Mr. Chair, let me first congratulate you on your position as Deputy Speaker.
I am sure there is nothing I can say here tonight that has not already been said, but I will not make any apologies for that because a lot of what has been said needs to be said over and over again.
One of the things I noticed in the debate in the last few minutes is the talk about the need for increased slaughter capacity and I heartily agree with that. We have a large herd of cattle in Canada and of course that does not just mean beef cattle. We have a lot of dairy cattle that have to go to slaughter once the dairy cow's productive life is finished. The only possible solution is to slaughter that animal and turn it into beef. We have the beef industry, the dairy industry, all of the cervids, the bison, the goats, and the sheep industry in Canada all affected by the border closure.
Just a mile up the road from where I live I have neighbours whose great-great grandparents immigrated to Canada. They are fifth generation farmers. The farmer, his son and their families are all employed off the farm in order to make ends meet. That is a ridiculous situation, particularly for people who have been in the industry for five generations.
When we talk about farmers going broke, it is not like a shoe store or a grocery store going broke. Oftentimes the grocer or the shoe clerk does not even own the building. They might own the business, but they do not own the building necessarily. They have a rented building. When they go broke, they lose their business and they have an opportunity to recoup, refinance and start up another business.
When farmers go broke, and we all know this, they not only lose all of the equity that they have built up in their land, the machinery and their livestock, but they lose their home and their business. It is a package deal. Agriculture is unique in that way. People say we should never take our work home with us at night. In agriculture we have no choice. When we get up in the morning, put our boots on and step out, we are at work, so we take our work home with us at night.
These people are desperate. These people are at the end of their rope, so to speak. We believe the programs, although I am sure they were well-meaning, were inadequate. As has been pointed out, a lot of the money wound up in the packer's pockets and now the people across the way are saying that they have to investigate these excessive profits that the plants make. I can tell the House where the excessive profits came from. They came from the government chequebook.
We need to search out more markets. The member for Huron--Bruce, in questioning one of my colleagues, wondered why the government should hunt up markets for these agricultural producers. The agricultural producers should be more innovative. They should be more aggressive. They should go out and hunt up more markets. They have hunted up the markets. They have been shipping cattle all over the world. Now that the borders are closed they cannot. They would be smuggling if they shipped these cattle anywhere else in the world.
I would like to remind members on the opposite side that it was not very long ago that an ex-Prime Minister of Canada led a trade delegation to China. He led a delegation, I believe, to Russia. He led trade delegations all over the world under the guise of securing new markets for Canadian products. Let me tell the members opposite, agricultural products, beef, bison, elk and all those products are Canadian products.
These producers are not saying to the government that they are hopeless, helpless people who need the government's help. That is not what they are saying. They are saying the government has hunted up markets for other sectors of Canadian society, manufacturing and so forth, so it should hunt up some markets for them. While the government is at it, why does it not tackle this, like it is a North American problem, with our best trading partner, as has already been pointed out, the group of people we would look to, to defend us, should we be set upon by some rogue nation. Those are the people that we would look to, to help defend us, and we would in turn, I am sure, help them.
This has to be approached as a North American problem with a North American solution. Let us get down to Washington with an all party delegation and make sure that those people are aware of what the problem is.
Canadian cattle producers are asking for a resumption in the U.S.-Canada cross-border trading, they are asking for new international markets to be found, and they are asking for more slaughter capacity. More slaughter capacity is being proposed in my riding, but the hoops that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is making people jump through are going to put the production of this plant about two years away from right now. In that length of time, the problem could resolve itself.
I look forward to questions from the opposition.