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

Genetically Modified Organisms June 8th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, Unibroue Inc., the company in question, is certainly free and welcome to advertise its product as being GMO free. It certainly used the CFIA authorization for the export in the wrong way, but it is most capable and most welcome to advertise its product as GMO free as long as it is certain about the source of its product. It must also make sure its labelling is very clear and meaningful for the health of all Canadians.

Farm Credit Corporation Act June 8th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin third reading debate today with regard to Bill C-25, which amends the Farm Credit Corporation Act of 1993. These amendments would enable Farm Credit Corporation to continue its tradition of anticipating the changing needs of agriculture with innovative products and services. The main focus of the FCC remains the same: to save and work with Canadian farm families.

Canadian farmers are well known for their resourcefulness, flexibility and determination to succeed in the long term. They need a financial institution that shows the same flexibility and commitment to change with their evolving needs.

For 41 years Farm Credit Corporation has been the national financial institution that has consistently identified emerging needs, specifically, to work with and save Canadian family farms and farm families as well as to introduce needed services to address the gaps wherever they are in agriculture.

These new amendments would allow FCC to continue this tradition. The federal government has created these amendments to ensure the continued relevancy of the act. It is very relevant to all of these family farms. After review by the standing committee, the amendments remain unchanged. I will briefly review the major amendments.

The first amendment would change the name of Farm Credit Corporation to farm credit Canada. In French it would change from Société du crédit agricole to Financement agricole Canada. This change reflects the corporation's mandate to serve rural Canada as a federal crown. Adding the word Canada to the corporation's name also demonstrates the federal government's ongoing commitment to rural Canadians.

Another key amendment would allow FCC to offer business services to producers either directly or through partnerships. Producers would have access to the broad range of business services they need to succeed in a competitive environment. The new legislation would enable FCC to offer equity financing to producers and farm related businesses. Many farming and farm related operations need access to equity as well as term financing. In fact, rural communities cannot develop local value added agricultural industries without venture and equity capital.

An important amendment to the act would allow FCC to provide financial services to farm related businesses that benefit agriculture. Currently the corporation can lend only to businesses that are majority farmer owned. By extending services to more farm related businesses, FCC would help rural economies grow and would create jobs in rural communities. These are the key amendments directly impacting producers and farm related business.

Before beginning the amendments process, I asked FCC to consult the industry it serves, and I know the minister worked with it too. It is amazing, but the corporation really did its work. It met with more than 100 agricultural and financial industry groups last year to get their input. It met with more than 400 people to talk about what the bill would deliver to Canadian farm and farm families.

In general, the agricultural groups consulted were very supportive of the proposed changes. However, some producer organizations expressed the concern that FCC should continue to concentrate on serving the needs of producers. As a result, we created an amendment specifically to address this concern. The amendment states that the primary producers would continue to be the main focus of FCC's activities. Again, we consulted with producer groups in developing this amendment.

The corporation has a long tradition of consulting the agricultural industry to identify the needs. When the Canadian Federation of Agriculture told FCC that beginning farmers need more financial options, FCC listened. In 1998 it introduced agri-start loans to help young farm families build successful farming operations. The lending volume in the past few years tells us that agri-start addresses a real and compelling need. Since it was first introduced agri-start has generated almost 1,300 loans at a value of $134 million.

In 1999, a hog producer near Brandon, Manitoba came to FCC with an idea and FCC listened. Why not offer a lending product that allows hog producers flexible payment options so they can make it through the price downturns in the industry that exist today? To address this identified need, FCC designed the flexi-hog loan last spring. Since then, lending for this loan has amounted to $20 million.

In the year 2000, many Quebec producers signed up for a provincial subsidy program to help them adapt their waste management facilities to meet current environmental standards. FCC created the enviro-loan, which enables producers to make the upgrades and pay off the loan when they receive the subsidy at the end of the project. The enviro-loan is now available across Canada.

At FCC innovation is not confined to products and services. FCC is at the forefront of a growing movement in agriculture to enter partnerships to give customers more comprehensive solutions.

