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House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

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4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Claude Duplain Liberal Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can only say that it will be a real pleasure for me to go meet the UPA representatives. In any case, I have done this in the regions that invited me.

I want to take this opportunity to say something else. Some contact has been made regarding various other problems in agriculture. The hon. member for Joliette talked earlier about the tobacco problem; we met with people about this issue.

I want to say once again that, under the new agricultural strategic framework, we will invest $5.2 billion in agriculture over the next few years, once the provinces have signed the agreement so that these funds can be made available to help farmers immediately. This money is there. It just needs to be made available to farmers, and our provincial counterparts can help us to achieve this goal.

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4:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I do not know if other invitations will be forthcoming but, in the meantime, the hon. member for Joliette has the floor.

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4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I made the invitation, but I did not receive one. I must say that it is important to be very careful. The agricultural strategic framework is mentioned every time a problem arises.

I know that the Quebec government signed, but the Union des producteurs agricoles and the Financière have set conditions to flesh out this agreement in principle, and I do not think that Quebec farmers will be bought.

If the money is there, it should be invested in special programs to resolve the problems Quebec is currently facing. I do not want the agricultural strategic framework to be used as an excuse. If the money is there, special programs need only be created.This was done to some extent in the case of the mad cow crisis. Had this been done immediately, a great deal more could have been done, in this case as in others.

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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to enter into the debate on the issue of BSE. I should say initially that there was a brief time in my life when I actually raised beef cattle. Although I was only a small producer, I certainly learned the trials and tribulations of that industry.

I can well remember back some 15 years ago when it seems to me we were selling beef cattle at 75¢ a hundredweight. Those numbers have not changed very appreciably in the ensuing years, and the BSE issue, of course, has made that even worse.

During that same period of time overhead costs to that industry have increased tremendously. The cost of fuel to run tractors and so forth has multiplied exponentially. The actual profitability of the cattle industry in the first place is very slight.

I heard people talk about the capital involved in, for instance, a feedlot operation. People's margins are very small so they rely very much on heavy volumes. Significant changes in the input and output prices of a commodity will cause tremendous fluctuations in one's bottom line. This of course is what we are dealing with today.

The cattle industry in Canada is a very significant one. It represents something like 20% of farm cash receipts in Canada among all agricultural industries. It represents about a $6.6 billion industry. From the statistics I have seen, Canada has 103,673 beef producers and 77% of these are a small size with less than 122 head. These producers represent over $3 billion in export trade.

When I first heard about the issue of BSE, I, like so many farmers in my area, thought that this would be resolved possibly quicker than it has. I do not think a lot of us fully understood the ramifications of BSE and its impact on our industry.

Cattle producers in my area often wonder out loud why one cow in the province of Alberta caused such consternation. I have often heard them say that the markets in Britain are closer than the incidence of mad cow disease, so why are they caught up in this issue.

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind you that I am sharing my time with the member for Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington.

The reality is that we do not segregate where in a country the disease occurs. It is simply that the whole country is embargoed. As we know, the Europeans, the Japanese and others have lived through this peril to some great extent.

Quite frankly, Canada is noted as a BSE country. As much as we talk about it and debate it in this chamber, that is the reality. We have a reportable case of BSE and Canada is designated as a BSE country.

I know many of our consumers would demand us to be diligent on the importation of food from other countries that had this disease. Indeed, Britain, which had an incident of BSE, still does not export beef to the United States.

We can see that in the 100 days that we have been talking about this incident since it occurred in Canada, we have actually been very successful in opening the borders to Canadian beef production, more so than any other country. We are also entering into protocols with Mexico to try to find ways of actually importing, exporting and transporting cattle through the United States to Mexico.

Some very positive things are going on. The substance of the motion is that somehow nothing has been happening, and that just is not the case.

I was one of the members of our rural caucus who was able to meet with the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture. It was interesting to hear most of those gentlemen, in their opening comments, thank the government for its efforts. They wanted to thank the governments for acting promptly on the file in the sense that it realized the shortfall would impact cattle producers who ship live cattle across the Canadian border and for the fact that we had found a system that would actually get money into their hands to alleviate some pain and suffering.

