House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was voters.


6:35 p.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to say that my question was addressed to this parliamentary secretary because when I asked the question in this House, he replied. I am happy that some steps have been taken. The parliamentary secretary just said that cars have been seized.

What I would like to know is whether the government plans to make more systematic seizures by going into areas where this illegal trade is going on in the open, for example, in small shops at the side of the road, where people drive up, fill their trunk and leave. It is very easy to identify these people. Does the government plan to take real action and go further?

Because this trade has a huge impact. The loss of revenue for governments is in the order of $1.6 billion. A lot could be done with that money.

6:35 p.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the illegal tobacco trade is an important issue for the government. I agree with my hon. colleague that it is a difficult problem for police forces, whether it is at the border, the RCMP, or local forces, to catch some of the folks who are doing it in these local areas. All police forces, the RCMP and local forces, are stretched quite badly with respect to resources.

That is why we have increased the capacity of cross border agencies. We have increased the capacity of the RCMP. It is going to take a little time to do that. The size of the force has been allowed to degrade over a number of years. We are building that back up.

There will be a lot of cooperation, as there is today, and that will improve as forces have more resources, local and RCMP, to combat these kinds of activities and that will only improve as time goes on.

6:35 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, on November 2 I raised a very serious question with the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food on why the new government is failing to respond to the income crisis facing beef producers and cow-calf operators across this country.

Farmers in the beef industry are taking historic income losses, with prices at the farm gate absolutely tumbling into negative levels for the last several months. Many are faced with no choice but to attempt to refinance or even close down their farm operations and many are taking that option, which is very serious. These farmers are watching in fear and frustration as their life's work disintegrates before their very eyes and the government does nothing.

After I asked the question, the response I received from the Secretary of State (Agriculture) was nothing short of idiotic. The secretary of state showed absolute disrespect on the government's part for struggling farmers, farmers losing their life's work because of events beyond their control, farmers who put high quality food on Canadian tables, farmers who are the key generators of wealth for all others in the food chain, and farmers who contribute to export dollars and Canada's positive balance of trade.

I would hope the parliamentary secretary tonight, on behalf of the government, has some positive program and financial dollars to announce for suffering beef and hog farmers in this country.

How serious is the crisis? As one producer in my riding told me, for several months now he has been losing $20,000 in equity every week as the dollar goes up in value. Another sold cattle for $1,400 per animal in April and in October for $900. We certainly have not seen prices come down on consumer shelves.

Fed steer prices in Alberta fell by 13% in the last eight months while costs rapidly escalated. It has been noted that 40% of the cow-calf herd operators in Alberta could be out of business by Christmas. Bred cows are being sold at disaster prices, if they can sell at all, at between $300 and $700. This is a nationwide disaster and the government has a responsibility to act.

These are not just numbers. These are people. These are farmers. These are people who live in communities and are in serious financial trouble while the Government of Canada sits on huge surpluses. In fact, many are saying that this income crisis is worse than that caused by the closing of the border when we were struck by BSE.

However, during the BSE crisis cattle producers had the support and understanding of the Canadian public. It is not the same today and there is a huge difference in Ottawa. During BSE farmers had a government that cared and acted while the new government seems struck by inaction at best and incompetence at worst.

Just to emphasize how governments can respond, let me draw a comparison when BSE happened. The previous government acted. Yes, there was CAIS, but it was inadequate to do the job and instead of using safety nets as a crutch for inaction as the new government is doing, the minister of the day, Andy Mitchell, acted with the following: $520 million for the BSE recovery program, $200 million for the cull animal program, $680 million for the transitional industry support program and 10 others--

6:40 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario.

6:40 p.m.

Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry Ontario


Guy Lauzon ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, agriculture is a big job and the minister comes to it with a bedrock principle: in making every decision on every policy, he is fully committed to putting farmers first.

In fact, since taking office, the government has announced a number of programs that will benefit farmers and processors. For instance, we have spent $3.9 million in support of packing plants. Our government is contributing $2.3 million for the disposal of specified risk material.

The government has also eased labour shortages in processing plants. We gave $51 million to improve the temporary foreign workers program.

What is more, our government, along with the provincial governments, is providing $130 million to minimize the costs of Canada's enhanced feed ban.

We are working with industry to come up with solutions that will meet its needs.

The national Beef Industry Value Chain Roundtable continues to work hard to address the various competitive challenges.

Because we put farmers first, targeted advanced payments are starting to flow. This will give farmers much needed cash.

In January, $600 million for NISA-type programs will come into play. As we know, farmers have requested this type of payment since the previous Liberal government scrapped NISA.

The federal government is providing carefully planned and strategically implemented support to the beef industry. Support must be provided based on a viable plan to ensure a sustainable future. Discussions are continuing with provincial governments to consider ways in which the federal and provincial governments can work with the industry to support viability and prosperity.

Our record is very clear. We put farmers first and we provide results.

However, that member has some serious explaining to do. Let me just remind the House of the record of the member for Malpeque. In 2001, he voted against $400 million for farm family emergency aid. In 2002, he was too afraid to stand up to American protectionist policies. In 2004, he voted against providing help for farmers hard hit by BSE. In 2006, he voted against accountability at the Wheat Board.

Under what authority does that member stand up in this House to lecture this government?

Clearly, this government has the interests of farmers in mind. We put farmers first.

6:45 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary and the government can attack me if they like, but the fact of the matter is that the government is failing the beef industry in this country and the parliamentary secretary knows it. With huge surpluses, beef producers need an immediate cash payment and they need it now.

I would suggest that the little list that he went through is an absolute pittance in terms of what this industry needs. This industry is in disaster and the government is failing the industry. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association had a number of suggestions.

I am saying, number one, that we need an ad hoc payment and we need it today.

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association also talked about the need to lower the Bank of Canada interest rates. That has to be done.

The association said there needs to be changes to CAIS to ensure national uniformity and greater responsiveness to rapid change in currency values. That needs to be done.

The association said we need to decouple the cash advances from CAIS. That needs to be done. It said we need--

6:45 p.m.


Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, the old adage “the truth hurts” comes to mind. This government is working with industry for results that meet its needs. We have listened to farmers and we are acting, unlike the previous Liberals. The throne speech gave more to farmers than the Liberals ever gave.

We are working with the beef round table for concrete solutions. We are also working with the provincial governments. In fact, the minister is on his way to meet the provincial ministers of agriculture as we speak.

We have eased labour shortages in packing plants.

In summary, let me reiterate: we in this government put farmers first.

6:45 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted.

Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:47 p.m.)