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House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

And the bells having rung

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #143

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion lost.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, on Wednesday, June 11, 2008, the House shall meet at 3:00 p.m. and proceed to Statements by Ministers pursuant to Standing Order 33 to allow the Prime Minister to make a statement of apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools; during this statement, Phil Fontaine, Mary Simon, Clem Chartier, Beverley Jacobs, Pat Brazeau, Mary Moonias, Marguerite Wabano, Sandra Linklater, Crystal Merasty, Peter Irniq, Don Favel and Mike Cachagee shall be permitted on the floor of the House; any scheduled votes on Wednesday, June 11, 2008 shall be deferred to Thursday, June 12, 2008 at 10:00 a.m.; after Statements by Ministers on Wednesday, June 11, 2008, the House shall adjourn to the next sitting day; and from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 11, 2008, no committees shall meet.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. government House leader have unanimous consent to propose this motion?

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

DivisionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With respect to the vote that was just taken prior to the point of order, I wonder whether the member for Calgary Northeast would want to reconsider his vote in light of the fact that it appeared to me that he took his seat literally two seconds before the roll call vote reached him. He could not have been here for the reading of the motion.

DivisionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Art Hanger Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I did walk in just as the call was being taken. I would like it noted that I would vote in favour of the motion that my party has supported. I was late in arriving.

DivisionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The Chair has taken note of the fact that the hon. member entered the chamber late.

DivisionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I do not want the member to be recorded as voting because members cannot vote if they are late. I would like to hear the position of the Chair.

DivisionsPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The rules are clear. The Table will reflect the fact that the member entered the chamber late.

Resuming debate on questions and comments. The hon. member for Mississauga South.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the motion before the House is in the sixth report of the agriculture committee. It raises a very important point about transitioning for the tobacco industry. It would appear that there has been substantial discussion within the committee with regard to this important issue. The member is very involved in committee.

I am a little concerned that there is no concurrence by the government with regard to the importance of providing a transition strategy, which would appear to be consistent with good governance as has been shown on matters like this. It might be a matter of regional economic development or it may be a strategic initiative where there is an economic impact.

I wonder if the member would care to clarify the relative importance of dealing with this particular industry at a time of transition.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has hit one of the nails on the head. The answer is not only about any one piece. There are several pieces to the puzzle and one of them certainly is the economic development of an area that has been strongly hit because its main product is no longer selling as well as it once did.

The task force that I am chairing on the economic development for the area will be looking at that piece and the growers in the area. The minister has put forward what he is doing for them.

The answer is not only about the growers. The answer is about the economic development of the area. Barbershop owners, restaurants and implement dealers are all in the same straits.

The motion put forward continues to repeat over and over again the same solution, that being that only the federal government has it. The minister has been pretty clear. At a meeting with his counterpart, the Ontario minister of agriculture, the minister stated that it is not only about the government fixing this problem but it is also about manufacturers being involved. It is about the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers' Marketing Board marketing tobacco and helping sell more of the product.

On top of that, in the discussion today, we have already talked about two or three of the other problems, one of them being the economic development of the area, or at this moment, what the government is doing to decrease the contraband sale of cigarettes and illegal tobacco products in Canada in order for legal producers and sellers to do what they still do. Tobacco is still a legal product.

We can take the pressure off on the contraband side. We can do our best on the economic development side. As the minister has clearly stated, we will work hard toward a solution for the producers.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is very involved on this topic. He has been working on a task force in his area, trying to address the needs of the tobacco industry. There is no question it has gone through some really difficult times, and we have looked at a number of different ways of transitioning.

For 13 long years, the Liberals, when they were in government, did absolutely nothing for the tobacco industry other than ignore it. Now it is about looking at what the future really holds. I know the member has been very involved and has some ideas.

Does he feel it was fair that the former Liberal government pitted farmer against farmer rather than resolve the entire issue?

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course not. The answer is never found in conflict, or in pitting one person against the other. The answer is found in working together. That is apparently what the minister and the government have attempted to do. They have tried to put the right people together to make the solution happen. It is not about demanding a solution; it is about working together until we find one. We will never get there by putting one side of this issue against the other.

I recognize what the member says is true. For a number of years the Liberal government exacerbated the problem by allowing contraband to grow to such an extent that the legal sales of tobacco were lost to the tobacco producers in southern Ontario and that the manufacturers were forced to take other ways to deal with their problems, such as making cigarettes in Mexico instead of in Canada and not buying from our producers.

