Mr. Speaker, I would call the announcement by the minister very disappointing, because I think it is electoral manoeuvring. For many weeks now, agricultural producers, particularly those in Quebec, have been asking the federal government for substantial assistance that would enable them to get out of this black hole.
We must consider the importance of this industry in Canada. It represents 8% of the GDP. It involves men and women who make a living by farming and raise their children on the income generated by the land. Thus, it is very important.
Once again, the Liberal government has missed the target, especially in Quebec. Why? It is the same thing with regard to employment insurance. Programs are levelled horizontally, have very little effect in any region, and cause thousands of jobs to be lost. The same is true in the softwood lumber crisis. Once again, here is a program that has missed its target and is causing job losses in the regions of Quebec as well.
According to the minister, this is a $1 billion program, while the figures add up to $680 million. This sum will help cattle producers to survive but not to improve their lot or make up for losses. It will only enable them to survive.
Worse yet, according to Statistics Canada data on herds, Quebec will probably receive only 7.5% of this money, which is roughly $50 million and not nearly enough. However, the Prairies should receive nearly half a billion dollars, with $280 million going to Alberta alone.
The Liberal government has not improved its assistance for producers of cull, which is very important in Quebec. Furthermore, that was one of the major things Quebec had expected from such a plan.
Today, the announcement was indeed substantial for cattle farmers in western Canada. However, the problem is that Quebec dairy farmers are victims of the mad cow crisis and are not receiving a dime from the government today.
The existing program compensates only up to $80 a head of cull and covers roughly only a quarter of the estimated loss. This assistance should have been substantially increased to reach a reasonable level.
In addition, the program in place covers only 16% of the herd, while roughly 25% of the animals become cull each year and are sent to slaughter. In other words, only two-thirds of the animals are covered by protection that is already insufficient.
Quebec farmers who are victims of the discovery of mad cow in Alberta see farmers in the west being helped today by the federal government, yet they are not receiving reasonable compensation.
If Quebec were sovereign and had all its tax points, we could decide for ourselves the best way to support our farmers. Unfortunately, our taxes for the most part come from Ottawa. We have to fight to use our money the way we see fit and in a way that best suits our specific needs.
Farmers in Quebec never would have been penalized by the mad cow crisis that started in Alberta if Quebec had been sovereign, since that would have been a problem outside Quebec. In addition, farmers would be able to rely on their government, the Government of Quebec, to provide them with adequate support, if necessary.
Today Quebec farmers must be saying that the federal government does not serve them very well and that it must extend its assistance to include cull, since it has a duty to help Quebec farmers too.