Some people think that my riding of Durham is somehow part of the Greater Toronto Authority. In some small ways it is, but I can say that General Motors is the largest economic producer in my riding and second is beef cattle. The cattle industry is worth $1.2 billion to the province of Ontario and is rated as the number two generator in Ontario agriculture, only behind the dairy industry. There are approximately 200 producers in Durham. That is just under 1% of all of the producers in the province of Ontario.

Before May 20, finished cattle were selling at $1,500 a head or $1.10 per pound. In July, after the BSE issue hit, that price went down to 30¢ a pound. That is a significant drop in the selling price of cattle.

Since the border reopened to packaged beef products the price has rebounded. I wanted to emphasize that because it seems to have been totally missed in this debate. Producers in my riding have said that this rebound in price back to 75¢ has been a significant boon to those who ship live cattle because they have been able to ship to slaughter houses in Montreal. That has been a significant recovery in the industry but we do not talk about that here.

In fact that was a specific result of government policy and efforts to reopen the border to Canadian beef shipments that has had a positive impact on producers in my riding. Those producers are not, unlike the debate that is going on here today from some of the members in the opposition, blaming the government per se. They are saying that they appreciate the efforts the government is making. Of course they would like the government to do more. They would like the border to be 100% open to live cattle and put them back where they were before May 20.

I know the cattlemen, who are proud, rigorous and independent entrepreneurs, understand that this is an issue that will not go away easily. We are a BSE noted country and all of the discussion in this chamber will not make that issue go away.

The class of livestock that was hardest hit was culled cattle, which is very important to the cattle producers today. Usually they would get 50¢ per pound or about $650 a cow when they shipped them. Today that price is 5¢ to 12¢ and there is no subsidy on culled cattle. The big issue with a lot of producers is to how to cull their herds. The fact of the matter is that there is no cash flow coming from that.

There has been a lot of discussion about the agricultural policy framework. Yes, it is the truth, even within my riding, that people in the agricultural industry are not happy with the way the agricultural policy framework has been put together. My experience with the farm community has been that it is very difficult to get agreement among all the producers and all the industries within the agricultural sector. Quite frankly, I think we are missing the boat if we feel that it is a form of blackmail, as was mentioned here today, because it is not. In fact, we need to have signed agreements to let money flow.

Since agriculture is under federal-provincial jurisdiction, we need agreements with the provinces to make money flow. Money is available. We might not like exactly how the policy framework is put in place. The federal government and Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has talked about a review process that is in place.

We have the machinery to review that as it is going on but by all means I would encourage the province of Ontario, in particular, to sign the agreement and get the money flowing into the producers hands who really need it. The whole purpose of this program is to deal with risk management .

I know my time is running out, but one other issue I want to talk about is the dairy industry. This is one industry that has been overlooked in this process. I have a number of breeders in my area who ship dairy cattle not only to the United States but worldwide. They are prevented from shipping those cattle today. That has had a tremendous negative impact on them. Of course there is no subsidy. There is a recognition that somehow we should try to address that issue. The reality is they have been negatively impacted through no particular fault of their own but because of the discovery of BSE in one animal. This was certainly the most expensive animal that we have ever seen in this country and possibly in the world.

I do not support the motion. I think it is grandstanding. The opposition does not seem to think that we should have an independent foreign policy, but certainly the producers have an independent mind and think we are doing a lot of positive things.

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4:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Progressive Conservative Perth—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will remember to address the Chair this time.

I do have one thing to say. I agree that the Minister of Agriculture and the agriculture committee have worked very hard to resolve this problem. I know the difficulty. I was in Cancun. I have talked to a lot of people. I know how hard it is to negotiate with the various countries and how hard it is to put things together.

All I am saying, and I am not grandstanding, is that I wish he would realize that I do not think it is wrong to try something different or new to quicken the process to open the borders. That is where I am coming from. It is not that whatever has been done has not been done with a real sense of urgency and importance.

I saw how we impacted in Cancun in our meetings. Yes, we were parliamentarians and we had some impact but not the impact that senior ministers or senior people would have. That is why I suggest that the Prime Minister head a multi-party delegation, like the one in Cancun. Let us have the heads of the parties or those people make a presentation to the president or the vice-president. Let us send some very high profile people there. I think this needs high profile people, not that we are not, but I think the Prime Minister has to be involved in this.

