard and inform the American officials.

The Quebec and Canadian industries have demonstrated in the past that their international reputation was very important to them and that they were ready to do everything necessary to maintain the highest possible standard of quality. I am sure they are prepared to do the same today.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

7:30 p.m.


Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I too am pleased to rise on this emergency debate on BSE. It is my understanding that, as the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food noted in his remarks, this is more an information session than a debate. I appreciate what I have heard so far from all the speakers.

I thought I would add to that by talking a bit about mad cow and the bovine industry in Canada and then turn my thoughts to the ramifications on Canadians and the industry; some regretful look at cuts to federal inspection at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency which occurred about a decade ago and some of the fallout from that perhaps; the meat inspection system as it is today because it does vary from province to province; and finally some interim steps that I think ought to be considered by the government opposite.

Before I begin, I might note, as a number of Canadians are concerned about the diminishing amount of green spaces in Canada, they would really like to see the House of Commons tonight and the number of green spaces available here.

The epidemic of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, BSE, or mad cow disease, has been spreading steadily in Europe for the past 20 years. The discovery of a case of mad cow disease six days ago in Alberta is now testing the measures introduced over the past decade or so to prevent the introduction and propagation of the disease in Canada.

Mad cow disease is a transmissible, a TSE which attacks the central nervous system of cattle. Other types of TSE include scrapie in sheep, chronic wasting disease in deer and elk and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, or CJD in human beings. There is no treatment for the disease and there is no vaccine against it. The exact cause is unknown but as we heard, for those of us who were listening to As It Happens yesterday, it appears to be associated with the presence of an abnormal protein called a prion.

It is increasingly agreed that a new form of CJD identified in Great Britain in recent years could be caused by human exposure to BSE or mad cow. The exact origins are still unknown of this disease. An independent study which evaluated the British government's response to the appearance of the disease summed up current scientific knowledge about it.

The report rejected the initial hypothesis that BSE was transmitted by sheep with scrapie, instead suggesting that the disease broke out in the 1970s following a genetic mutation of a single cow. The carcass of the animal apparently entered the animal food chain because it was common at that time to add meat products, in particular rendered products from ruminants, which are identified as cattle, sheep, goats, deer, elk and bison, to cattle feed. The disease then spread in the late seventies and early eighties because of the use of such feed.

The protein that is linked to BSE is very resistant to heat and other normal procedures for inactivating disease causing agents. This means that it may not be destroyed in the rendering process which processes carcasses at an extremely high temperature.

In 1988, 15 years ago, Great Britain banned the use of rendered material in animal feeds, thus removing potentially contaminated material from the food chain. As a result, the number of BSE cases reported in Great Britain had been dropping progressively since the winter of 1992-93.

The interval between an animal's exposure to BSE and the appearance of symptoms varies on average between three and six years. The animal that was identified in Alberta was apparently six years old. Animals with BSE show a number of different symptoms including nervous or aggressive behaviour, abnormal posture, lack of coordination or difficulty in rising from a lying position. The symptoms may last for a period of two to six months before the animal actually succumbs to the disease.

The first case of BSE diagnosed in Canada was a beef cow that had been imported from Great Britain in 1987 at the age of six months. The second case was discovered, as I and others have noted, on May 20 last week in a cow from an Alberta ranch. Obviously the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is currently investigating how this second case came to be.

Following the discovery of the first case of mad cow in Canada 10 years ago, the animal was destroyed and the government attempted to trace every other head of cattle imported from the United Kingdom between the years 1982 and 1990, the date at which cattle imports from the U.K. were banned.

According to a report by the European Commission's scientific steering committee, Canada imported 160 head of cattle from the U.K. in that eight year period. Of these 160 animals, 53 had been slaughtered and entered the food chain, 16 had died and had been sent for rendering, and 11 were exported out of the country. Of the remaining 80, 79 were traced and withdrawn from production, culled and then incinerated, buried or returned to the U.K. This means that 70 head of cattle that could not be traced at that time either entered the human or animal food chain, to the best of the CFIA's knowledge.

