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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was industry.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Liberal MP for Prince Edward—Hastings (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply September 23rd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, it was some months ago, prior to May 20, that the government put in place a series of round tables. As minister I made the announcement.

There are many players in all of this. We put in place a beef round table. The first approach of the round table prior to May 20 rightfully asked how we could enhance the beef industry in Canada. How could they enhance it both domestically and internationally? On May 20 the concentration of their work obviously changed, but what we already had in place was a round table.

The hon. member asked what is happening. Unfortunately it is not like some people think, that we can just phone President Bush or Secretary Ann Veneman and say, “Excuse us folks, we are coming through with some cattle liners tomorrow. We are coming through with some culled cows tomorrow”.

It is not that simple. It takes a lot of diplomatic work. It also takes a lot of work with the industry. The resources have to be there within the industry itself to change some of the plants over to process some of the product that they have not been able to process in the past. That work is underway.

I mentioned in my comments about making sure that when we change the regulations that we can carry them out. They have to be meaningful, credible and enforceable. We will not act until we can because we have demonstrated to the world in the past that when we did these things, we could live up to them. They have recognized them and that is why we have borders open.

Supply September 23rd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, as I said, while we continue to work to open the borders in all the ways I have just described, it is important that we start the flow of the funds that we have.

On top of the $560 million, $312 million of which was the federal contribution to the BSE recovery program, I announced last Friday that the second instalment of the $1.2 billion transition money that the Prime Minister and I announced in June 2001 would flow to farmers. The application forms and the information on that will go out in the very near future. That is $600 million that will go out to farmers. It is all federal money. Last year, some of the provinces put up 40% of that. Others chose not to.

I have no idea whether the provinces will be doing that this year or not. However, I want to inform and remind everybody that $600 million will go out. Much of that will go out to beef producers. But as hon. members have said today, there have been other stresses in our industry, be that drought in some areas or market situations for other commodities as well.

I also announced a few weeks ago that money will flow for provinces that have made their commitment to the agricultural policy framework. In other words, they have signed a federal-provincial agreement with the federal government. All federal-provincial agreements expired on March 31, 2003. The provinces have known for three years that that would be the expiry date. Several provinces have signed, which allows the federal government to flow money to them.

By doing so those provinces have committed their 40% to programs, and not only to support crop insurance, companion programs, disaster programs, food safety programs, environment programs and renewal science and innovation. Some provinces have not signed and they have not even indicated to their industry that they will support them in that way.

We want to move that money. For those provinces that have signed, I announced two or three weeks ago that I would be prepared to and this week I signed bilateral agreements with four of those signatory provinces to allow producers there to make interim applications on the business risk management type program that will be there when more provinces sign. Those provinces have made the transition. They have made the commitment. Others have not made that commitment. I would suggest that the industries in those provinces ask their provinces to sign so that money can start to flow, because we know the producers need the money.

We will continue to work with the provinces and the industry to assess their needs and determine what additional measures would be appropriate.

We know that there have been and will likely be some continued changes to our beef industry overall. As the beef round table is doing and will continue to do, everybody in the beef industry--right from producer to consumer, governments to industry--needs to put their heads together, as has been happening, to develop the beef industry to deal with some of the realties that may very well be facing us. They are realities that we do not like, but realities that we are going to have to face in the future.

The beef industry can be proud, and we are all proud of it in the way in which it has reacted to and developed the beef market, not only domestically but around the world in the past. I am confident that whatever the changes are, few as we hope they are, that the beef industry will be able to react to that as well.

We can see that the federal government, along with the provinces and the industry, is doing everything possible to reopen the borders. Yes, that is extremely important and I am not diminishing that whatsoever, but what is also important is that we do all we possibly can to develop the industry here in Canada. If we are not able to market meat from older animals into other countries, which we are trying to do and will work on, then we need to help develop the use and the markets here in Canada.

All our fast food chains announced this year that instead of buying some of that beef offshore, they are going to use Canadian beef. That is a market opportunity. It is a tough way to get it, I agree.

We have lost because until we had the health situation, there was no Canada-U.S. border in the beef industry. There really was not and the beef industry develops on that. I am not criticizing them; that is just the reality that was there. We now have a health border that we have conquered to some extent. I am confident we will conquer some more as we go forward.

Maybe we have an opportunity to bring some of those slaughter facilities, or create some of those here. We could bring some of those jobs back and create employment here. We could create products here that in the past were being brought in from someplace else using somebody else's beef rather than our Canadian beef.

I want to thank everybody. It has been a team Canada effort. I have none other than a positive indication that it will continue to be so. Again, I want to thank the Canadian consumers because they have been there big time in recognizing the importance of the beef industry, along with everybody else recognizing it and supporting it throughout the summer. I know they will continue to do it.

Supply September 23rd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, would you give me an indication of how much time I have left?

Supply September 23rd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in the discussion today.

I first want to thank everyone. The success we have had to date in getting the borders open for our Canadian beef and the success we have had in supporting the Canadian beef industry in so many ways has been truly a team Canada effort. The consumers have been there to support the industry. The provinces, industry people and members of Parliament have been there, and we certainly need to continue that type of approach. We have shown considerable success already.

