House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was farmers.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 39% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Dick Hopkins October 9th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, it is with both a spirit of sadness and joy that I pay tribute to Dick Hopkins. A beloved teacher, Mr. Hopkins died suddenly on Sunday. As we mourn, we must also celebrate his achievements.

When he taught at Napanee District Secondary School, Dick Hopkins won the Prime Minister's Teaching Excellence Award for technological education. After moving to Sydenham High School in 1999, Mr. Hopkins was named Teacher of the Year by the Limestone District School Board.

With a $50,000 grant from the Canadian Rural Partnership, Dick Hopkins, along with his colleague Brian Rombough, successfully created the first rural online high school in Ontario.

Mr. Hopkins was an exceptional teacher who was skilled at transforming theory into practice, from online learning to robotics to video conferencing.

I am honoured to recognize the many personal and professional accomplishments of Dick Hopkins.

Please join me in extending condolences to the family, friends, students and colleagues of Mr. Hopkins, and in celebrating the life of an exceptional teacher and innovator.

Agriculture October 7th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this critical debate tonight.

As my hon. colleague the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food previously mentioned, the government has implemented a number of immediate measures to support producers who are suffering from the effects of drought. As the minister also mentioned, the government is also committed to developing solutions to help secure the long term prosperity and profitability of Canada's farmers and the Canadian agrifood industry as a whole.

There is no question that farmers have to deal with any number of risks on a daily basis. Today we are talking about weather related risks. An equally critical long term challenge facing producers today comes from a changing marketplace, from consumers who are looking for even greater assurance about the safety and quality of their food and the environmental methods used to produce that food.

While a changing marketplace produces and presents a challenge, it also presents a tremendous opportunity because by working together we can lay the groundwork and provide the tools for this generation and future generations of farmers to compete in an increasingly tough world marketplace. It is for this very reason the government has committed, along with the provincial governments, to developing a national framework that is aimed at moving agriculture beyond crisis management to greater profitability and prosperity.

The agricultural policy framework is about meeting the challenges of the 21st century with a 21st century response. It is about securing success for the sector by giving the world's consumers what they want on the terms they want. It is about building on Canada's stellar reputation for agrifood excellence and making us the world leader in food safety and food quality, innovation and environmental responsibility.

As some members of the House will recall, the groundwork for the agricultural policy framework was laid in Whitehorse in June 2001. There federal, provincial and territorial ministers of agriculture agreed on a comprehensive plan for integrated action around five key areas: business risk management, which is encouraging innovation and adaptation; food safety and food quality, the strengthening of on and off farm food systems; environment, allowing us to co-exist sustainably with the natural environment; innovation, ensuring our ability to succeed today and into the future; and renewal of the sector, contributing to farmers' success in the new century.

Over the past two years the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has been working very hard to develop the framework and achieve consensus among the provinces, the territories, farmers, other stakeholders in the industry and all Canadians.

Under the framework, long term integrated risk management programming is being designed to provide a stable and predictable business planning environment. Farmers will have access to the tools they need to meet challenges in food safety and the environment. Science will extend beyond traditional productivity applications and deal with emerging challenges and opportunities in a bio economy. The renewal element will ensure farmers have skills and services to accept opportunities and make choices for future success.

When it comes to business risk management, we want to ensure that programming is focused on growth and improving income prospects. We want to move from reacting to income support levels to a forward thinking approach that improves a farmer's ability to manage risk over time, leading to greater predictability and profitability in the operation.

On food safety, we need a more comprehensive system that begins with on farm food safety and goes right through the entire production chain. For example, we are working toward a nation-wide assurance system that shows the world that food in Canada is safe and of the highest quality, which will respond to consumer demands.

On the environmental side, the agricultural policy framework will enhance Canada's reputation for environmental responsibility. Working with governments and using science based tools like environmental farm plans and best management practices, the framework will establish national approaches, programs and objectives. It will also adopt better farming practices to ensure clean water and clean air, improve the quality of our soil and the living conditions of our wildlife.

