Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak again tonight.
I guess as I sat here this evening it struck me again that the opposition really does not have to come up with practical solutions to the problems. The government does and we are doing that.
I was struck earlier by a couple of comments made by some of the opposition parties. I think they can afford to dream in technicolor or they can afford to come up with whatever statements they want. They do not have to be practical.
I was interested to hear my colleague from the Bloc actually try to take credit for the fact that the government had brought in article 28. As the House knows, that was requested by the supply management industry some time ago.
The Liberal government would not move on that at all. It never even made a move on it. The Bloc certainly cannot take any credit for that because it was this government that made the move. As with so many other things, the Bloc members would like to engage in that hyperbole that says that they can actually do something here in Ottawa. However, as we have pointed out time and again in the House, they really do not. They cannot.
In the time that they have been here, they cannot have results. They are like the NDP members. They are consigned to perpetual opposition. As such, they are not the ones who are going to be able to bring change or bring success to the agricultural industry.
I also had to reflect on the dream that my colleague from Malpeque seemed to have had when he claimed that the Liberals had 11 programs to deal with BSE. He seemed to think that they had worked. If they had 11 programs, no one noticed 10 of them and the other one ended up funding the big companies. There was quite a conflict over that early on in the BSE crisis as well.
The Liberals cannot pretend that they have actually done anything successfully for farmers in the last decade that they were in power.
I was interested to hear the NDP critic tonight really complaining about the fact that we are trying to integrate markets. The NDP members seem to be stuck in some paradigm from 100 years ago where they think that Canada can exist without any type of trading with other markets. Clearly, if we are talking about beef and pork, those are two items in which we have to trade internationally.
I do not know if the member has not travelled to see that or what. Clearly, the NDP solution, which is not to integrate, not to trade with anyone, would bring complete and total disaster on to our agricultural markets in this country.
I hear one of the NDP members heckling me and I understand he is from an urban area. I do not know exactly what he knows about farming, but he is certainly willing to talk here. Now I notice there is a heckle from across the way from one of the urban Winnipeg ridings. I am sure we are going to hear later how important it is from the heart of Winnipeg that western Canadian farmers have no choice in marketing their grain. I will probably talk about that a little later.
However, I am really concerned about the fact that the opposition does not have to come up with practical solutions. The government does. The minister has been leading the way in finding those solutions. I will talk about that a little later.
My connection to the BSE in terms of agriculture in the House goes back further than most people here. I see a couple of other members here who have been on the agriculture committee for a number of years. They will remember the call that we received in 2003 when Lyle Vanclief, the minister of agriculture at that time, called and told us that we had a BSE case in this country. All of us knew that it was going to have serious consequences for the beef industry in Canada and of course it has.
Over the last few years there has been work to try to get the borders reopened. The Liberals were unsuccessful in being able to do that, but thankfully ministers have been able to do that over the last couple of years.
Markets have opened for Canadian beef around the world. I would like to point out some of the places where we now can move our beef that we were not able to when the government came to power. Of course, we need to trade as I mentioned earlier. The markets are open in Japan, Mexico, Hong Kong, Egypt, Russia, Macau, the Philippines and the United States.
I need to point out that this was something that the Liberals completely failed to do. The Liberal critic was criticizing us earlier because we took a little time to get that border open with the United States. The Liberals took years and never did get it open. It took a change in government and the ability of the government to be able to work with the Americans on the other side of the border in order to reopen the border.
Canadian livestock producers know full well who has been working for them. They know it was not the previous government.
I want to talk about some of the other things that have contributed to the problems we find today in the livestock sector. I have a couple of specific things in my own riding that I would like to bring into this. They may be small things but they are things that the government has worked on and brought some successful resolution to.
The first one is the issue of gophers. For many people across this country, it is not an important thing to them, but I have an area of my riding that has been overrun by Richardson's ground squirrels. Farmers have been battling this problem for six or seven years now. They came down and tried to talk to the Liberals about it and they got nowhere. The Liberals were not interested in helping them out. These are people who find themselves on a weekend going out and shooting up to 3,500 rounds of ammunition trying to get these little animals under control on their property, and they are not able to do it. We clearly needed a better way to control the squirrels.
My colleague from Vegreville—Wainwright has worked on this issue for years. We said that we needed access to strychnine once again, and my colleague was able to show that the government had removed strychnine from the market without doing any studies about it. It just decided to take it off. This past summer, with the hard work of the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Health, we were able to reapply strychnine in its form on the Prairies and begin hopefully to control this problem.
The reason this is important to livestock producers is that entire quarter sections of pasture have been destroyed by these animals through their burrowing and the fact that they were eating the grass off the land, especially in areas where there was drought. That is one small thing that this government has been able to do for producers, and we continue to work on that.
The second issue that has taken place in my part of the world is that we have had drought. There has been one particular area south and east of Swift Current, Saskatchewan where a lot of the folks have had drought for three years. They had drought in 2005, 2006 and 2007. Last year we actually did have some rain through the first half of the year and then it went to about 100° for 10 days and we had no rain for the rest of the year. A lot of the crops and the pasture disappeared in that heat.
I really wanted to do something for those producers, and the federal government and our minister at the time were willing to do that. One of the frustrations I had is that I went back to my province and I asked the government there to work with us. I said, “We have a drought situation here. We need you to work with us. We need you to recognize the problem for what it is”. The province said, “No, we do not consider that there is a drought here. We are not interested in helping out the producers in that area”.
I have to say that I am thankful there has finally been a change in government in Saskatchewan, and we have been able to move away from that NDP disinterest in rural Saskatchewan. The NDP had no interest at all in the rural areas. We seem to have a provincial government now that is willing to work with us and is showing new interest in rural Saskatchewan and in trying to make rural Saskatchewan work.
That has been a tremendous change, because clearly, as we know in this House but some Canadians may not realize, the NDP has completely lost touch with its roots. At one time it was a populist based party, but now it is urban based and union supported, and really it does not have that support or that connection with the rural areas. We know that people are very disheartened by the fact that the NDP has moved so far from them.
Provincially the NDP could not help us. We know that federally, the NDP is not able to help farmers either, and so the rural communities look to us for leadership and we have been providing that.
I also need to point out that we made an election commitment to improve the farm programs, and when we went to do that, we heard clearly from the provinces and from a number of farm organizations that they wanted to see a reference based margin program continue in the group of programs that we were running. We would have preferred to change that, but they were insistent that we maintain that as part of our programs. It has been fun to watch two agriculture ministers in succession here work and put together a suite of programs that are really going to work for producers.
Members of course are familiar with the agri-stability program, the agri-invest program, and the new agri-recovery program. We have been able to work with the provinces to bring them to completion and put them in place. They will be very good for farmers. I want to talk a little about some of the help that farmers have gotten through those programs and through this government. It is going to be a fairly long list. The opposition probably does not want to hear it, but again it is indicative of the great commitment this government has shown to producers.
We want to mention that our business programs are getting the advances out, they are getting payments out, they are getting loans out to producers. Specifically, we are beginning to deliver $600 million to kickstart agri-invest accounts.