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4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Liberal Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy for that question from the member for Perth—Middlesex. The reality is the Prime Minister has spoken to the President of the United States on numerous occasions on this file. We know that the Minister of Agriculture has talked to his counterpart in Japan and indeed his counterpart in the United States, Mrs. Veneman. We know that those discussions are going on.

What I did hear was the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough talking about the belief that somehow the Prime Minister's stand and our party's stand on Iraq and a number of foreign affairs issues, which really stood up for Canada's independence as a nation, or independent foreign policy, were somehow faulty and that that is the reason we could not open up the border. The motion is simply a cheap political stunt to try to make the opposition parties look like they are doing something on this file.

The reality is those producers are independent-minded people. They do not believe in begging. They believe in carrying on a negotiation on a one to one basis and that is what the government has been doing.

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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to talk about a very serious crisis that is ongoing. I have met with many people from Prince Edward County, Hastings County, Lennox and Addington and Frontenac. They are all suffering, yet I want to take this opportunity to talk about some of the things we have done and what we are doing.

The government fully understands the financial hardships that Canadian cattle producers and the Canadian cattle industry have endured and continue to endure ever since we had the bad news on May 20 that a single cow had been discovered with BSE. When we export $4 billion worth of cattle and beef a year and our major customer closes its border, the impact is going to be severe. It has been severe on the farms, in the feedlots and throughout the beef industry.

The Government of Canada continues to work with people in the industry to help see them through this difficult time. We have done so since day one and we will continue to do so until we have the full resumption of the integrated North American cattle industry that we had on and before May 19.

While the immediate priority has been to focus energies on reopening the border, at the same time the government has been working to assist the industry financially until such time as full trade in beef and cattle resumes with all of Canada's trading partners. Of course other animals are involved such as the goat industry, the sheep industry, and as we have heard, cattle of all kinds, from the dairy to the heifers and the springers.

As my hon. colleagues will recall, immediately after the news was announced, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency launched a comprehensive trace back and trace forward investigation. This investigation involved the necessary culling of some 2,700 animals. The CFIA has now compensated producers for all animals ordered destroyed during the active investigation. Cheques have been sent out, with amounts based on the market value of each animal.

When it became apparent that the U.S. border reopening was not imminent, on June 18 my hon. colleague, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, along with his provincial and territorial colleagues, announced cost shared assistance totalling $460 million. The national BSE recovery program comprised a maximum investment of $276 million from the federal government and a maximum of $184 million from provincial and territorial governments.

This assistance was designed to compensate producers when the price of cattle fell below a reference price based upon the market value in the U.S. The producers of other ruminants were also eligible for payments.

Under this program, processors are also offered incentives to sell or otherwise move out of inventories surplus meat cuts that were produced after May 20. The aim was to free up storage space, allowing processors to operate in an increased capacity to serve the domestic market.

On August 17 my colleague, the Minister of Agriculture, announced an addition to the recovery program involving an investment of $36 million.

The national BSE recovery program, which represented a total federal investment of $312 million, fully did the job it was intended to do. Slaughter levels were restored to comparable levels before May 19. The domestic market was kept moving and feedlots and processors received some relief from severely depressed prices. With the help, support and fairness of those processors, we certainly could have done much better. In my opinion, they did not try hard enough.

We are now in the fall season. Calves are coming off pasture and producers' need for cash to mitigate the effects of the border closure is still urgent. To this end, in his August 17 announcement, the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food also advanced disaster assistance to producers under bilateral agreements, with provinces already committing funding for all five elements under the agricultural policy framework. Some provinces signed these bilateral agreements yesterday and producers will be able to apply for assistance within two weeks.

These advances constitute a transition measure until new business risk management programming is fully implemented across Canada. Transition funding will be equal to a portion of a producer's expected payments for this year, when the new Canadian agricultural income stabilization program comes into force.

Just this past Friday, my hon. colleague, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced further assistance for producers through the second installment of $600 million in transition funding. This investment is part of the $1.2 million investment that the Government of Canada announced in June 2002.

This will help producers with immediate needs related to BSE as well as other pressures encountered this year. Cheques will be delivered directly to producers across the country this fall. Payments will be based on a producer's average eligible net sales for the past five years. Payments will not be counted as revenue under the Canadian agricultural income stabilization program.