These problems can only be solved by us working together, but it is not only about producers. It is about the neighbourhoods in which they live. It is about the economy of all southern Ontario where tobacco is grown.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, for the previous questioner, let us set the record straight. When the previous government was in place, it announced a reduction strategy. It committed itself to that reduction strategy and followed through on it, according to what the tobacco industry requested. However, things changed and the situation for tobacco producers became worse. They realized they needed an exit strategy, given the contraband with which the current government has not dealt. Although Conservatives talk law and order, they have not really dealt with the contraband issue.

The member chairs the committee. He talks about the whole area, and, yes, that is important. There has to be regional development strategy for that whole area, and we support movement in that way. Specifically, there has to also be an exit strategy for the tobacco industry. It is in this specific area that the government has violated its word. The current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration committed to an exit strategy during the election and the government failed to follow through on that.

I met with those tobacco producers. Suicides are happening. The life work of people has gone down the drain. Even the lending community made a commitment to come forward this year based on what it thought the government would do.

Will the government at least keep its word on that specific area related to tobacco producers and commit to the exit strategy, which was about $275 million? Will it do that?

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that we are talking about some serious issues. There have been, as the member mentioned, some serious troubles in the tobacco area, and it is nice that he has gone to talk to the producers. These people are my friends and my neighbours. I do not only go and talk to them, I live with them. In my whole political career, I have spent time talking to tobacco farmers, looking for an answer to this.

The member mentioned the lending institutions. On a daily basis, I have talked to the bankers on behalf of producers. This is not about us against them. It is not about finding conflict. This is about working together to solve a problem for my friends and my neighbours, which is serious. No one asked for this to happen. We are working very hard. The minister has put together as much of a multi-faceted approach as we can to look at the economic development in the area, the contraband situation to reduce illegal sales, and a strategy for the producers. We continue to look at it from all sides, and we will find the answer for this.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate proposed by the member for Brant. I congratulate him for making sure we had a debate on tobacco. The member for Brant sits on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food, and I know that he truly cares about this issue. This is no doubt why he decided to request a three-hour debate on the subject today.

I must say that this is not the first time the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food has taken a close look at this topic. It has already held a number of meetings, and recently completely two major reports on input prices and on the labelling of food products in Canada. We will use our remaining committee meetings to work on several issues, including the difficulties facing honey producers. There is also another meeting planned on the crisis tobacco producers are facing. So I think it is worth talking about it here in the House.

As I was saying, it is very important that we debate the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food on an exit strategy for tobacco producers. In its report, the committee is calling on the federal government to immediately implement an exit strategy for tobacco producers consistent with the most recent proposal they have submitted.

We know—members have talked about it here in the House during this debate—that certain countries have implemented highly effective exit strategies, notably Australia and the United States, which is a close neighbour. The government would do well to look at what other countries are doing in order to follow their examples and improve on them, if need be, since nothing is perfect.

Australia and the United States have implemented exit strategies. Here, the government is telling tobacco farmers to take advantage of programs offered by the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food. As with many things, when farmers are referred to existing programs, they come up against a brick wall. Why? Because programs have standards; there are criteria and, in many cases, farmers cannot apply these programs to their specific situation. The programs are not 100% appropriate for these problems, and that is the case for tobacco farmers.

If existing programs did the trick, farmers would certainly not be asking the federal government for assistance, and we would not be spending our time here demanding an exit strategy for them and demanding that they be given assistance, since the programs would suffice. But there is no denying the fact that existing programs do not work for tobacco farmers.

We have been asking the government for some kind of exit strategy. We have not been asking the government to give money to tobacco farmers so they can keep producing. Nowadays, we all know that tobacco products are bad for people's health. That is not news to anyone. Governments are putting increasing emphasis, and rightly so, on smoking cessation and, therefore, on ceasing tobacco production. For now though, it is still a legal product. For now, tobacco is still being produced around the world in places like China, which has become a huge tobacco producer. One thing is clear though, and that is that fortunately, there are fewer and fewer smokers, particularly in Quebec and Canada, and we hope that trend continues.

So for tobacco farmers, this is not about continuing to produce and sell tobacco. This is about finding something else to do. From the time farmers decide to stop producing tobacco—they really have no choice—to the time they figure out what else to grow to support their families and their communities, the government has to help them through the transition. Tobacco farmers are asking for help finding an alternative.