The responsible use of science also plays an important part in this framework. Science has tremendous potential to help us deliver on farm food safety, strengthen environmental stewardship and create new products for the benefit of farmers and the public. Science can help Canadian farmers cope with drought and manage our water supply more effectively. Already, agriculture and agri-food scientists across Canada are working on various drought related projects and sharing their findings with farmers.

Finally, there is the renewal component to the policy framework. Knowledge is the key to making producers cooperative and competitive, and their businesses profitable in this rapidly changing and complex industry. Indeed there is a bright future for all producers in the country who already have or will develop the knowledge, tools, skills and the ability to adapt and to innovate.

In recognition of the work ahead of us and to achieve these goals, this past June the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced a historic investment in the Canadian agri-food industry: $5.2 billion over the next six years to build the profitability and the prosperity of our sector for the 21st century. This federal investment includes $3.4 billion to implement the agricultural policy framework, a task that will continue to involve governments, both federal and provincial, and the industry.

As the recent Speech from the Throne said, implementing the framework is a key priority for the government and the dollars are there to back up this commitment.

Over the past 18 months, governments have made tremendous progress toward achieving consensus on the path ahead. At this point the vast majority of provincial and territorial governments have signed an umbrella accord that sets out the common goals and the key policy directions of the framework. The agreement is open to signing by the remaining provinces. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food is confident that they will all sign and we welcome that.

Much hard work is ahead of us however. The detailed specifics of programs and measures now have to be finalized. Over the coming months the government will ensure through ongoing partnership and consultation with the industry and negotiations between governments that the program specifics help us to meet the framework's objectives.

In closing, in the context of this important debate on the drought, the agricultural policy framework will help Canadian farmers to better manage risks of all types to meet the demands of the marketplace and to be profitable and competitive on the world stage. By equipping our industry to be the number one producers of safe, innovative and environmentally responsible agricultural products, we are going to make Canada the first choice for buyers of food and agricultural products worldwide.

The agricultural policy framework will be a win-win solution for Canada. Canadian farmers will benefit, Canadian consumers will benefit and the Canadian economy will be stronger as a whole.

Agriculture October 7th, 2002

How much of a subsidy do you want?

Supply May 6th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, representing rural Canada in the House is sometimes a challenge because many people live in urban Canada.

I am happy about the progress we are making with many of the bills in the House. With regard to the species at risk legislation, the government is not seizing land. It is a partnership and we are working with farmers and ranchers. I have met with many ranchers and farmers in western Canada.

I am not sure the previous Conservative government should have started up the firearms registry the way it did. I am not sure that was handled well.

There is a difference between rural and urban Canada. To have a wealthy rural Canada and for our farmers to get the best prices for their products, we also need a good, vital, rich urban Canada. We have to work together in the House on behalf of rural Canadians.

Supply May 6th, 2002

Certainly, Mr. Speaker, we would not want to leave you out because I know you work very hard on behalf of your producers. I know that your producers were here in town the other day.

That is why our ministers are meeting across the street. The new minister from Ontario and all the provincial ministers are there.

We are all on the same side of the issue. We have to get all the available resources possible. That is why a week ago Friday I congratulated the member from western Ontario and the Prime Minister's task force. I also thanked my colleagues in the Alliance for the good work they did on the standing committee for agriculture, along with my colleague from Miramichi, New Brunswick.

It is unfortunate that we happen to have a person here today who wants to be very political with his question and say that nickels went to Saskatchewan. Not enough money went to Saskatchewan but in the throne speech we had to move beyond crisis management. That is why we are working together.

The minister from Saskatchewan has asked for more money. Whether there is going to be $1.3 billion more, I do know that but more than $1 billion has already gone out this year. I happen to have the figures here. I would be glad to show my friend who just spoke how much money has gone to Saskatchewan. It is more than $1 billion.

Supply May 6th, 2002

Yes he is your minister. He is the deputy leader.

Supply May 6th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure about the exact riding of my hon. colleague, but I have been to Saskatchewan quite a few times since September. I have met with many farmers.