In the past several years FCC has built a network of 27 partners to offer more comprehensive financial packages to producers and to farm related businesses. FCC works with agriculture based businesses including input suppliers, livestock brokers and a national network of equipment dealers. FCC partners with public sector financial institutions such as the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Alberta Financial Services Corporation. The corporation also works with private sector institutions such as credit unions and is very successful with this across the country.

In March FCC announced an innovative partnership with private and public sector organizations to help farmers with life cycle planning. AgriSuccess is a joint initiative that offers seminars and online information to help producers to address long term planning issues. The initiative increases access to business planning services throughout rural Canada.

The amendments we are discussing today would position FCC to continue in its role as a catalyst and innovator. Through FCC, producers and farm related businesses would be able to access the range of services they require no matter where they live in rural Canada.

FCC recognizes that the future of farming is linked to the growth of the value added sector in agriculture. This new legislation would position FCC to support the future growth of this sector.

The spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship is alive and well in agriculture today. What the industry requires is a financial institution that understands the needs of agriculture and acts as a partner to support future growth and success. Certainly, as one of the farmers here in this Chamber is saying, part of this success is due to the people who work for FCC in the more than 100 offices across the country. These people most often have farm related backgrounds and are very close to their communities.

FCC has served that purpose for 41 years. These amendments would help ensure that FCC continues to contribute relevant solutions to agriculture for many years to come.

Tall Ships June 7th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to tell the House that the tall ships are coming to Kingston, Ontario this summer, and event organizers are promising an exciting and integrated showcase of the city. Plans for several exciting events include a major Canada Day celebration with parades, fireworks, historical re-enactments, a ceremonial entrance into the Kingston harbour and feature entertainment.

The Kingston Tall Ships Challenge will feature between 20 and 30 tall ships visiting Kingston between June 28 and July 2. The event is part of a series of tall ship sailing races linked by visits to selected ports in the Great Lakes this summer. Young people sign on as crew members of tall ships putting their nautical skills, courage and endurance against each other in friendly competition. In port the crews relax and meet their competitors, as well as their local hosts in programs and festivals designed to show off the ports, the ships and their crews.

Kingston played host to the tall ships during the summer of 1984 drawing nearly 300,000 visitors. This summer Kingston is the only major port to host the tall ships exclusively. I know the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands will welcome this. We agree—

Farm Credit Corporation Act June 7th, 2001

I have been there and it is a great riding.

Farm Credit Corporation Act June 7th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to the bill. Farm Credit Corporation has been very successful across the country and it certainly looks forward to working even more for the benefit of the farmers and the primary producers.

I will take a moment to note that I was very glad to hear that at committee in the past week or two one of my colleagues from the Alliance Party put the fact on the table that the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food still has the reputation of getting along better for all the right reasons than any other committee, in support of farmers across the country. I trust that we can work together in future in the same way.

I will speak to Motion No. 1. Farm Credit Corporation's proposed amendment in Bill C-25 is consistent with the current legislation, with the exception of the following add-on:

The primary focus of the activities of the Corporation shall be on farming operations including family farms.

Farm Credit Corporation held consultations on the future role of FCC with over 100 regional and national groups across the country, more than 100 farm and agribusiness organizations and all major financial organizations in each and every province, as well as institutions and provincial governments. Over 400 individuals participated in the consultation meetings across Canada.

Yes, concerns were expressed that Farm Credit Corporation's focus could be diverted from the primary producer. However the Canadian Federation of Agriculture appeared before the House of Commons standing committee in regard to the bill. The CFA represents some 220,000 Canadian family farms, many in your riding, Mr. Speaker. The CFA asked that FCC maintain the focus on the primary producer. That is what the bill would do. The CFA's exact words were:

We believe that primary producers must always have the first priority in accessing FCC financing.

To ensure that the corporation continues to meet the needs of primary producers, FCC formulated the wording of the clause in collaboration with the CFA's board of directors. The wording of the bill expresses the concerns of the CFA word for word. Let me repeat that it is word for word. The wording is:

The primary focus of activities of the Corporation shall be on farming operations including family farms.

