Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Brandon—Souris.
“Scugog Farmers are calling for help” was the headline in the Port Perry Star , a local newspaper in my riding of Durham, last week. The farmers in Canada are calling for help from the government.
Yesterday I spoke about a meeting in my riding where, despite a winter storm, hundreds of farmers, not only from Durham, but from York, Victoria, Simcoe and Essex counties, gathered to express their frustrations and to consider how to be heard by governments in this country.
As Geri Kamenz, vice-president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, has said:
Ontario farmers are running out of alternatives to keep their farms in production. They have called on their organizations to lobby government, but government ignores them. They have conducted tractor rallies and highway blockades, but government ignores them. They have staged orderly demonstrations, but government ignores them.
Today, representatives of over 28 agricultural organizations and boards are meeting in Guelph to come together to create one voice for all the cultural industries in Ontario because they are not being heard and they need help.
Well, this side of the House has listened and is speaking and has spoken for this industry throughout this session of Parliament.
As our leader has said, we are the voice of rural Canada in Ottawa.
We demanded a debate on the BSE crisis in the first weeks of this session. We forced a full day debate on the expropriation of farmlands at Mirabel. Our leader has called for a cull cow program. Our agricultural critic has pressured the government over and over to meet the real needs of farmers in Canada. In fact, we have asked more questions on agriculture in this House than all other parties put together.
Today I am proud to stand and speak to the motion before this House.
As Joe Hickson, from Lindsay, has said:
It doesn't matter if you're in cattle, dairy, grain, corn...the whole industry is going backwards and if we don't put the brakes on it, we're going to be so far behind the ball that we won't be able to dig ourselves out .
The government's response has been consistently to point to the CAIS program as its answer to the current crisis.
The CAIS program does not work. It was never designed to be an emergency fund program and the government knows that. The CAIS program does not address trade injury and the government knows that. It was told that in the George Morris Centre report when the CAIS program was set up.
Therefore, when the U.S. border closed, the CAIS program, as it was, would not serve Canada's beef industry.
The CAIS program does not work for the grain and oilseeds sector in its current deteriorating circumstances. CAIS needs to be changed.
First, we must eliminate the deposit requirement and not penalize those who need the money to pay the bills and to pay suppliers. They must have access to the money now and without being penalized for three years after.
The program needs much greater transparency in calculations and formulae so that the producer-accountant payment projections are bankable numbers with much higher probability of realization when payments are actually made.
The appeal process needs to be clarified and clearly communicated.
The modified accrual accounting treatment of inventory valuation must be addressed. This Enron type of accounting distorts the support provided by CAIS.
I have only made reference to a few ways in which the CAIS program can be improved to really serve the farmers in Canada. The farmers in Ontario, I am convinced, will be coming to Ottawa with one voice to ask for these and other remedies to the CAIS program. They deserve to know how the government plans to respond to the EU's decision to reinstate export subsidies on wheat. This decision clearly violates the spirit of the WTO negotiations. As long as Canada fails in its responsibilities to play a leadership role in this matter, Canadian farmers will continue to suffer.
Today the government is failing our agricultural community. Agriculture and the auto industry are the two industries that drive the economy in my province of Ontario. The farm community in Ontario is calling for help. I believe they deserve to be heard. I challenge the government to answer their call for help.
Today I am pleased to stand here on their behalf and ask that they not be ignored once again. I am proud to stand with my party and support this motion for the immediate removal of the CAIS support program deposit requirement. This is now a cash flow issue for farmers and the other sectors affected by the current state of the industry.
I ask all members to support the motion and to support the agricultural community in Canada.