These people invested considerable sums of money a few years ago, and they cannot just start growing something else from one day to the next. As I said, we have to help them make this transition.

To put a finer point on the issue, I dug out some of the testimony given to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food during the one or two meetings that dealt with problems facing tobacco producers. That was in November 2006. At the time, the committee heard from a person I have met a number of times.

As the Bloc Québécois agriculture critic, I meet not only with people from Quebec, but with people from other provinces who want to make us aware of the problems they are facing. Brian Edwards, president of Tobacco Farmers in Crisis, testified before the committee and had this to say, which gives a clear picture of the situation. I quote:

Why are Canadian tobacco farmers in crisis?

Tobacco farmers are victims of conflicting government policies on tobacco and a gap in tobacco control policy has put them into debt and economic devastation. Since 2002, tobacco farmers and their families have been in a state of turmoil, brought on by dramatically declining crop sizes, costly mandatory infrastructure investments, rising contraband and an increase in cheaper imported tobacco.

Despite a still-existing and legal market, they find themselves unable to meet their obligations and are at great risk of losing their farms and their homes.

At an average age of 58, with average debt loads of $400,000, the significant devaluation of tobacco farming assets, and little or no real employment opportunities elsewhere, many Canadian tobacco farmers risk losing everything they and their families have honestly invested in and worked for over four or five generations.

Mr. Edwards went on to say this:

What factors have forced us as tobacco farmers into debt?

In 2002, the tobacco companies demanded that we do burner conversions to eliminate nitrosamines. This was mandated. We will not buy Canadian tobacco unless you do this. We as tobacco farmers invested over $65 million into burner conversions.

I am not talking about the 1990s or the 1980s. As recently as the early 2000s, not that long ago, these tobacco producers believed that their industry would survive in the long term or, at least, in the medium term, based on calculations they had done with the blessing of the government at the time. They had been told that if they invested, they could continue growing tobacco and doing good business. We can see the result today, though. The farmers' investments are completely useless and are no longer paying off because nearly all the producers have had to give up growing tobacco. I say nearly all because there are still some producers, of course.

Other important testimony at that same committee meeting came from Christian Boisjoly, a director of the Office des producteurs de tabac jaune du Québec, which is now known as the Association des producteurs de tabac jaune du Québec. Mr. Boisjoly had this to say:

We would like to give you a little background on the crisis in the tobacco industry. This crop, which supported three generations of farmers in the Lanaudière, Mauricie and even Outaouais regions and allowed them to amass wealth for themselves, their families and their regions, suffered a dramatic blow in March 2003 when one of the major companies, RBH, in other words, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges, suddenly decided to stop buying its tobacco in Quebec. A shock wave hit all tobacco farmers, because two years earlier, RBH, as well as Imperial Tobacco and JTI-MacDonald, had all required the complete conversion of tobacco-drying units. There were 725 units in Quebec—

This brings us back to the same problem. These major investments were made at the request of the tobacco companies, which, a short time later, simply decided to stop buying tobacco from Quebec. Ontario managed to survive a little longer, but as I said at the beginning of my speech, China came onto the scene, as in many sectors, and made a mint by selling its tobacco to companies. No one can say whether the tobacco is necessarily of the same quality as Canadian and Quebec tobacco, but it was cheaper for the tobacco companies. It was therefore worth it for them to do business with China, even though they had just asked our tobacco farmers here to make major investments, telling them they would have contracts for them. Unfortunately, the companies did not keep their word.

Mr. Boisjoly concluded part of his testimony with the following:

As a result of these discussions, the TAAP, Tobacco Adjustment Assistance Program, was introduced. The announcement was made on May 4, 2004 [under the previous government]. The general idea was to offer a lump sum of $67 million dollars, first to Ontario farmers who wanted to get out of tobacco. The federal government purchased their quotas at a reverse auction in the spring of 2005. The objective of the program was chiefly to rationalize the supply for Ontario farmers.

Then Mr. Boisjoly speaking on behalf of Quebec farmers, explained the following.

There were two major problems for Quebec farmers. The first was that we had no say, in other words, we were the victims of an undemocratic, unfair decision. The second was that in our case, there was no talk of rationalizing tobacco production, but rather stopping it altogether.

That was in 2006 and I can say that Ontario tobacco producers are going through exactly the same thing today, that is they are asking for assistance to stop production. No one here believes that there is a future in tobacco farming.