This direct payment approach is preferred by most producer groups, and it fulfills the Government of Canada's commitment to continue to help the industry with its immediate needs while in transition to the new programming under the agricultural policy framework. I know my colleague the hon. Minister of Agriculture is eager to get the available resources out to farmers as soon as possible.

Under the business risk management element of the agricultural policy framework, there is a total of $1.1 billion a year in federal dollars available to producers in provinces that have signed the framework implementation agreement. Collectively under the cost sharing agreement, the provinces and the territories will contribute another $700 million. This brings the total investment to $1.8 billion a year. That amounts to a total federal, provincial and territorial investment of some $9 billion over the five years of the framework.

We need to flow these APF funds as soon as possible. What is needed right now is the money, but we continue to work with the industry to assess its needs. The Government of Canada remains committed to doing everything possible to help our cattle producers and our industry manage through this difficult time. We have been working co-operatively with the Canadian beef industry and we will not let up one iota until we have full restoration of the integrated North American market.

I want to thank my neighbour and our friend the agriculture minister and his department because all we have to do is check the records. It is sad to say we are a BSE country. No country has ever gone from BSE to shipping products across the border as quickly as Canada has done and that is because of the good science and the cooperation of our neighbours, the United States.

The United States wants the border open except for a few people who have protectionism along the border. My neighbour, our friend the Minister of Agriculture has worked untiringly, continually on this all summer. He has done such a good job that now U.S. secretary of agriculture Ann Veneman is working to fast track this. Let us hope that comes along well and we can have the border open so we can resume some normal sense of shipping back and forth.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his presentation on BSE. It was a little disheartening because it was a presentation from a Liberal and was nothing but accolades for the Liberal government and for what it has done. All Canadians still have some major concerns with the border not being completely open. When that border is open and when live cattle are moving across that border, perhaps then we will stand back and give a little more applause. Until then, the majority of Canadians are asking where the government is now.

It was on May 20 that one isolated incident of BSE was found in Canada. The CFIA moved into action. It had the ability to trace and to track, and to show the genetic lines of that animal to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was one isolated incident.

Since that time, we have not seen the government step forward with a strategy to open the border to live cattle. We do appreciate some of the help that has come through the recovery plan and other programs, but we have not seen a strategy with timelines involved showing what the government is doing now to get the border open. We have a process and a protocol for countries that have an outbreak of BSE. Most of these protocols are put in place for countries that have many cases of BSE. We had one isolated incident.

Could the member tell us that he believes the process is flawed? Could he tell us that the protocol for reopening the border is flawed?

A government that should be applauded is one that puts a process in place before a crisis hits. Seeing how the crisis is here, what is the government's strategy toward letting the public and producers know that there is a process in place to have the Americans open the border?

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, our strategy is to continue to work on this. As I have said, the minister, the Prime Minister and several ministers have met and have talked to every level of government in the United States. We have taken the good science that is recognized around the world as well as that of Dr. Brian Evans who is one of the top veterinarians of the world.

However there are politics in North America and our neighbours have elections.

We have pages and pages of records and documentation of when members of our front bench have talked to the United States, or Japan or when they have worked with Mexico. They have been back and forth continually.

We have the science and that is why the border is open now, and it has been opened quicker than for any other country that had BSE. I wish we had it open fully. I am sure we will.

I want to mention one thing at this opportunity. The Calgary paper is not always friendly to the Liberals, but today it stated:

Alberta's agriculture minister said Ottawa's argument that available aid money has not yet been accessed is fair. I cannot argue that” McLellan said. They've got money available.

Let us work through this and let us get that border open as soon as we can.

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4:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member's remarks. I do, however, agree that there appears to be an absence of a comprehensive plan going forward and I acknowledge that there have been extraordinary efforts made at all levels and in particular, the stakeholders.

I listened very closely to one point in the member's speech when he said, “and this Liberal government is willing to do anything”.

My question for the hon. member is this. Why would the government not support a non-partisan effort? If other ministers of his government, if other members, if other emissaries have made interventions and tried to go to Washington to make this happen, why would the government not support this effort?

