Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in the discussion today.
I first want to thank everyone. The success we have had to date in getting the borders open for our Canadian beef and the success we have had in supporting the Canadian beef industry in so many ways has been truly a team Canada effort. The consumers have been there to support the industry. The provinces, industry people and members of Parliament have been there, and we certainly need to continue that type of approach. We have shown considerable success already.
While an all party delegation showing up on the door of Parliament Hill might sound like an approach that could be taken, I believe the one on one contacts I have had have been effective, for example with U.S. Secretary Ann Veneman and with the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture Javier Usabiaga. The calls I have made to other countries and the contacts, for example with the country of Japan alone, have been effective. We certainly have had more calls with the United States.
I looked at a list of contacts. The hon. members have said that diplomats, politicians and leaders of Canada. Some time ago I looked into what I will refer to as interventions, contacts and letters and there were over 76 with Japan alone.
Unfortunately we are dealing with a health issue, and that has been determined by the best scientists in the world in the OIE. Just to put that in perspective, the Office international des épizooties, the international body that corresponds with the World Health Organization, deals with, comments upon and gives guidelines as far as human health issues are concerned. This is a situation where science and the bad experience in Europe a number of years ago can show there may very well be a crossover between a situation in animal science to a situation in human health. That has to be everybody's primary concern.
There have been attempts by some leaders across the country to go to Washington. Some have been more successful and some of their comments have been more helpful than others. However I can assure members that the Prime Minister has spoken directly to President Bush on this issue. The President's comment on this was that he was keen to get the border open, and that is significant. From working with people in his administration, not only myself and officials from my office but officials from many other government offices, that also has been indicated.
Let us remind ourselves of where we are. Canada is the first BSE country in the world to get markets opened up to its product. Yes, it took 100 days, but it is the first time in history that has happened and it has happened because of the system we have in place, our industry, our primary producers, our processors and our food inspection system, and the fact that everybody recognized the importance of the integrated beef and cattle market in North America. There is the breeding aspect of this as well. There have been incredible numbers.
We also have to remember that it is not Canada's borders that are closed and we can make that decision to open them. Borders of other countries are closed. They have to make that decision to open. We have demonstrated with science and with all I said before and they have reacted by starting to open up their borders.
As I said in responding to the hon. member a few minutes ago, as of last Thursday we now have had certificates, and they are being issued every day. Over eight million pounds of product is going into the United States. It is going to start to move into Mexico as well. We will continue to work in that area.
The secretary in the United States has said publicly the other day that she was expediting the regulatory process to move toward opening the border to live cattle under 30 months going directly to slaughter. It is usually a process that takes 12 to 18 months in the United States. As I said to the press the other day, she has assured us that she is expediting that process. We have encouraged her to do so. I talked to her specifically about it, encouraging her to do so, so we can take another step in opening those borders.
Mexico is working as well. It is no secret that Mexico and Canada are working on a protocol so that we can hopefully start moving bred replacement dairy heifers, as well as beef, into Mexico. That is not completed yet. Everyone has to agree, including the United States, because of the American concern of live cattle moving into Mexico.
We are also making some headway not only with, as I said, the U.S. and Mexico, but we are making some headway with Russia. The protocol is being put in place with Russia and it is preparing to move animals, not only in the under 30 months of age, but also over 30 months of age.
Never before have we worked so hard with Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago. They have not opened up to any other country that has had BSE or was listed as a BSE country.
The federal and provincial governments will continue these intense efforts with all of these countries and more. I can tell members that we will not rest, the industry will not rest, and the provinces will not rest until we get full restoration of where we were prior to May 20.
We are moving to expedite all of these processes and the countries are cooperating with us because they recognize the quality of Canadian beef.
While a trip to Washington by a group of politicians may give the appearance of making some headway, our thorough and behind the scenes approach is working. We know that is a big part of diplomacy which is contrary to what some people think should happen. They feel that it should be done in the open, on the front pages of the newspaper, in front of the TV cameras. However, it is the actions that count. With the actions that have happened so far, we can honestly say that we have taken steps that no other country has.
While we continue to do that, we are also working with the OIE. Canada is leading in that regard. When I met Secretary Venamen in one of the face-to-face meetings back in June, I suggested that the NAFTA countries, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, put together a letter asking the OIE to review the level of risk with something like BSE. I asked the OIE to review BSE, in particular when a system works similar to ours. We have this situation not because our system failed but because our system worked. We found the animal and we took it out of the food chain.
We are asking the OIE, and we are being supported by other countries, when it meets in Paris in September, to look at the science that has come forward since the major situation in the United Kingdom and Europe a few years ago. We are asking it to look at the changes in feed practices, the level of surveillance, and the removal of specified risk material, for example, that has taken place. We could then put into perspective where we are as far as risk in these types of situations.
This is not a situation where in the past there have been estimates of up to two million animals in the food chain. This is a very low risk. I am not saying it should be ignored, but Let us put it into perspective. Other countries are recognizing that this is important to them as well.
Our intent is to ask them to create international standards that reflect: science, surveillance, testing, feeding practices, et cetera. We will continue to promote what has been very successful to us and recognized by the international body. We have asked it to review what we had done and to give us recommendations on what we should do.
We have already completed some of those recommendations. With others, we have to work with the provinces in order to ensure that we have the capacity, the funding, and all that is involved in that approach. This is because some of the percentage of our beef in Canada is slaughtered in provincial slaughterhouses. The provinces must be able to do the further surveillance and testing on animals as well.
I have made reference to the fact that we have removed the specified risk materials in order to make a very safe system even safer. We are pursuing the level of surveillance that we need to achieve. We are working so that we will have a system that would be able to detect, as soon as all the resources are there--and we cannot commit to doing that until we have the resources--one animal in one million.
That is the goal we are working toward and we will take whatever steps are necessary as far as feeding and traceability measures, and increasing significantly the amount of surveillance in order to get that point.
It is actions like these that will open borders a whole lot quicker than taking a busload or a planeload of people to Washington. A number of people have already been there. That has been helpful, it is true. However, the work has been going on, diplomatically and scientifically, in the other areas coordinated by the trade minister and other ministers.
The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have been involved in taking every opportunity to make these points, and not only to the United States. Yes, it is our biggest customer, but it is not our only customer. That is why it is important that we do this with all of the 30-some countries.
I met with the minister from Korea and other ministers. I met with the minister from Japan again a week and a half ago when the hon. member was present, not at the meeting, but in Cancun. I want to thank him for attending the WTO and for the support he gave our Canadian team on WTO issues. I met with the minister from Japan there again and I met with the minister from China. As I said, I met with the secretary from Mexico as well as the secretary to the United States. I met with all of these ministers.
Another thing that helped was the announcement back in July by the Minister for International Trade and myself that all supplemental imports of non-NAFTA beef and veal will normally be refused. Certainly that creates a situation where any of our processors and further processors that were bringing in offshore beef above the WTO commitments through our tariff rate quotas will have more difficulties under normal circumstances.
To assist the producers, and I outlined this to the hon. member a minute ago, the government put up $560 million. Some people have said that the government did nothing. We made the announcement on May 20 when we confirmed the situation. I made the announcement with the minister in Alberta within two hours of having that confirmed.
Those individuals are saying that 312 million federal dollars and the support of the province that raised it to $520 million was insignificant. In the eyes of many Canadians, I do not think $520 million was insignificant. Is there financial stress in the industry? We recognize that, but that program kept the market open and kept it moving. It moved us up to 73,000 animals a week.
While we continue to work on opening the borders, we are looking ahead to begin pooling the money that is available. There is--