In Quebec, the few remaining tobacco producers—there are less than half a dozen—are concentrated mainly in the Lanaudière region. Tobacco is grown primarily for cigarette manufacturers on aboriginal reserves. There are very few other tobacco producers in Quebec these days.

Naturally, Quebec tobacco farmers support their Ontario counterparts. If this has not been mentioned in this House, then I must do so. I have met these farmers' representatives on many occasions and they have always said that they support Ontario farmers and also those in other provinces, although there are not many and they are mostly concentrated in the same area. However, it is important to note that they want fair compensation if the government were ever to put in place a real exit strategy.

That has always been the Bloc's focus here, in the House, in committee or at meetings with the minister or the department's representatives. One thing has always been very clear to us: even though tobacco farmers are no longer growing this crop, if the government did end up taking action in this matter and putting in place an exit strategy, we would have to ensure that Quebec producers are not ignored and that they, too, would receive fair compensation.

I had these meetings particularly when I worked for the hon. member for Joliette, who has done extraordinary work on this file. When I was his assistant here on Parliament Hill, he and I arranged meetings with the producers from Quebec and departmental representatives. We invited the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to a meeting in the riding of Joliette to discuss this specific matter with tobacco producers and other stakeholders. A great deal of work was done to get the government to implement a few measures. Nonetheless, both the producers and the parliamentarians made it quite clear that these programs implemented by the Liberal government did not go far enough. These programs missed the mark, but they did provide some relief.

We have been working with the tobacco growers of Quebec for years now and we are not going to abandon them.

Their association changed its name to become the Office des producteurs de tabac jaune du Québec. It is headed up by Gaétan Beaulieu, who works very hard on this issue and I wish to commend him for that. Mr. Beaulieu was co-chair of the round table on tobacco organized by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in 2003-04. He has followed all negotiations very closely. This round table presented an opportunity to express the level of crisis Quebec and Ontario farmers had reached. The producers from Quebec were asking for a long-term program to solve the tobacco crisis. That was in 2003, and today in 2008, five years later, we are still making the same appeals on their behalf.

I mentioned the former programs, such as TAAP, the tobacco adjustment assistance program. This program fell short of the expectations expressed by Quebec producers at the round table. Ontario's mechanism for setting the quota price did not take into account the fundamental difference between the quota systems in Quebec and Ontario.

In July 2004, AGECO presented a very interesting portrait of Quebec tobacco growing operations as well as an evaluation of farmers' financial losses after flue-cured tobacco production was abandoned in Quebec. I have some interesting statistics that I would like to share with the House. And the end of AGECO's report, on page 30, it is mentioned that Quebec farmers have seen the value of their pre-quota assets drop by $17 million, or $1.48 per quota pound.

The loss in quota value has been calculated at between $19 million and $31 million. The Association des Producteurs de Tabac Jaune du Quebec estimates that they have lost about $25 million in quota value, which is $2.17 per pound.

The producers have proposed an exit strategy to end this crisis once and for all. It is vital that the federal government implement such a strategy. I said earlier that there are examples in countries such as Australia and the United States. The tobacco producers have specifically asked that all quotas be bought out, that all Canadian tobacco farmers active since 2002 cease production, and that all quotas be retired.

Tobacco producers have said why they want to see such a strategy put in place. As a signatory to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the Government of Canada has promised to put an end to the use of tobacco products in Canada. In fact, 80% of all producers will have practically ceased operations this year. Because they are so deeply in debt, they will not be able to do anything else unless a buyout package is introduced. Only then will producers be able to assess viable options for their future and the future of their community. That is one of the reasons such a package should be provided.

The package would cover tobacco growers in Ontario, where the largest producers in the country are. I am using the present tense, but I should say that Ontario had the largest producers in the country. Out of Canada's 1,100 tobacco producers, 90% are in Ontario. That is why the Conservative member for Brant, who is closely involved in this issue, is speaking today, along with a number of members from Ontario's tobacco-growing region.

There are also producers in Quebec, as I have said many times. There are also some in Prince Edward Island. Farmers in Quebec and Prince Edward Island should also receive subsidies as part of a tobacco exit strategy.

Tobacco producers have come to the conclusion that this is the only option for them. Anything other than a full exit strategy would just be a temporary solution that would cause new problems. It is a comprehensive program for governments, farmers, communities and manufacturers, and it also takes into account the requirements of the health, environment, human resources and agriculture departments.