That is a history of what has happened until now. Following the case in 1993, BSE in Canada now is a reportable disease and every suspected case must be reported to a federal veterinarian. There is also a surveillance program under which any cows showing possible symptoms of the disease must be tested.

Since 2001, in the last two years the Canadian cattle identification program for cattle and bison has backed up this eradication policy and the program makes it possible to follow the movements of individual animals from the herd of origin to the slaughterhouse.

Prior to 1997, there was no restriction on the use of meat meal or bone meal in cattle feed. Since 1997 it has been forbidden to feed ruminants with mammalian meat meal or bone meal except for meal made exclusively from pork or horse meat. Meal prepared from fish or poultry is still permitted for cattle feed. Animal meal is still permitted for feeding poultry, swine and pets. No other BSE specific regulatory measures apply to rendering plants.

Canada also controls imports of products assessed as having a high risk of introducing BSE into Canada. We allow, for example, imports of live ruminants and their meat and meat products only from countries that Canada considers BSE free. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canada has not imported ruminant derived meat meal or bone meal from Europe for the purpose of livestock feeding for more than a decade.

In December 2000, the CFIA suspended imports of rendered animal material of any species from any country that Canada did not recognize as BSE free. Canada is also proceeding with import controls on animal products and byproducts from countries where cases of BSE have been confirmed among non-imported animals. These animal products are evaluated on a case by case basis.

It is still too soon to say how a second case of mad cow disease has occurred. That is indeed what the CFIA inspectors and federal veterinarians are trying to do as they examine the animals that were slaughtered as a result of this one positive case coming to light. They believe that two options are possible. Either the animal was imported from a risk zone and contracted the disease before arriving in Canada, which is a theory that the CFIA appears to have rejected at the present time, or more likely, the animal, whether imported or born in Canada, may have contracted the disease here by consuming feed containing contaminated animal protein.

Whichever hypothesis turns out to be correct, the appearance of a case of BSE raises questions about the measures in place in Canada to restrict imports of animals from risk zones and to prevent contamination of feed intended for cattle as well as monitoring its use.

The ban on Canadian beef exports that began as soon as the positive identification for that black Angus cow in Alberta last week is significant. The Americans of course closed their border, and New Zealand, Japan and other countries did so as well. That of course is having a significant negative impact on a variety of people in the cattle industry. Certainly slaughterhouses and auction houses are cancelling sales, as we have heard this evening. The whole system is being backed up. We export, depending on which province, maybe 30% or 40% of our cattle, most of them to the United States, so a ban at the border will have a very negative impact on all of that.

In my own riding of Palliser, we have a slaughterhouse at Moose Jaw. The Minister of Labour in that province has written to the human resources minister here asking that Ottawa waive the two week waiting period with respect to employment insurance benefits for any workers whose livelihoods are affected by this mad cow disease and its outbreak.

There are a number of people who are impacted and it is something over which they have no control. In this case some people are on voluntary holidays or layoff for a couple of weeks until we see how long it is going to take for the tests to be concluded and the border to reopen. We are encouraged when we hear the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food say that his counterpart in the United States, Ann Veneman, wants that border open just as badly as he does and we do.

Byron Dorgan, our favourite American senator, and that is said tongue in cheek, says our inspection system was either negligent or incompetent to have waited more than three months to analyze a diseased cow. In fact, it is important to note that this animal was slaughtered or taken to a provincial plant and was put down. It is important to stress that it was not put into the food system, the human food chain. I think perhaps there is some criticism due for the fact that it took three months to analyze and confirm after this animal was killed that it indeed did have BSE or mad cow disease, but it is also important to recognize at the same time that we have had significant concerns in the meat packing, slaughtering and animal industry with CWD in deer and elk. I believe the preoccupation at that plant and that test ground has been to test the elk and the deer heads, and they finally got around to testing this black Angus animal.

Two years ago, the Auditor General reported that CFIA lacked the staff it needed to fulfill its mandate and that some files and problems had been neglected for long periods of time. There are veterinarians who are saying now that the CFIA is not able to keep up to other jurisdictions and does need more resources. I think those are some of the hard questions we need to look at in the wake of what has transpired over the past week.

