Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak about this very important topic.
I would like to say from the beginning that I will be splitting my time with the member for Mégantic—L'Érable. It is great to have my colleague be able to speak on this issue. He knows it extremely well.
I would like to thank the constituents of Foothills for re-electing me. It is a great honour to have that trust and confidence from my constituents to re-elect me as their representative.
It is apropos that the first subject I am going to talk about as we begin this 43rd Parliament is the canola crisis that our constituents are facing with China, which I think this motion would address, and why it is so important that we support this motion for the special committee, which has the opportunity to discuss this critical issue in more depth and at length.
I will go back to when this issue first happened almost a year ago, when we highlighted the canola crisis with the previous Liberal government, which has now spilled over into this current one. We saw that nothing had been done to address it when the Liberals were in government in the 42nd Parliament.
I think the lack of discussion on this crisis in the throne speech highlights that nothing has changed. It is still not an issue or a priority for the current Liberal government. For it to not even discuss the canola crisis and the trade embargo with China within the throne speech was a very loud message to canola farmers across Canada that this is not a priority for the Liberal government. It has no intention of standing up for Canadian farmers or standing up to China to get back one of our most critical canola markets.
For the Liberal government not to understand the far-reaching impacts of this crisis within our agriculture sector I think is very short-sighted, but it also shows how out of touch the government has become.
To put this in perspective, China accounts for more than 40% of all our canola seed exports, more than 40% of the product that is grown here in Canada.
This has nothing to do with the quality of our canola seed, which is second to none in the world. The Conservatives understand that this is completely a political decision and that the ineptitude and bungling of the Liberal government has led to this problem with the Chinese government.
This is a $2.7-billion industry for Canadian canola producers that has now been completely neglected by the Prime Minister. There are 250,000 jobs, not only in western Canada but across this country, that are being impacted by this.
We went through this last year. At that time, we told the Liberal government that there were some things it could do to try to address it. It could file an official challenge to the WTO. It could withdraw the funding to the Asian infrastructure bank. At the very least, it could name an ambassador to China.
It took the government more than eight months to do one of those three. It finally named an ambassador to China. The government has now hinted about maybe bringing forth a challenge to the WTO on this trade issue, yet it has still given $250 million to the Asian infrastructure bank, which is building infrastructure, including pipelines, across China.
Meanwhile, we have more than 150,000 energy workers in Canada out of work and the Liberals are doing nothing to address that. Now we have 250,000 jobs at risk in the canola industry and once again, the Liberal government is turning a blind eye to that issue.
I want to take a moment to address one of the comments from my colleague across the way, which was that the Liberals have been there for canola farmers because they expanded the advance payments program.
Let us put that into perspective. This is exactly what the Liberals have done, which is what they do with just about any problem they have. They threw some money at it and hoped it would resolve the problem. What the government did to canola farmers was like extending the credit on their credit cards to something that most of them could not afford or access. Then, the government would not let them pay the debt once it came due. Let me be clear, the debt will come due.
Once the farmers have accessed the advance payments program, there is still interest on a portion of that which they have to pay back. They have gone through this harvest, which our producers across Canada have called the harvest from hell. Those of us in Alberta, Saskatchewan and western Canada have certainly felt that.
More than half of the canola crop in northern Alberta is still under snow, which has made it impossible to access. These canola producers have gone through all of the last year not being able to sell their product to one of their most important customers, and this year they have had a horrific harvest.
The canola producers have accessed the advance payments program but they cannot sell their crop, what crop they could get out. Half of it is still under the snow. They have no way of paying back the advance payment program the Liberals have said has been the band-aid solution to this entire problem. The government is ignoring the actual problem, which is getting access to China.
Reopening that market is a critical problem and it has not been addressed in the throne speech. We have given the government an opportunity here to establish a special committee that will investigate or discuss the issues that we have between ourselves and the Chinese government.
We tried to do this last year through the international trade and agriculture committees. At that time, some of the ministers refused to even be at those committees or to give their position. They said that the crisis with China was not important enough to have a high-level delegation.
I look forward to finishing this speech after question period.