This exit strategy will enable farmers and our communities to move on to something else when an opportunity arises. This program will give hope to farmers, their families and their communities. This program will reimburse farmers only for what they have invested. This program will enable Canada to fulfill its obligations to farmers under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. The producers themselves presented such a plan quite a while ago now. Meetings, round tables and committees have been set up.

Now, what do we need to do? The solutions are on the table. What are the criteria of such a strategy? What will this exit strategy look like, exactly? How much money will be invested? More discussions are needed. But one thing is no longer in doubt: we need an exit strategy, perhaps based on what is done elsewhere, but especially based on the demands of the tobacco farmers who have shown, for a long time, that they need this assistance. Without it, they experience family problems, which we heard about earlier. People are deciding to end not only their careers, but also their lives. That is very serious. It has gone that far because they have no other options. But one option the government can give them is an exit strategy.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has a concern for the tobacco farmers, as all of us do. He raised some interesting points. The real issue is that this motion does not cut it. It only deals with one aspect of the situation, and he touched on that.

One thing that is important is that when members of the board talked to us, members from the Conservative Party especially, it was not just about the tobacco producers themselves. They also had concerns about their communities. They also had a huge concern about the contraband. The member for Brant said that problem was fixed in 1994-95, but obviously that did not cut it because now it is the worst it has been in history.

What we wanted was a complete package, as laid out by the board, that looked at contraband, the municipalities and the communities, and obviously, nobody is talking about the manufacturers. They are the big players in this, or should be. Obviously it is still called the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers' Marketing Board and there is the province as well.

I wonder if the member would comment on the exit strategy that was brought about by the previous Liberal government, better known as the tobacco adjustment assistance program, TAAP. Also, because it is the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers' Marketing Board that regulates and legislates the quota and distribution, does he have any comments of where it should fit into the solution?

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

Noon

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member that the contraband issue is far from being resolved. We see it in the news every now and then. We hear reports every month, if not every week, about how that type of criminal activity is, unfortunately, flourishing. The price of a pack of contraband cigarettes is so low that even smugglers are competing among themselves. They are fighting among themselves because prices have dropped so low. This is exactly the opposite of what is happening with oil. We do not yet have contraband oil, but we certainly have lots of contraband cigarettes.

The member talked about previous programs that were set up. That is exactly what I was saying in my speech. An effort was made, and programs were suggested to tobacco producers. But I also quoted Gaétan Beaulieu of the Quebec tobacco growers, who said, basically, that the programs were inadequate and did not fix the problem.

That is why, today, we are appealing to the government once again. The government did sit down with them. Many meetings, round tables and committees were set up. I know that people are working on it, but we need a solution as soon as possible. Of course, I do not know what that solution might be. There are many stakeholders involved.

The member talked about tobacco manufacturers. He was quite right in saying that they should be involved in this kind of decision. They are still making many billions of dollars in profits. These people should therefore be responsible for getting involved in these kinds of programs. It should not be up to the government alone.

The manufacturers have plenty of money. They are the ones who asked farmers to make major investments not that long ago, so they should play a part in this discussion. The government, especially the Conservative government, should wake up to what is going on and do something to help these farmers.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

Noon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his speech. If there is anything else he wants to say, I will give him a chance to do that.

I just wanted to rise to commend the member for Brant on bringing forward this very important motion. We heard about the tragedies in those families mentioned by our party's agriculture critic. It is very devastating. I certainly am glad that we are having this debate. Does the member want to add anything?

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

Noon

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I also congratulated the hon. member for Brant on his work. In committee, he is often the one who tells us about the problems facing tobacco farmers. For that, I commend his determination and the hard work he does in committee, not only regarding tobacco farmers, but concerning all agricultural issues.

I must point out, however, that we are here today, on this June 10, 2008, to discuss a report that was tabled on November 28, 2006. This demonstrates—and I am repeating this, as I said this earlier—that the work has been done, the meetings have been held, the committees have been struck, the discussions have taken place, and the issues and the problems are well known. Today, on June 10, we are having a three hour debate on this issue, although, really, we have probably discussed all the problems, and the solutions have even been found.

Indeed, the solution is a real exit strategy for these farmers. As I was saying, what criteria will be involved? How much money will be invested in this file? I know the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is particularly affected by this situation in her riding. She made some campaign promises on this.

It is now 2008 and it is time to implement those solutions. There are solutions available and the government knows what those solutions are. I have said this and I will say it again: it is time to do something to help those farmers, as called for not only by the hon. member for Brant, but by all members who obviously know that these people need immediate assistance.