One of the big questions in this case is whether the diseased cow ate contaminated food. There are those who say it is simply unsafe to render animals and to feed animals to other animals because that can recycle infectious agents. Again, those are important questions for the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food and indeed for all Canadians to be satisfied on.

I mentioned the federal food inspection cuts. They occurred in the 1995 budget when the government created a single food inspection agency to collapse the activities of three departments, Agriculture and Agri-Food, Health Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, into one. The single agency was supposed to facilitate collaboration and help speed up work toward harmonizing standards among federal, provincial and municipal governments, but it had to do so with 44 million fewer dollars per year and 600 fewer employees than the three had prior to the amalgamation.

Indeed, according to a release from the then agriculture minister's office, which I will quote:

Commencing in 1998-99, total annual savings of $44 million are anticipated from the elimination of duplication and overlap following the creation of a single food inspection agency for the Government of Canada... it is anticipated the reductions may lead to the elimination of an additional 600 FTEs (Full-Time Equivalents--the service of an individual for one year) by 1998-99.

Those are some of the concerns that may be out there as a result of possible cutbacks. Again, we need to make sure that food safety is number one and we have the resources to ensure it is carried out.

At our agriculture and agri-food committee back in February we had some presentations on food and the slaughter of animals. I have looked at my notes from Dr. John Taylor in Manitoba and want to put some of his thoughts on the record because I thought what he had to say was of interest. He said in testimony in February that in Canada we have five levels of meat inspection: first, the federal system; second, a joint federal-provincial system; third, a provincial mandatory system; fourth, a provincial voluntary system; and finally and perhaps of most concern in some instances, we have no inspections at all, according to Dr. Taylor.

He said:

Even among the provincial governments we have some different inspection requirements... If you go back about five years, ministers of agriculture discussed a national standard for meat inspection. They concluded that they didn't want anything that was too stringent because it would have a significant negative impact on small plants in rural parts of the provinces and territories across Canada.

Given the very diverse standards, major driving forces for national standards created by international and domestic trade agreements, and market forces driven by retail chains that want a higher food safety standard and are starting to limit their purchases to federally inspected meat, the federal government and the provinces and territories developed the national meat and poultry regulations and code. The provinces and territories expected that this would allow for the interprovincial shipment of meat.

It has not done that yet and in light of this positive test for mad cow disease it is probably a good thing that it did not, but I think this will probably serve as a wake-up call for Canadians and for people in the food inspection business because of the dramatic impact that one hopefully isolated incident has caused already in the past six days in this country. It will serve as a wake-up call to ensure that we continue to have a very high secure standard of health safety from coast to coast to coast and that in fact the provinces and territories as well as the federal government have those kinds of securities in place in their slaughterhouses.

We can do more exporting internationally if we bring some of our provincial plants up to national standards. I think of the bison industry, which is a growing and important part of the agricultural industry in western Canada. The industry would love to be able to ship more of its product interprovincially and indeed internationally, but those animals have to be slaughtered at a federal plant. If we could get some of the provincial plants up to national standards, it would alleviate that problem significantly.

In conclusion, the other point I want to close on is the fact that this is having a significant impact on the ranchers, on farmers, and indeed on the folks who work in our packing plants, our packing house workers. I think there should be some short term programs put in place, such as waiving the two week waiting period for employment insurance benefits for those who pay into the system, for example, to assist them with putting food on their tables while these tests are carried out and finalized and we get the borders open again.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

7:50 p.m.

Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey Ontario


Murray Calder LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the good member for Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant.

I am pleased to rise tonight to explain what the Canadian government is doing to protect Canadian export interests.

At the outset I first want to put to the House that as a rural member and a farmer, I know how worried my many constituents are about the discovery of a BSE infected cow in Alberta. Last week in my constituency I heard from farmers and food processors alike who are worried about the disruption of their livelihood.