FCC recognizes the necessity of serving farm related businesses to benefit producers and rural communities. The corporation's number one focus will continue to be primary production. Currently more than 90% of FCC's financing is directed to farming operations.

According to Statistics Canada, 98% of farms are family owned and operated. This means that the great majority of FCC services is directed to family farms and to farm families. For this reason it is very important that the bill go forward with the wording as proposed by the FCC.

Because of the importance of the family farm for the social and economic fabric of rural Canada, the words family farm were specified in the legislation. The government supports the new legislation as an important contribution to sustainable growth in rural Canada and recommends that Bill C-25 not be changed to remove the words family farms from the legislation.

No one definition exists in common usage that clearly defines the levels of business enterprise. The continued growth of the value added industry means that the definition of small and medium sized enterprises will continue to evolve. FCC's role is to provide an environment for the growth of the agricultural industry to occur by continuing to meet the needs of the industry.

FCC's lending limit established by the board of directors is currently $20 million and has been since 1995. Limits such as these clearly indicate that all FCC loans will be to small and medium sized businesses related to agriculture. It should also be noted that FCC's average mortgage loan size is $106,704 to primary producers and $498,909 to agribusiness clients. The average non-mortgage loan size for personal property loans is $31,000 to primary producers and $42,000 to alliance clients. There are currently no plans to increase this lending limit. In fact our emphasis has shifted over the past few years from doing full proposals on our own to joint financing with other institutions. Therefore, the government supports the legislation.

With regard to Motion No. 2, as introduced by the Canadian Alliance, it is too limiting. I was glad to hear that my colleague from Palliser agreed. More than 100 organizations across Canada also agreed. We cannot agree to Motion No. 2 because farming operations are growing more complex and the marketplace is more competitive. In order to achieve long term success, producers and farm related businesses need access to a broader range of business management services.

Services can be significantly different by geography, making it difficult to serve those who need a particular service not available from other institutions in any given area. As a national organization, the FCC can dedicate its efforts to delivering services where services are required.

During the consultation process, it was identified that there was a gap in business services in rural Canada. Certainly we all agree with that. The Canadian Young Farmers Forum enthusiastically endorsed FCC complimentary services on a fee basis, while several groups noted that the FCC does not provide services already being offered in the private sector. As a result of this input, Bill C-25 states that the FCC's intent is to provide business services and products that complement those available from the public and the private sectors.

The business management services that the FCC proposes would complement existing services, not compete directly with other providers. The FCC would work in partnership with existing service providers to increase access to business services through its network of 100 offices.

One of the strengths of the FCC is that most of the people who work with the farmers and the producers have a farming or a farm related background and do a great job across the country. The FCC only intends to offer business management services where a clear need is identified.

The FCC would work in partnership with public and private sector organizations, wherever possible, to enhance the product and service offerings available to rural Canada. The FCC has a memorandum of understanding with BDC and has 27 partnership agreements with public and private sector organizations.

Over time, financing needs of producers and farm related businesses change quickly. Private institutions respond to providing services based on the profitability of products which can change based on the number of clients in a particular area and the level of competition.

The government will not support Motion No. 2 because it is too limiting. The government and I appreciate the hard work of all our colleagues from all parties.

It is good to be able to say that we will support Motion No. 3 as moved by the Canadian Alliance.

Farm Credit Corporation Act June 7th, 2001

That is a good idea.

Farm Credit Corporation Act June 7th, 2001

Competition is good.

Patent Act June 7th, 2001

That is too far, Mr. Speaker. The first time it was a lie. Now it just a big lie.

Food And Drugs Act June 6th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to acknowledge that the bill comes from one of the deans of the House who I respect very much. He has always been a committed member and a great driving force in everything he believes in.

It must be the season for compliments, Mr. Speaker, but you are a very wise person to allow as many people as possible to speak on the bill. That is a nice way to do it for members in the House.