Our previous programs have not always been the best but in the last three years, $2 billion went to producers in Saskatchewan. It was not enough and yes, last year more than $1 billion went directly to the producers. We are not like the United States. It did not go to all the landowners. It did not go to all the business people. It did not go to all the people in the cities. It went to the farmers.

At the moment, the federal minister of agriculture and Clay Serby, your minister of agriculture--

Supply May 6th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague who brought forth the motion today. The wording of the motion was not exactly what we would have agreed to but any time we get to talk about rural Canada in the House is very important.

As someone mentioned earlier today, for rural Canada to be healthy we also need a healthy urban Canada. Guess who the consumers are in the country? They also live in urban Canada.

We are concerned about the U.S. farm bill and yet 75%, 85% or 87% of everything we produce goes to the United States. After we argue we have to work together. I do appreciate this opportunity to work together on behalf of rural Canada.

I appreciate the opportunity today to talk about how the policies of our government support the lives and livelihoods of rural Canadians and the communities in which they live.

The Government of Canada has confidence in the future, unlike my hon. colleagues across the floor. More specifically, the Government of Canada has confidence in the future and confidence in our rural communities.

The drought situation and the U.S. farm bill only underline the importance of the work we are doing to move the sector beyond crisis management. That is why the government is working with the provincial and territorial governments, the industry and Canadian citizens on an action plan to put in place an agricultural policy framework.

This policy is about the future. It is designed to improve the long term livelihood and the profitability of Canadian farmers. I say improve because we already have various measures in place to help Canadian farmers be successful in the face of adversities such as drought.

The Government of Canada knows the serious impact drought can have on producers and on their businesses. Accordingly, we are actively engaged in helping farmers mitigate the effects of drought in both the short term and the long term.

The 2,400 projects approved through the Canada--Saskatchewan livestock farm water program, for example, will be available to help alleviate the impact of drought on Saskatchewan livestock producers for the year 2002. The federal government has provided an additional $1.1 million to this program to help producers for the current crop year.

The Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration delivers numerous programs that assist producers in adapting and mitigating the effects of drought. This work builds on the $1.1 billion we have invested so far this year in agriculture to help our farmers manage the short term and the income losses due to perils such as drought.

We are dealing with today's challenges but there are a lot more challenges coming at us. For farming to survive and thrive as a modern industry in the 21st century, we must be ready to meet the challenges they hold. This industry has always adapted to the face of challenges. We did it through innovation, adaptation and change. Challenges have taught what works and what does not work. We know what does not work and, first and foremost, it is subsidies.

The Americans have said that their farm bill is about trade liberalization. Well they are wrong. It is about protectionism. They say that the farm bill is market driven. It is not. The U.S. farm bill is mailbox driven. Instead of encouraging American producers to reap the rewards of trade liberalization, the new farm bill will encourage many to harvest handouts from the American treasury, handouts that often go to the landowners rather than to the producers.

I certainly share the frustration felt by our producer groups over the outrageous action being taken by the Americans to heavily subsidize their industry. These subsidies are not only harmful to the U.S. farmers in the long run but they have a serious effect on our Canadian farmers. American agricultural policy distorts food prices, frustrates innovation, limits product diversity and subsidizes a select group of farmers at enormous public cost.

Its inherent protectionism qualities confound American efforts to reduce protectionism abroad and gain access to new markets. By the way, those are not my words. They are directly from an American legislator.

This spiraling of subsidies discourages adaptation, diversification and profitable business growth and expansion. It saps creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

In Saskatchewan, for example, farmers have adapted to new market demands by tripling production of non-wheat crops. Now the U.S. has shown its brut strength by flexing its farm bill muscles.

Canada cannot compete on equal terms but we must fight smarter, and that we will do. We must get away from farm policies that merely prop up the past, as the U.S. has chosen to do. Rather, we must adopt policies that work toward building the future.

We need to guarantee Canadian farmers success for the future. We need a comprehensive, integrated approach to help our industry adapt to the demand of consumers and take advantage of the opportunities in the global marketplace without production and trade distorting subsidies.