We must keep things in perspective. That is what the government is going to do. This disruption is a very serious matter and it has an impact far beyond the beef industry. So far, only one cow has been infected and Canada's food industry is among the safest in the world. We hope that this disruption will be short and temporary.

As everyone knows, Canada is a very important exporter of beef and cattle. Canada has established itself as one of the most important beef and cattle exporters in the world. In 2002 beef and cattle exports were worth approximately $4 billion; beef valued at $2 billion and cattle valued at the other $2 billion.

This has made us the fourth largest exporter of beef behind only Australia, the United States and Brazil. We are a substantial player in the business of cattle exports. We are also a leading exporter of bovine genetics, valued at over $37 million in 2002. There is therefore no question about our important role in the world market and the need to take every step necessary to protect it.

Canada's major export market for beef and cattle is the United States at approximately $1.8 billion for cattle and $1.7 billion for beef; Mexico at $187 million for beef; Japan at $720,000 for cattle and $52 million for beef; South Korea at $200,000 for cattle and $43 million for beef; and Taiwan at $19 million for beef. Our other important markets include China, Saudi Arabia, France, Russia and the United Kingdom.

While the U.S. is by far our major market, our beef and cattle export markets are clearly diversified. As a result of one BSE case, nearly all our trading partners have suspended imports of beef and cattle from Canada: the United States, Mexico, Japan, South Korea and most others.

I can assure the House that the government is doing everything it can to ensure that our export markets are reopened as early as possible once the BSE situation is fully researched. It goes without saying that the steps we are taking to take control of the BSE situation in Canada are critical to restoring our market access. We need to be able to satisfy our trading partners and consumers that we have the BSE situation under control.

In this regard we immediately launched a comprehensive strategy to protect our trade interests. Our two pronged strategy includes: one, ensuring that our trading partners are kept fully informed of the efforts that we are making to take control of the situation in Canada with a view to ensuring early removal of trade measures once we have the BSE situation under control; and two, monitoring closely the measures being imposed by our trading partners to ensure that they are based on science and that they are not more trade restrictive than necessary to address the legitimate BSE concerns.

With respect to the first part of our strategy, right from the beginning we have been open and transparent with all our trading partners. On May 20, the day of the announcement of the BSE finding, the federal Minister of Agriculture spoke to U.S. secretary of agriculture Veneman and the Minister for International Trade spoke with U.S. trade representative Zoellick. By May 21 our embassies and consulates around the world were informing governments.

On May 21 our chief veterinary officer, Brian Evans, informed the Office International des Epizooties international committee, the international standards setting body for animal health issues, at their meeting in Paris. This is an ongoing process.

We are sending daily updates to all our embassies and consulates. Based on this information, they are providing constant updates to foreign governments.

In the United States, our largest market, our embassy is providing up to date information to the U.S. administration. They are in touch with congressional contacts and our consulates are informing authorities at the state level of the latest developments. Further, U.S. media are receiving technical briefings.

In all our other markets our embassies are contacting foreign government authorities and advising them of the most recent information.

As I said, this is an ongoing exercise. Our embassies and our consulates will continue to keep foreign governments well informed. We will continue to keep the OIE informed.

I would add that our efforts are being made at the highest levels. All of our ambassadors are giving this issue the highest priority. Almost without exception, foreign governments have responded positively to our timeliness and openness in providing complete information.

We are hopeful that these efforts will put us in a good position to have the import measures lifted as early as possible once we confirm that the immediate problem is under control.

As I said, the second part of our strategy is to ensure that measures being imposed by our trading partners are science based and not more trade restrictive than necessary.

I need to emphasize up front that both the WTO and NAFTA give members the right to impose sanitary and phytosanitary measures necessary for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health. This is a fundamental right of all WTO and NAFTA members. Canada itself takes very seriously the right to impose SPS measures necessary for the protection of our human, animal or plant life or health. We therefore do not in any way question the right of our trading partners to impose measures on Canadian products based on legitimate health and safety concerns.