Let me remind the House that Canada is recognized worldwide as having one of the safest food systems in the world. The responsibility for food safety is shared at the federal level between Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Health Canada's responsibility regarding food is to establish science based policies and standards to ensure that all foods are safe and nutritious.

Several years ago Health Canada recognized the application of new techniques either to genetically modified micro-organisms and plants in order to produce new food or to simply to produce common, everyday foods another way. It was also recognized that the safety of such foods should be assessed and that the existing regulatory framework of the Food and Drugs Act was the suitable tool to establish a clear and stringent process for evaluating the safety of biotechnology derived foods.

As we all know, a variety of novel foods are being developed and introduced into the Canadian marketplace. These novel foods include foods derived from biotechnology.

Health Canada believes that foods that have not previously been used as foods, or foods that have been modified from their traditional composition as well as foods that have been produced using new technology, including biotechnology, should be assessed prior to being allowed on the market. I think we all agree with that and I respect the people in Health Canada for that.

To this end the federal government has enacted novel foods regulations which define what a novel food is. It makes it mandatory for a company to notify Health Canada before a novel food can be sold in Canada. This pre-market notification ensures that the safety of each novel food, including genetically modified food, is assessed and verified before it can enter the Canadian marketplace. In addition, the definition of novel foods is well tailored to the mandate of Health Canada, ensuring that all foods are safe and nutritious.

The safety assessment undertaken in relation to these regulations is conducted according to scientific principles developed through expert consultation with international authorities such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The approach used in Canada is also followed by regulatory agencies in the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States. Health Canada's guidelines for the safety assessment of novel foods outline the safety assessment approach. These guidelines have benefited from detailed consultations with stakeholders in Canada and continue to be available for review and critique.

As in the case for approval of most products by regulatory agencies around the world, companies or proponents of biotechnology derived foods are required to submit a set of data which must be of sufficiently high calibre and meet the criteria specified in the guidelines. This information is reviewed by a team of scientific evaluators representing expertise in molecular biology, toxicology, chemistry, nutritional sciences and microbiology.

The scientific validity of study protocols used, as well as the raw data submitted, are critically analyzed. If any part of the information provided is insufficient, including if long term studies are warranted, further studies will be required from that company. The food will not be approved and the food company or proponent will be obligated to carry out those studies and report on the results before any further consideration of the submission.

Concerning food labelling policies in Canada, Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency share accountability under the Food and Drugs Act. Health Canada's responsibilities derive from its mandate for health and safety issues, while the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is responsible for protecting consumers from misrepresentation and fraud with respect to food labelling, packaging and advertising and for prescribing basic food labelling and advertising standards.

It is important to note that the development of the interim position on labelling is based upon previous public consultations. Since 1993 there have been three public consultations in Canada on the issue of labelling foods derived through genetic modification.

The public consultation process was used to bring together a group of stakeholders, including industry and industry associations, consumer groups and individuals to determine Canadian views on the subject.

This position calls for mandatory labelling to address health and safety issues. We do that to identify composition or nutritional changes. In these situations labelling is required to alert consumers or susceptible groups in the population at large. Additionally, food producers and manufacturers may voluntarily label foods derived from biotechnology, provided that the label is truthful and not misleading.

Recently labelling of foods derived from the application of biotechnology has become a key issue of public attention. It is important to note that the primary issue related to labelling has been one of consumer choice and the right to know. To examine the broad considerations related to biotechnology, the federal government has created the Canadian biotechnology advisory committee as part of its renewed biotechnology strategy.

In addition, there are several initiatives underway in order to determine the most appropriate mechanisms for providing consumers with information that will assist them to better understand the nature of their food choices.

Health Canada continues to work with colleagues at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and with other stakeholders, including health professionals, consumer groups and industry associations, in order to develop mechanisms to provide information in the most effective manner regarding foods derived from biotechnology, mechanisms that are consistent with international approaches.

I look forward to further debate on this issue but I think we have to clarify a few more things before we can support the bill.

National Agriculture Industry Relief Coordination Act June 5th, 2001

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I heard my hon. colleagues on the other side say that we have no committee and that we are stopping a committee. We have a committee—