Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to speak to the House about the accomplishments of our government with respect to farm income and safety nets.
As a western Canadian representing a large farming community with both supply management and wheat farmers, the debate today is of particular importance. I welcome debate from members of both the Reform Party and the Bloc on these matters.
While the previous government's plan for safety nets was simply a piecemeal approach, our government looks at farm income and safety nets in a much more comprehensive perspective. In our campaign commitments, this government called for the development of a strong whole farm support.
Our approach is based on simple but effective principles. Farmers and their families need a comprehensive set of programs that will provide income security as they move to adjust and take advantage of the new international trading regime and to generate economic growth in rural communities that is badly needed in this country.
Our government wants to provide farming communities with the tools they need to succeed in the years and the century ahead. I am pleased to report to the Chair that our minister is doing an effective job in that regard.
As we all know, the system of safety nets in Canadian agriculture is a tripartite approach involving producers, provinces and the federal government. There is tremendous diversity and need out there.
We recognize there are different needs in Quebec, different needs in Atlantic Canada, different needs even within Manitoba in the northern and southern parts of the province. My hon. friend from the Reform Party for Lisgar-Marquette will attest to that, being a farmer from that area.
The approach taken by the minister is very open and transparent. Soon after the election the minister established a safety net conference for all players to air their views and concerns. This is the approach we want to take with respect to the whole farm support program. We do not want to have one separate program in Quebec, one separate program in British Columbia and one separate program in Prince Edward Island. We are looking at a
comprehensive national approach. We are meeting with Quebec leaders.
I want to refer, for example, to the GATT discussions that were raised. Our minister spoke to dairy farmers in Quebec and, if I am not mistaken, received a standing ovation. I also want to say that the Liberal government brought in supply management which benefited Quebec farmers greatly for the past 20 years. On the question of loyalty I think we have been very loyal, very representative and fair in our approach to all farmers.
We want the kind of safety nets that will benefit all the needs of our partners. Taxpayers want programs that are financially sound and transparent. Our objective, therefore, is to develop a whole farm support program which will provide equitable support for all commodities, all producers and all provinces; which will not distort based on market signals; which will not influence production decisions; and which is less vulnerable to trade actions. Certainly people in the wheat industry in western Canada know all about trade actions, particularly those invoked most recently by the U.S.
Farmers have seen tremendous safety net changes in the last five years. Some have been good, and we acknowledge the good work, but others have failed due to hasty implementation and because there was no producer acceptance or understanding. The government is committed to full consultation and agreement on an approach that works.
The accomplishments since the safety net conference clearly show that our comprehensive and consultative approach is working. This is not an easy process. People need to talk through their differences. We acknowledge again that there are differences. The parliamentary secretary acknowledged we have to sit down at the negotiating table to work out these differences in the best interests of all Canadian farmers.
The work of the committee over the next six months will be critical in shaping the industry's economic position. To seize opportunities presented by trade accords and growing international markets we need stability and confidence at home. The importance of this point has been impressed upon us particularly again in western communities because of the possible trade war with the U.S.
Stability does not interfere with our capability to be innovative and market responsive, stability that allows us to preserve our resources, stability that works with fiscal realities.
During the electoral campaign our government promised to reinstate interest free cash advances to strengthen the farm debt review process. The minister is consulting with farm groups and has asked the sector to come up with proposals. This is an important issue.
In the committee on banking, for example, we have heard from the farming industry of Quebec, Atlantic Canada and western Canada. These farmers tell us that they cannot get access to capital. Young men and women in Canada cannot buy farms, their parents' farms, because the banks are not willing to do business with them. That is why we as a federal government have stepped into the process through agencies such as the Farm Credit Corporation to open up avenues of resources to young Canadian farmers.
The agriculture and agri-food department is currently reviewing the farm debt review board program, along with other programs, to ensure they meet today's needs in the sector. Again I want to emphasize that we are consulting with the people.
Our government is comfortable with the idea that safety nets help industries stabilize income and ensure against risks the banks are not willing to take on the Canadian farming industry. However more money is not necessarily the answer. At home and abroad value added and niche markets represent big bucks for those who seize the opportunities. This is precisely what our industry is trying to do.
The GATT has created new possibilities for the Canadian farming community. I want to respond to my hon. friend's comments about the GATT. Our Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food stood in the GATT negotiations to fight for the dairy industry. I have dairy farmers in my riding who I know were pleased with the outcome. I also know that tariffication levels almost as high as 300 per cent will protect dairy farmers in Quebec and those in my riding of Provencher.
It is obvious the government has accomplished a lot since it took office last fall. When we consider all the players involved in the safety net design, the complexity and the diversity of our agricultural industry, we realize the government is living up to its commitments.
We brought everyone to the table. Our process of developing a new safety net package is on a tight schedule. We want to implement it by 1995. It will be a key item on the agenda for the next federal-provincial meeting of agriculture ministers. Our minister is planning to present it to the House soon after that.