I hear someone flapping their gums over there, referencing it as being a partisan effort. I remind the hon. member that members of the agriculture committee, members of his own party, supported almost an identical motion put before the agriculture committee at a special meeting this summer. Why is there the pull-back now?

I know the hon. member spent time on a farm. I have spent time on a farm. We raised beef cattle when I was a kid. While my father was here, my grandfather and I were looking after our Scottish Highland cattle. Therefore I know the perils they are facing. I know very much the angst they are feeling over these cattle that may have to be fed over the winter months because they cannot take them to market. They cannot do their normal routine and slaughter in the fall.

If the government is sincere in saying, “we're willing to do anything, we're willing to do everything in our power”, why would it not support a non-partisan intervention, an effort to bring stakeholders, people from the agriculture community, members of Parliament, leaders--

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4:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I want to leave a bit of time for the hon. member to respond. The hon. member for Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington.

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4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments by the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, who is a fine young person and a very bright young man. I also compliment the person who brought forward the motion today with good intent. I will give him credit for that.

Our agriculture committee has a reputation for getting along with all parties more than any other committee on the Hill. I have said that in all 10 provinces and I hope I can continue to say that.

I do not think this is the right timing. Last week we had beef people from across the country and a cattle liner assembled on the Hill. I went to the meeting later with the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food along with the Ontario Federation of Agriculture and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. The minister laid the cards on the table and we made great advances, according to the top officials of the United States department of agriculture.

I think we are getting there. Our steps are quickening. I just do not think it is the time for us to go to Washington. We have been there before at a committee and I think we should do it regularly, as my colleague said.

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4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I too congratulate the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party for bringing the motion forward, as our own leader has done the same in a number of different ways.

We have been able to make some rather tragic observations in this process, observations in general about the performance of the government. Depending upon the type of pressure, we can estimate how the government will respond.

If the pressure is on the government from internal individuals or organizations for the government to be quick to get them their subsidy, or their contract, or things that they did for the government or their particular appointment, the government can move with the speed of light and address those concerns. However when it is an issue on one of the inevitable crises of life, when it is an issue that affects all Canadians outside of government, Canadians who maybe are not in line for an appointment, or a contract or a subsidy, then the government moves with glacier-like speed.

The problem is livelihoods are at stake at these times when crises like this hit. It is inexcusable to have a government that drags its feet and is so unconcerned, possibly because so many of the people affected, not all, are beyond the sight of the CN Tower.

There are many in Ontario who are affected and this is true. However this industry which is so vital in the western Canadian economy is suffering. It has been hit hard. We can see the pattern. When people from within the Liberal party need help, the government is quick and to be there for them.

When it is outside the party, the first response is usually denial, that it is not a problem. We have seen this pattern in a number of different crises that have hit. Then we see an acceptance when the groups and citizens themselves react and the opposition speaks up and raises the issue. The then government moves from denial to all right there may be a problem.

There is sort of a grudging acceptance that there could just be an issue here affecting Canadians. Then only under sustained pressures, usually from the opposition, does the government admit there is a problem and it takes a few baby steps to address what is a huge problem, then sits back and says that it is done.

We see that pattern all the time. Frankly, it is not acceptable when people's livelihoods and futures are at stake.

Look at every international incident of the past year: the blackout in Ontario, the outbreak of SARS in Toronto, the softwood lumber issues. All of these emphasize this government's short-sightedness and inability to respond.

Minister Vanclief travelled to Tokyo in June, but came back empty-handed. The Japanese were unable to tell him how to restore international trade, and the minister did not present them with any suggestions for resolving the problem. The crisis continues.

Another question we can ask ourselves is: Where is the Minister for International Trade? Where is he?

Is it enough to have Prime Minister Jean Chrétien speak on the phone? It is not.

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4:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. This is the second time a cabinet member has been referred to by name instead of by portfolio. I do hope the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla will be able to adapt his text to refer to the portfolio or title of members instead of their names.

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4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

As usual, you are right, Mr. Speaker. Thank you for correcting me; I needed to be reminded.

I was saying that our Prime Minister speaking on the phone is not enough.

That is not enough. More has to be done.

We have looked at the rapid response from the industry itself, whether it is beef, veal or dairy. That industry has lost over $1 billion and is facing a true winter of discontent, a winter where feeding has to take place or there is a possibility that we may have to destroy up to 700,000 head of cattle.