The proposed agricultural policy framework aims to promote innovation among producers so that we can better focus on the concerns and demands of consumers who are the ultimate clients, whether they happen to live above, below or beyond our common borders.

We recognize, however, that our policy decisions in agriculture impact not only farmers. These decisions must also meet the needs and expectations of all citizens. Benefits, such as healthy and safe food, a clean environment, vibrant rural communities and responsible use of taxpayer money, all enhance the quality of life of all citizens.

We are working together, governments and industry, to increase the profitability of the agriculture sector by branding Canada as the world leader in food safety and quality, innovation and environmental protection, and providing the tools for Canadians to thrive and prosper in the 21st century.

The agriculture policy framework has five components that are integrated with each other: risk management for farm businesses; on farm food safety; protection of the environment; renewal for the sector; and innovation through research and science.

Business risk management is critical to the agriculture policy framework. We are working with farmers to develop a risk management approach that rewards the use of best practices in food safety and environmental protection, the adoption of innovations to expand and diversify the farm business, and the improvement of managerial and strategic planning skills acquired through the renewal activities.

We recognize that farmers face unique risks. We also recognize that we need to move away from an approach based on past performance to one based on the future potential, an approach that will encourage farmers to take action to address risk.

Combined with the other elements of the policy framework, this approach would put us in a position to address new challenges and capture new opportunities.

We want to build on Canada's reputation as a producer of safe food by strengthening our on farm food safety systems. Safety runs through the entire food chain, including on the farm. That is why many sectors in Canada are well on their way to implementing comprehensive systems such as HACCP based programs. These programs help prevent hazards that could cause food borne illnesses by applying science based controls throughout the production chain, from raw materials to finished products.

In addition to improving food safety, these additional systems, which may include product tracking and tracing, can be a valuable tool for non-food safety reasons when suppliers and producers align their systems to meet the needs of buyers, such as product identity preservation.

Consumers' concerns about food safety are matched by their concerns about the health of the environment. Canadian farmers are good stewards of the land but new farming production techniques and a shift toward larger, more intensive operations can sometimes mean greater risk to the environment if we do not do it properly.

Governments and industry are working together to develop a comprehensive system in which every farm in Canada is taking the best steps to ensure that its practices strengthen our stewardship of water, soil and air quality, and foster compatibility between agriculture and biodiversity.

That is why science and innovation are such an important part of the new policy framework.

Science has tremendous potential to help us deliver on farm food safety, strengthen environmental stewardship and create new products for the benefit of farmers and the public. It is imperative, though, that we have the confidence of the public and that we are seen to be applying sound science responsibly and with environmental benefits.

Innovation is certainly the key to unlocking the door to success in the 21st century. By being innovative we can develop new products that meet consumer choices and we can capture new markets. All the elements of the agriculture policy framework: business management; actions on food safety; measures to enhance environmental performance; better use of science and innovation; and more opportunities to enhance business management through renewal skills; all these components are integrated to help ensure the success of the sector.

The agricultural policy framework is the agricultural sector's muscle. It needs to be strong and it needs to have all of us working together. That is how we will build a successful and thriving agricultural sector which is the best contribution we can make to rural Canada.

Agriculture May 6th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada supports the agriculture and agrifood industry in rural communities in many ways.

One clear example of this support is the Canadian adaptation and rural development fund, also known as the CARD fund. Since it was created in 1995, CARD has provided more than $450 million in funding to thousands of projects nationally and regionally, and CARD has become a catalyst for turning dreams of creativity and innovation into reality in rural Canada.

This evening I invite all members of the House to the Chateau Laurier so they can see the CARD showcase and see how their funds are invested. Also, they will have an opportunity to meet many of the great agricultural leaders in this country.

Agriculture May 6th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, it gives me the same opportunity we had a couple of hours ago in the House to point out that the government invested $1.1 billion in Saskatchewan last year. Last week we invested $2 million in this country for the drought. We do have money there. In fact we will have great financing there. The government rural caucus, the Prime Minister's task force, the Senate have all been there. We have been listening to producers. We will be there. Last year we invested $3.7 billion in agriculture.