Both the WTO and NAFTA recognize the OIE as the international standard setting organization for animal health. Under the WTO and NAFTA, sanitary measures which conform to international standards, in this case the OIE, are deemed to be consistent with the WTO and NAFTA. Members therefore have the right to maintain measures necessary to prevent the introduction of BSE in accordance with OIE standards. However, we are being very vigilant in monitoring the measures imposed by our trading partners to ensure that their measures are in accordance with the OIE.

The OIE is very clear on products that are not to be included in BSE related measures, for instance, milk and milk products, semen and embryos, protein-free tallow and derivatives made from this tallow, and hides and skins.

We have asked our embassies and consulates to provide full details of the measures being imposed by our trading partners.

There are other issues that need to be sorted out with some of our trading partners, such as how they will be dealing with in-transit shipments. In some cases it is simply unclear. We need more information to inform our exporters. We are trying to get that information.

I see my time has run out. There is much more I would like to say on this issue, but the bottom line is that the government is taking this issue very seriously. We will try to get this problem resolved as quickly as possible.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

8 p.m.


Bob Speller Liberal Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak this evening in this emergency debate. I congratulate the Speaker of the House for allowing this debate because it is very important. It is one that members on all sides of the House feel is a very serious matter and is one that was supported unanimously in the House.

Coming from a rural part of southwestern Ontario I share with members, particularly those from the west, my colleagues from the Alliance Party and the Conservative Party, as well as my colleagues from the Liberal Party, who have shown tonight by being here that they support the cattle producers and agriculture across this country. All hon. members recognize the importance of this industry to our country.

There is no question that we in southwestern Ontario may not see the size of the farms and the ranches in western Canada, but we certainly sympathize with those in the west who are struggling through these hard times with the BSE problem. I too recognize that even in my own riding there are producers who are uncertain about their own futures given the severity of this problem.

Canada is one of the leaders in beef production. Canada is one of the top 10 beef producers in the world. In Canada three billion pounds of beef create some $30 billion in economic activity in this country. This is significant not only for agriculture but for the country as a whole. It has a major economic impact in this country. I think that is why the Speaker agreed to have this emergency debate tonight.

Members have spoken eloquently about the safety and the security of the Canadian food system. That security is being upheld at this time by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. It plays a very important role in Canada in assuring Canadian consumers that the food on their plates is safe. It also allows people throughout the world to understand that we in Canada go over and above what is called for in making sure that the food our consumers eat and the food that we export is some of the safest and cleanest food in the world.

It was mentioned earlier that we double the international standard of testing of animals for BSE. It is significant to let all Canadians know that what we do as Canadians and what we have asked our government departments to do is to make sure that we go over and above the international standards for testing for BSE. I believe that is a very good approach to take in terms of making sure that our food is safe to eat.

That becomes important in terms of our exports. It becomes important in terms of making sure that our international markets, those countries in the world that have chosen at this time to stop Canadian imports of beef into their countries, recognize that the standard we have set will be no different for Canadians than what it is internationally. We will not ship outside the country anything that we believe is not fit for human consumption. Our standards go well beyond what the world would expect for this.

I want to take this opportunity to agree with the Minister of Agriculture. The help from our close colleagues in the United States has been very helpful in terms of moving forward to make sure they are sensitive and understand what it is that we actually do. Even though some people in the United States may question our standards, I do not think those questions have been coming from the U.S. administration or Ann Veneman, the American secretary of agriculture. I think those other questions were more politically motivated.

When we look at the facts and what we do, and our American friends have been here and have looked at what we do, I think the standard they would look at is to make sure that we can trace all the way back to make sure there are no other animals infected with this.

It was good to hear earlier that when the first tests of the initial herd came back there were no other cases. That is significant, as we said earlier. What will be more significant and take a little bit longer is when we are able to trace back all the way and assure our friends. I am glad they were here to see what we do. I am sure they will do what they can to make sure the border between Canada and the United States is open.

As with a number of other trade products, around 80% of our beef is exported to the United States. The Americans know that our beef system in North America is integrated. It is a system where beef travels back and forth across the border. It is one I know that the Americans also want to make sure is opened as quickly as possible.