The support announcement in June was only good until August 30. Today is the first day of fall. It is a harbinger of a winter to come. Regardless of the views on global warming, it will be a cold winter for the industry. Banks, equipment dealers, retailers in small towns across the west, in Ontario and in other parts of Canada will all face very difficult choices.

The Minister of Agriculture has said that money will flow, but he said that it will flow when farmers force their provincial governments to sign on to a flawed agriculture policy framework. It is one thing to stand up and say that the money will flow, but the Liberals always leave out the other portion. They say that when farmers get their provincial governments to sign on to this policy, a policy that is ripe with flaws, then there will be money. They need to be honest about the money problem and why it is not flowing. The APF has no provision for emergencies such as border closures and provides less coverage in bad years than previous programs.

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association has called for the government to assist in finding alternative markets. We understand Russia was willing to buy older cows and to pay ranchers up to $330 per head for 10% of their herds. That is the usual number that is culled in a year. They also want the payment, regardless of slaughter, which will allow ranchers to wait for the best time to sell rather than flooding a down market.

People in the industry, the hard-working people, the agriculture community, have worked to come up with solutions. They are not just sitting back shouting and protesting, though they are doing that. It was a pleasure and an honour to be involved in a demonstration and a rally out on the steps of Parliament just last week with colleagues and with members of almost every other party except the governing party.

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September 23rd, 2003 / 4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

I was there.

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4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have an intervention there. I was not aware that an element of the backbench was represented. Obviously he saw the writing on the wall, saw some votes and got out there. I will not presume a negative incentive. I think he was probably there with a good heart, and we will give him that.

All the other leaders were there speaking. Where was the leader of the governing party, at least to send a message that the government heard and understood there was a problem? Nobody was there. It cannot continue this way. A government that simply does not respond quickly to the issues and pressures of its citizens should forfeit its ability, which it has already forfeited, and should forfeit the right to say that it is representing the people, because it is not.

A sneaking suspicion has begun to enter into the minds of Canadians that there are answers to all of these problems but the government is seemingly slowing down and delaying. A question was raised today by the leader of the Canadian Alliance. Is the government holding back with the answers until the other prime minister, and it is rare that we have two prime ministers at once, enters, stands upon the national stage with all kinds of answers and is seen to be solving the problems? Are Canadians being put at risk? Are Canadians under the pressure of these crises, which could be resolved if the will was there? Are they under that pressure because back in the wings the Liberals are ready to introduce their new leader some months from now with the answers, with the solutions that are ready to go today?

We are asking the government to move now, to move today, to set politics aside and put people first. Ironically that will probably get a good response from people, more so than being seen as trying to contrive things politically. Put people first: that is what we are asking the government to do.

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4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the previous speaker did pull back a few comments.

I was not able to meet you under the big top as I read in your column when I was in Merritt--

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4:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. I know this exchange is friendly, but sometimes exchanges can be a little less friendly. Please make sure your interventions are made through the Chair.

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4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Larry McCormick Liberal Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for correcting me.

I was in western Canada this year in the great cattle country around Merritt, which I admire greatly, and I just want to ask the member about his remark about the APF. He said it was flawed. If I am not mistaken, British Columbia signed this policy in June or earlier.

I would like to see the provinces sign it and get on with it. I am sure we can make adjustments. In fact, there is going to be a review every year.

I would expect the hon. member to respect the people with the knowledge in his own province. I do not think it was flawed or else we would not have seen B.C. sign it as soon as anyone.

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4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, first let me clarify a couple of things. The member talks about being under the big top in Merritt. Merritt is a fabulous part of the constituency, which I am honoured to serve. The people there actually live up to the name Merritt because the people of Merritt have been hit by a number of crises, and definitely the crisis with the beef problem. As I am sure the member would know, within and close to the town of Merritt in the Nicola Valley there is in fact the largest ranch in North America.

When I am in Merritt to have meetings, as I often am, one of the things I like to do is set up a little booth right there on Main Street. I put up a sign to let people know I am there and they come and tell me about the things that concern them. It is a way of working with people right on the street rather than people, with their busy schedules, trying to meet me in an office somewhere. It is effective. I am sorry the member could not meet me there under the big little top. We could have had a good discussion.

