Mr. Chair, I thank the hon. member for giving me an opportunity to speak before the debate ends.
I will begin by quoting Laurent Pellerin, the president of the UPA,
There will be two choices, because we have reached a dead end. Either we are told to stop production or we are given the equipment and the same tools as our American neighbours. It is not possible to go on living beside a giant like the United States and not adopt policies similar to those on the other side of the border.
That statement sums up the reasons our farmers' incomes are bottoming out. The past three years have been the worst in the past 100 in terms of net income for Canadian farmers, while they have been the best years that American farmers have enjoyed.
All that is just numbers. The fact of the matter is these are families that have operated a farm for several generations. Today they have to dip into their meagre savings, go into debt and, for many, invest all their assets just to survive until this government assumes its responsibilities. Do not think it is because they are not competitive. If we compare production costs on American and European farms, we can see that our farmers are often the best.
The situation can be explained by the amount of support the Canadian government provides to the farming sector. In 2002, according to OECD figures, support per capita to the farming sector in Canada was US$192, whereas it was US$317 in the United States, US$304 in the European Union and US$438 in Japan.
Farmers in Quebec want the minister to come up with real solutions to improve their income. They want to have a decent income again, to regain their dignity and their pride in being farmers. They also want the government to put in place real solutions that, in the long term, will offset the effects of American farm subsidies and the international trade rules that threaten the very existence of farms in Quebec and the rest of Canada.