I know it has been mentioned before but I think it is very important to reiterate what it is that Canada does to make sure that we do not have a spread of BSE. In 1992 Canada created the BSE surveillance program. It has tested nearly 5,000 cattle since the surveillance program started. As I said, that level far exceeds the international standards in this area. It made BSE a reportable disease and any suspected case of BSE must be reported immediately to a federal veterinary. In 1997 it banned the feeding of rendered protein products from ruminant animals to other ruminants, meaning other cattle and sheep. It made sure that since 1997 that did not happen. As we know, it was believed that was one of the leading causes of this happening and certainly led to the spread of BSE in Great Britain. It also created a cattle identification program, or tagging for cattle and bison, making it possible to trace individual movements of a herd from origin to slaughter. I want to assure Canadians that we can trace back to when the piece of beef came from the producer right to the plate. That is significant. I believe it will assure all Canadians that we have a very safe system.

As the Prime Minister did and as other politicians have done, I recently bought beef and served it to my children, not only because it is good tasting and not only to show solidarity for our beef farmers, but because I believe, having travelled across this country and having talked to Canadians and seen the market in action, that we do have the safest and most tastiest beef that any country can produce.

I hope all Canadians will take the lead of the Prime Minister and others in this House and buy some beef. It will show solidarity and support, not only for beef farmers in this country but for rural Canadians and indeed all Canadians who I believe hope this situation will be ended as quickly as possible.

Bovine Spongiform EncephalopathyEmergency Debate

8:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is good to speak to this most important and critical issue tonight. I have one message for the government: It is absolutely critical that we get the border open and get it open now. We do not have a month or two months. We only have days left before this whole industry will go down the river. We do not need to hear any more about how good our testing is or how wonderful we do in the world. That is important for consumer confidence and we have heard that message time and time again but what we need now is action from the government. We need the border opened up, we need confidence put back with our trading partners, and we need it today.

I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Medicine Hat, my neighbour and colleague.

Our cattle and beef producers cannot withstand this issue for any extended length of time. They have been through years of drought. We have seen issues with the high dollar and with the country of origin labelling being thrown at them. One thing after another has been thrown at them and now this issue, an issue where science has proven us right. There is not a problem in this country with our beef. Let us do whatever is necessary to get that border reopened, get our trading partners back on side and let us get to work.

When we asked the minister today in the House of Commons what exactly the criteria was for the U.S. to reopen the border we did not get an answer. We also asked what the timeline was going to be to get the job done. We did not get an answer for that. Those are the answers that we need, our consumers need, our customers need and certainly the industry needs, and we need the answers now. If this thing carries on there will be a snowball effect that will be absolutely disastrous. The government had better realize that if panic starts in this industry and the bankers lose confidence that it can be overcome, we will have a big problem.

I sent a letter to the Prime Minister last week and asked him to make sure that the resources needed would be thrown at this and that there would be no shortage of people or whatever was needed to make sure the testing was done. I asked him to make sure that the fan out was finished, that confidence was restored to our consumers and our customers and that this industry gets back on the road.

We have seen tonight just a bit of what is happening with the overemphasis on our testing. I agree that testing is critical for consumer confidence. It is there. I have no doubt that our industry is safe and I have never stopped eating Alberta beef for one day.

I want to talk about the feedlot industry because it is in my riding. There are 950,000 head of cattle in this country on feed. Over half of them are in my riding or in southern Alberta. I know these people and I know how hard they work to maintain a clean industry and to maintain safety.

Let us look at the stats over the last few years for importing cattle from the U.S. into Canada. The producers have been telling the government for years that we have to bring in more cattle from the U.S. to calm the Americans down. They do not like to see our fat cattle go down there by the truckload and very few coming back. One year when it had the ability that industry brought in 200,000 head of cattle, quadrupling the number that comes in on an ordinary basis. It did that on its own just to show that it would buy these cattle if the opportunity was there.

We have been talking about the terminal feedlot protocol for years but it is not happening and it needs to happen. The U.S. is our closest trading partner. It buys 70% of what we produce. If we cannot ship it to the U.S. we do not have enough people in Canada to eat it. Therefore it is absolutely critical that we start this process and get that border opened up as soon as we can.