It is one thing for a province to sign on to the APF, and some provinces are and some are not, but when nothing else is being presented except something that is meagre then the province is bound to. Under that pressure, some of them see it as desperation or almost as, and I will say this in a soft sense, a form of extortion. It is take or leave it, so they are settling for something far less than what could be. Provinces that sign on are under that kind of pressure. Of course they are going to take what they can, but the greater solutions still elude them because the federal government has not stepped up to the plate as it should.

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4:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I was particularly taken by the hon. member referring to the speed with which the government can react. We saw it with the purchase of Challenger jets. We have seen it with the procurement of contracts that are currently under investigation by the RCMP. We have seen many of the corrupt advertising practices of the government. We have seen all sorts of instances when money could be accessed very quickly. We saw it today, where more money is being put into the gun registry. Clearly when the motivation and the political will are there, the government is able to access money.

My direct question to the member is with respect to the way in which the government has emitted anti-Americanism, including our own natural resources minister who referred to the president as a failed statesman. Does the hon. member think that this may in fact be part of the political problem between Washington and Ottawa, that this may in fact impact on our ability to have an audience with the president, to have actual input into the solutions required for the BSE crisis that is crippling the Canadian cattle industry?

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4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the insight of the hon. member in posing the question, so closely on track with our position on so much that it does of course beg the question about how we can work together even more closely in our two parties.

It is a dimension of the problem that the federal Liberals do not like to address, but in fact, as we find with international relations, with foreign relations and even in relations with our friends to the south of us, these types of relations are just relations between people. The leader of the Progressive Conservatives is quite right when he points to the fact that one can make a solution more difficult to arrive at when all the way along one insults everybody who is involved in the possible resolution of that particular problem. This federal Liberal Party takes on anti-Americanism as a policy. That is a policy position for the Liberals. Not only is it a knee-jerk reflex, it is a policy position.

I much would have much preferred to see the Prime Minister going to bat for Canada on issues like the U.S. farm policy and its subsidies, which hurt all Canadian farmers, and on softwood lumber and certainly on this beef issue. I wish his focus and his energies had been there instead of on the mindless insults across the border that he not only perpetrates but allows his ministers to perpetrate, without any kind of recourse, without any kind of correction. That has poisoned the well of negotiations. The member is quite right in pointing that out.

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4:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before we resume debate, it is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt, Public Service; the hon. member for Windsor West, Infrastructure.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Crowfoot.

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4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to stand in the House again and support the motion before the House today, a motion that calls upon the Prime Minister to convene and lead a multi-party group to Washington with the goal in mind of seeing the border reopened to Canadian beef and, I should say, to Canadian livestock. Not only beef is affected by this.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend the members of my party for their diligence and hard work in drawing attention to the plight of the Canadian cattle industry, especially those rural members of Parliament who are faced on a daily basis with ranchers, farmers and beef producers who fear a very uncertain future knowing that the government is coming from a perspective of having no real strategy, of not understanding how to achieve what it claims it wants to achieve but still going through the exercise.

This single incident of BSE has had a very obvious and devastating impact on the complete cattle industry. It is going to take a long time to recover. To be quite frank, it is going to take a long time to recover because the Liberal government has not placed this as a priority. It has not placed it as a priority from the very outset. Regardless of what some of the members of this House have said today, we have seen other issues brought forward which have diverted the attention that should have been put on the BSE issue. In the meantime, producers are hurting.

The cattle industry has lost over a billion dollars to date and approximately 100,000 Canadians have been directly targeted by this tragedy. We obviously recognize that ranchers, cattle producers, the cow-calf individuals and the feedlot operators are being hurt. They are the obvious ones who feel the crisis at this time, but there are many others as well. There are auction houses, auction companies, stockyards, slaughterhouse owners, transporters, butchers, truckers, and even restaurant owners who pride themselves on serving only grade A Alberta beef. They have all felt the prolonged financial pinch because this government has failed to respond to the disaster to the degree that I believe it should have.

This past summer while the Prime Minister was sipping champagne in Great Britain, my leader and a number of people from caucus were in Washington speaking to Congress, speaking to those who were trying to listen to what was happening in Canada. The main purpose of their visit was to explain to our neighbours to the south the extreme impact that this was having on the family farm, on the beef industry and on businesses.