While an all party delegation showing up on the door of Parliament Hill might sound like an approach that could be taken, I believe the one on one contacts I have had have been effective, for example with U.S. Secretary Ann Veneman and with the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture Javier Usabiaga. The calls I have made to other countries and the contacts, for example with the country of Japan alone, have been effective. We certainly have had more calls with the United States.

I looked at a list of contacts. The hon. members have said that diplomats, politicians and leaders of Canada. Some time ago I looked into what I will refer to as interventions, contacts and letters and there were over 76 with Japan alone.

Unfortunately we are dealing with a health issue, and that has been determined by the best scientists in the world in the OIE. Just to put that in perspective, the Office international des épizooties, the international body that corresponds with the World Health Organization, deals with, comments upon and gives guidelines as far as human health issues are concerned. This is a situation where science and the bad experience in Europe a number of years ago can show there may very well be a crossover between a situation in animal science to a situation in human health. That has to be everybody's primary concern.

There have been attempts by some leaders across the country to go to Washington. Some have been more successful and some of their comments have been more helpful than others. However I can assure members that the Prime Minister has spoken directly to President Bush on this issue. The President's comment on this was that he was keen to get the border open, and that is significant. From working with people in his administration, not only myself and officials from my office but officials from many other government offices, that also has been indicated.

Let us remind ourselves of where we are. Canada is the first BSE country in the world to get markets opened up to its product. Yes, it took 100 days, but it is the first time in history that has happened and it has happened because of the system we have in place, our industry, our primary producers, our processors and our food inspection system, and the fact that everybody recognized the importance of the integrated beef and cattle market in North America. There is the breeding aspect of this as well. There have been incredible numbers.

We also have to remember that it is not Canada's borders that are closed and we can make that decision to open them. Borders of other countries are closed. They have to make that decision to open. We have demonstrated with science and with all I said before and they have reacted by starting to open up their borders.

As I said in responding to the hon. member a few minutes ago, as of last Thursday we now have had certificates, and they are being issued every day. Over eight million pounds of product is going into the United States. It is going to start to move into Mexico as well. We will continue to work in that area.

The secretary in the United States has said publicly the other day that she was expediting the regulatory process to move toward opening the border to live cattle under 30 months going directly to slaughter. It is usually a process that takes 12 to 18 months in the United States. As I said to the press the other day, she has assured us that she is expediting that process. We have encouraged her to do so. I talked to her specifically about it, encouraging her to do so, so we can take another step in opening those borders.

Mexico is working as well. It is no secret that Mexico and Canada are working on a protocol so that we can hopefully start moving bred replacement dairy heifers, as well as beef, into Mexico. That is not completed yet. Everyone has to agree, including the United States, because of the American concern of live cattle moving into Mexico.

We are also making some headway not only with, as I said, the U.S. and Mexico, but we are making some headway with Russia. The protocol is being put in place with Russia and it is preparing to move animals, not only in the under 30 months of age, but also over 30 months of age.

Never before have we worked so hard with Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago. They have not opened up to any other country that has had BSE or was listed as a BSE country.

The federal and provincial governments will continue these intense efforts with all of these countries and more. I can tell members that we will not rest, the industry will not rest, and the provinces will not rest until we get full restoration of where we were prior to May 20.

We are moving to expedite all of these processes and the countries are cooperating with us because they recognize the quality of Canadian beef.

While a trip to Washington by a group of politicians may give the appearance of making some headway, our thorough and behind the scenes approach is working. We know that is a big part of diplomacy which is contrary to what some people think should happen. They feel that it should be done in the open, on the front pages of the newspaper, in front of the TV cameras. However, it is the actions that count. With the actions that have happened so far, we can honestly say that we have taken steps that no other country has.

While we continue to do that, we are also working with the OIE. Canada is leading in that regard. When I met Secretary Venamen in one of the face-to-face meetings back in June, I suggested that the NAFTA countries, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, put together a letter asking the OIE to review the level of risk with something like BSE. I asked the OIE to review BSE, in particular when a system works similar to ours. We have this situation not because our system failed but because our system worked. We found the animal and we took it out of the food chain.

We are asking the OIE, and we are being supported by other countries, when it meets in Paris in September, to look at the science that has come forward since the major situation in the United Kingdom and Europe a few years ago. We are asking it to look at the changes in feed practices, the level of surveillance, and the removal of specified risk material, for example, that has taken place. We could then put into perspective where we are as far as risk in these types of situations.

This is not a situation where in the past there have been estimates of up to two million animals in the food chain. This is a very low risk. I am not saying it should be ignored, but Let us put it into perspective. Other countries are recognizing that this is important to them as well.

Our intent is to ask them to create international standards that reflect: science, surveillance, testing, feeding practices, et cetera. We will continue to promote what has been very successful to us and recognized by the international body. We have asked it to review what we had done and to give us recommendations on what we should do.

We have already completed some of those recommendations. With others, we have to work with the provinces in order to ensure that we have the capacity, the funding, and all that is involved in that approach. This is because some of the percentage of our beef in Canada is slaughtered in provincial slaughterhouses. The provinces must be able to do the further surveillance and testing on animals as well.