We are facing potential layoffs. I think the member for Medicine Hat might talk about this. He has a huge plant in his riding where a lot of this beef is processed. This plant has 2,500 employees and half of them will be laid off next week. This will have a snowball effect right across, not only in western Canada but in northwest U.S. A lot of the beef we produce goes down to Hyrum, Utah; Pasco, Washington; and Greeley, Colorado, and if that beef does not show up there they will have a problem.

Let us look at Canada. The spinoff effects on the trucking industry, the auction mart industry, the feed industry and on the people who grow barley and the people who grow the silage that goes into this will be absolutely incredible. One hundred feed train loads of barley go into southern Alberta into feedlot alley every day. That has created an industry in itself which has created a feeder industry into the feedlot business that is absolutely incredible.

Let us look at what else could happen to auction marts, to trucking firms and feed sales. Right now $11 million a day is being lost, which is $4 billion in a year. The numbers are astronomical. There are 950,000 to 1 million cattle and feedlots alone with over half of that in southern Alberta. We produce two and a half times more beef than we can consume. We need customers but we need our customers to have confidence in our product. The world needs to know that we have a safe product.

I believe our beef is safe and I will never stop eating it. I would not hesitate for a minute to feed it to my family or my grandchildren. However the markets are important and that confidence has to be restored.

There are 85,000 families in this country that make a living by raising cattle on cattle ranches, cattle farms, and 60,000 of those farms are in jeopardy because of this one issue. It is one cow. We must get it in perspective. It is one cow out of millions and we have shut down the border. We must get the criteria that is needed, get it done and get that border reopened. Everything else will take care of itself.

The people in this industry, all the way from the cow-calf guys, are very concerned. I just had a call from a rancher in southern Alberta who is very concerned. They will not be hitting the wall until fall when they have their yearlings or spring calves to get rid of but they realize that their customers, the people who will buy these animals, are in trouble right now. They need help and they need this border reopened.

This is a huge industry in southern Alberta and I believe they police themselves very well. They do a tremendous job of raising safe food and they go through the exercises to make sure that happens. I received letters from a couple of producers I have known for a long time who raise a lot of cattle in the area. They put out a scenario, which I think is important for us to put into perspective, as to what is happening right now as we speak.

The cattle inventory values dropped $100 a head in the first week of May 21-22. That week is past. During the second week cattle inventories will drop another $50 a head. That is $150 a head times 950,000 head in lots. Do the math. We are talking about a lot of money that has gone down the drain already. If we get into week three with more fear and uncertainty, it will cause complete market panic. If that does happen, the value of cattle will plummet. We are talking $350 to $500 a head, a huge amount; $500 million gone that will never come back.

This whole industry has been built on the sweat and hard work of people forever raising cattle. The big cattle ranches and cow-calf operations are what made people go out west. There are huge tracts of grassland. It has the best grass to feed cattle in the world. It is the people who invested their time, energy and their years building that industry who have made it second to none anywhere in the world. We need the cow-calf guy on the ground. We need the people who are finishing it.

We had a great system when the markets were there but in the last couple of years we have had the drought, the country of origin labelling threat and the high dollar which has taken 16% out of this industry in a few months. When a dollar shoots up that fast without anything holding it back it creates problems. People do not have enough time to adjust their inventories to make the changes they need to stay feasible. That happens in all export markets, not just in this industry.

However if these things continue to happen tumbleweeds will be blowing down the streets of many towns and cities in western Canada. The dollars that are turned over in this cattle feeding industry alone are absolutely huge and it keeps communities alive and keeps them going. Nothing creates as much wealth. Some 23% of all agriculture sales out of this country are in the cattle industry.

Let us do some things. Let us get that border open. We will do that by building confidence in our consumers and in our customers. We need to restore confidence in our producers and in the world. The most important people in whom we need to restore confidence are the bankers who bankroll these people. These people still have expenses and still need to feed their cattle as they grow but there is no income coming in.