It came down to the fact that we saw the CFIA moving on tracing and tracking and we saw other people showing that this was only one isolated incident, but the government was not coming forward with a strategy on how we could see a comprehensive plan put in place that would move the Americans to reopen the border to Canadian beef. We are losing approximately $11 million per day, primarily in the beef industry, but an estimated $20 million when we look at all the other spinoffs from it.

We recognize that much more could have been done and now must be done in order to address this extremely serious issue. That is why we sent a delegation to the United States. We must get the border open before harm is done to the cattle industry and we must get it open before that harm is irreversible.

When we talk about irreversible, we talk about family farms that are disappearing. We talk about young farmers who are trying to meet payments this fall, young farmers who are calling our offices. In one instance the caller told me his payments are due on November 1. He sells his calves in the middle of October. He has land payments, equipment payments and cattle payments. What does he do at the local auction mart with the prices that he has seen there? How does he know what to do? He asked, “What can I tell my banker today?”

I would like to read to the House a couple of quotes that appeared in some of the local papers in my riding. The first one is from an article written by Murray Green in the Camrose Canadian :

The hard times farmers in this country are faced with because of the mad cow disease rest squarely on the shoulders of the federal government, according to the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties.

“The single case of BSE that was discovered on May 20 has crippled the cattle industry in Canada,” said Jack Hayden, president of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties.

Mr. Hayden went on to say:

--we have been very frustrated in our efforts to get the federal agricultural minister on side. He doesn't even return phone calls”.

The lack of full border opening to the United States has left about 260,000 culled animals with no place to go in the market place or for slaughter. A mass slaughter is not the answer, says Hayden.

Mr. Hayden said:

Even a partial reopening of the border is not going to counteract the devastating effects the widespread border closures have caused...farmers need help now and the federal politicians have to get on board.

I would add that before the Liberal government finally does make some steps, when it finally does get on board, I would suggest that it let the Canadian public know that there is a strategy, that there is a plan, that there is a way we can move or influence that border to be opened.

We have seen that the Canadian Cattlemen's Association has come up with a plan, a four-part strategy to get the border open. We have had no such indication from the government. The minister and members on the opposite side stood in the House today to say that they have put $200 million here and $260 million there, that they have put this much money in, but we have not seen a plan. Until the industry knows that the government has an idea on how it can do it, there is no confidence in the border being opened and there is certainly no confidence in the government.

We want to be assured today that when there is a plan, when the government finally does disclose some type of plan that it may be making in the future, not only will that plan come out of round table discussions, which already have taken place and are very important, we want to be assured that the people who are devising this plan are individuals who are involved in the industry, that is, individuals who have mud and other substances on their boots and who understand the cattle industry and the effects that this is having on the family farm.

We know there is a litany of people across the way who have individuals in ivory towers who will come up with some type of strategy, but we want to be assured that ministers such as Shirley McClellan from Alberta are involved. We want to know that groups such as the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and other Alberta people like Neil Jahnke and Arno Doerksen are involved in the devising of the strategy.

Blair Vold is well known in Alberta. He owns the auction company Vold, Jones and Vold, in Ponoka. He said that we must “stop and think about the anti-American bashing that has come about because of the border closure to Canadian beef”.

In a letter to the Bashaw Star , Mr. Vold said:

We in the cattle industry, not only in Alberta but also in all of Canada, have developed a very large trading relationship with our American neighbours in the cattle business....Whether some like it or not, we in the cattle industry have built a relationship with our U.S. neighbours that has drawn respect and friendships over many years of cattle deals done on handshakes and phone calls.

Being a neighbour, whether it's in town or country, is no different than being a neighbour with the Americans. It's the people that live beside each other than need to respect and support each other. Americans are our friends and neighbours, so let's respect them more and bash them less....We have a lot of work to do yet, and there are a lot of good cattle people and politicians on both sides of the border that will get the task done, so let's let them do their work.

Yet we see that the job is not being completed. We have seen infant steps. We need to be sure that all those people are brought into the process. We need to be assured and we need to thank Canadians for their response in the consumption of the amount of beef that has taken place this summer. I have attended many beef rallies and beef on a bun dinners night after night after night.