I have made reference to the fact that we have removed the specified risk materials in order to make a very safe system even safer. We are pursuing the level of surveillance that we need to achieve. We are working so that we will have a system that would be able to detect, as soon as all the resources are there--and we cannot commit to doing that until we have the resources--one animal in one million.

That is the goal we are working toward and we will take whatever steps are necessary as far as feeding and traceability measures, and increasing significantly the amount of surveillance in order to get that point.

It is actions like these that will open borders a whole lot quicker than taking a busload or a planeload of people to Washington. A number of people have already been there. That has been helpful, it is true. However, the work has been going on, diplomatically and scientifically, in the other areas coordinated by the trade minister and other ministers.

The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister have been involved in taking every opportunity to make these points, and not only to the United States. Yes, it is our biggest customer, but it is not our only customer. That is why it is important that we do this with all of the 30-some countries.

I met with the minister from Korea and other ministers. I met with the minister from Japan again a week and a half ago when the hon. member was present, not at the meeting, but in Cancun. I want to thank him for attending the WTO and for the support he gave our Canadian team on WTO issues. I met with the minister from Japan there again and I met with the minister from China. As I said, I met with the secretary from Mexico as well as the secretary to the United States. I met with all of these ministers.

Another thing that helped was the announcement back in July by the Minister for International Trade and myself that all supplemental imports of non-NAFTA beef and veal will normally be refused. Certainly that creates a situation where any of our processors and further processors that were bringing in offshore beef above the WTO commitments through our tariff rate quotas will have more difficulties under normal circumstances.

To assist the producers, and I outlined this to the hon. member a minute ago, the government put up $560 million. Some people have said that the government did nothing. We made the announcement on May 20 when we confirmed the situation. I made the announcement with the minister in Alberta within two hours of having that confirmed.

Those individuals are saying that 312 million federal dollars and the support of the province that raised it to $520 million was insignificant. In the eyes of many Canadians, I do not think $520 million was insignificant. Is there financial stress in the industry? We recognize that, but that program kept the market open and kept it moving. It moved us up to 73,000 animals a week.

While we continue to work on opening the borders, we are looking ahead to begin pooling the money that is available. There is--

Supply September 23rd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I want to take the opportunity in the question and comment period to ask the hon. member some questions.

I would like to know where he obtained the numbers of killing 90,000 cattle a week. We have not killed 90,000 head of cattle a week in Canada for a long time, if ever. Prior to May 20, we were killing about 73,000 to 74,000 cattle a week. Yes, it dropped down, but by the end of the beef recovery program at the end of August, which is working, we were killing 75,000 animals a week. Does he realize that?

He said that nothing had happened in the last month. By last Thursday there were permits to move eight million pounds of Canadian beef into the United States. Is that nothing? He says that nothing has been done for farmers. Is $560 million between the federal and provincial governments, $600 million that I announced in transition payments last week and $500 million that is available to farmers in business risk management nothing to Canadian farmers?

He says that this is not a health issue. Is he saying that the world should ignore the organization Office international des épizooties which is the world authorities of scientists on this? Is this not a health issue? I think that was made very clear with the unfortunate situation in the European area a few years ago. Is he saying that we should ignore all these facts and just talk politics on this? Does nothing of this have any meaning to the hon. member?

Agriculture September 22nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, the federal government will pay its full share of the 60-40 BSE recovery program. I might suggest that if the hon. member really wanted the farmers in his province to benefit from the money that is there to help farmers across this country, he would go back home and convince the provincial minister in his own province that they sign on to the agricultural policy framework, because by not doing so they have not even committed their 40% to the programs and the money that is there for the farmers into the future.

Agriculture September 22nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I do not think the hon. member understands very clearly many of the rules as far as the WTO is concerned. It depends on how one does it.

Clearly the beef industry has indicated to us that it does not want any action taken which might subject it to scrutiny by the United States under countervail or anti-dumping. The experience of that in the pork industry and the grains industry and some other industries has been very expensive in the past, and the provincial ministers, when we put the BSE recovery program in place, agreed at that time that when the borders started to open the program would end. They have known it since the beginning of the program.

Agriculture September 22nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I hope it is not the policy of this House to start pointing fingers at specific provinces where something happens. We are a country and the country is called Canada. In this case, the animal was in one province of this country.

The OIE, and no other country, has regionalized countries. When a reportable disease takes place in a country, unfortunately the whole country is recognized as having that. We have worked on that, but so has the whole country been recognized and, for the first time ever, had our markets opened up to us even though we did have one case.

Agriculture September 22nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I have made it very clear that we have hundreds of millions of dollars available to assist farmers across the country, including beef farmers. We need to move that money and use that money first.

Agriculture September 22nd, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I know that is an issue with the beef cattlemen. It is also an issue with the dairy industry which has concerns about that as well, and they are different from what they are for the beef industry. It is an also an issue as far as health is concerned.

I have asked the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to do another review of the level of risk. That will be done as quickly as we possibly can to ensure that whatever action is taken we have the level of risk in reference to those specific diseases, bluetongue and anaplasmosis, as low as possible.