Mr. Chair, I welcome you in your new position.
I always feel like what the great Tommy Douglas said: that there is something about a fight that makes me want to get up in the morning. People here know me as someone who likes to get at it, but I have to say tonight that I really have to move beyond that because I am tired of this debate.
My very first debate in the House was on this crisis, and we have had so many since then. I really do not want to be here two or three months from now replaying the same thing over and over. I have a sense that we all know what the problem is, but the question is, where are we going to go with it?
I can give members an example. I represent the great riding of Timmins—James Bay. We have an amazing agricultural base there. I think it is the promised land. And there is still promise in the promised land. We were talking with farmers the other day about encouraging farmers to come over from Europe and settle because the land is still fairly cheap. We have wheat, sheep and a great dairy and beef industry, and it can be sustainable, but what we are seeing is the problem of farmers who are now slipping under. And these are the most efficient farmers in the world.
I got a call at home on Sunday night; people know I am at home on Sunday nights. A man said, “Mr. Angus, I don't want to bother you because I know you're a busy man”. Of course he could bother me, I said. He said he needed something to help him. He said he did not have enough feed, that he had not made it through the winter. He said, “I can't feed the cattle snowballs any more”. He said, “There's got to be a government program that can get me through just to spring”.
I asked if he had tried CAIS. He said he tried but got nothing out of it. I asked if he got the cattle set-aside. He said he got a little bit from that but it did not get him any feed. I said the only choice would be Farm Credit, but he cannot go to Farm Credit. Nobody is going to give him any more credit.
The story I have is the story that each member who is here tonight has. We know CAIS does not work. We have talked about it a thousand times. We had farmers from across Ontario show up at the Ontario legislature two weeks ago. They surrounded it, like they have done here. They surrounded it for four days. They said they wanted action.
We saw that government down in Toronto stand up during its budget with its government members slapping themselves on the back and telling the whole province what a great job they have done for farmers by telling farmers to go to Ottawa, because Ottawa is their problem. That is not leadership. And here, tonight, we cannot tell our farmers that we have a problem with CAIS because the province of Ontario or the province of Saskatchewan or every other province does not want to help. We have the will if we want it.
I would like to suggest that in the 39th Parliament we do something fundamentally different from what we ever did in the 38th Parliament. I would say that we have unanimous consent: we know that program does not work. I would refer to parliamentary precedent. The great member for Elmwood—Transcona told me about the time the debate was going on about the bill on the firefighters' pension. He stood up and said, “What are we all arguing about? We all agree and we can get unanimous consent”.
I would like to say that we could get unanimous consent tonight such that within a year we are going to have a risk management program that works. If the provinces do not want to come along, we will defy them. We can do that as a Parliament. We can make that commitment to our farmers that we will go through with it. Of course, the minister cannot stand up and say he can deliver it, but what he can say is that they will try to get this into this budget.
If we sent that message, we would send a message that this Parliament is committed to actually doing something about the farm income crisis. Because I really have to say that I do not want everyone here putting out our 10 percenters saying that we stood up and fought for farmers while knowing that nothing changed.
We can do it tonight. I am asking the minister to make that commitment. I am asking each party to work with us. Let us put it aside. Let us get it done. We have a year to get a risk management program that works. We will stand up to the provinces if they do not want to come along, because we know what it is about. We know it is about passing the buck so that no one has to pay the cheque at the end of the day. That is my recommendation for this evening. I am asking for action on it.
I have a few other comments that I would like to make in terms of the overall direction, and we have had some interesting promises. I am concerned about the belief that we can move to a market-driven solution. Our farmers are the most efficient in the world and yet they are failures because we know that there is no such thing in agriculture as an open market. There is no such thing as a fair market and there is no such thing as a free market.
We have to address those fundamental inequities, internationally and domestically, and we have to be realistic about our ability to deal with that. There is no fair or free market when it is controlled by Cargill, Tyson and ADM. When farmers in my region in northern Ontario bring grade one canola down to the crushing plant and it gets dumped by ADM and there is no place else to sell it, that is not a free and open market.
My good friend from Sackville--Eastern Shore pointed out the lack of access for our domestic producers to get into the grocery stores. When we set up a milk co-op and it is successful, we know that it will be shut down because not a single independent grocer or other grocery chain will touch it when it is a local product. We have to address that.
We cannot talk about the market handling the problems at the domestic level because farmers are in a fundamentally unequal relationship. The question is whether there is a desire to deal with the problems of the agricultural crisis because agri-business is making better money now than it has ever made. That has to be confronted at the domestic level.
When we talk about the international problems, we have to be realistic. Again, I am trying to do this in a conciliatory fashion where we can bring change in the 39th Parliament. There is no way we can have a market-driven response when Ontario wheat is sold into Egypt and we cannot sell because as soon as France finds out, it throws a subsidy on its wheat and undercuts us. It is not possible to have a market-driven response when U.S. corn is coming across the border, subsidized at $2 a bushel. We cannot compete and we should not have to compete because it is fundamentally not right.
I have faith that our minister will go to the WTO and represent our interests, but no one should suggest for a second that the E.U. or the United States will drop subsidies on their rural programs. It is not going to happen. That would be the quickest ticket to political oblivion in the United States today. We have to be realistic in facing that.
What is happening with the subsidies is not just damaging us on the domestic market, it is wreaking havoc with the international economy. The economies of developing nations are being put under. Countries like Jamaica are being flooded by the E.U. What is being done to promote the farm economies of the E.U. and the U.S. is fundamentally wrong for anyone who believes that a producer should be able to take their goods to market and sell them. We can say with pride in Canada that we have not gone out to undermine third world agriculture. We have not gone to bury them with a Wal-Mart approach. We have taken our domestic markets and tried to make them work. Because we are successful, we are suffering attacks at the WTO.
I have to suggest to the minister that we need to have an articulated plan B. As much faith as I have in his willingness to go fight for us, the U.S. is not going to play on a level playing field nor is the E.U. Without a level playing field, there is no talk about a international market response. It is not going to happen.
I will leave it at that. I would love to speak for my full 10 minutes and I usually try to squeak out an extra few minutes. I feel tonight that we have had a lot of talk. I ask the minister and I ask for all-party consent to come out of tonight with an agreement that within one year we will bring back to the people of Canada a fully funded risk management program that works and we will tell the provinces that we want them to sign on or they will face the wrath of the farm community of Canada.