Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of his speech, if I understood him correctly, the minister asked for specific measures. I come from a riding called Abitibi—Témiscamingue, which is located next to the riding represented by my hon. colleague opposite. In my area, a majority of small and medium size businesses are going through an unprecedented crisis. Abitibi—Témiscamingue has lost $16,161,716 since the beginning of the mad cow crisis, and 1,400 producers are about to go bankrupt.
The minister asked for some very specific recommendations. The problem in our area is linked to the slaughterhouses. Between 1999 and 2003, close to 5 million head of cattle were exported from Canada to the United States. If the ban is scientifically based, how do you explain the fact that these millions of Canadian animals found their way from the feed lots to the tables of U.S. consumers, even after the discovery of the first case of mad cow?
We want the minister to realize that the phenomenon of the concentration of slaughterhouses has reached the point today where the four main slaughterhouses in the United States control 80% of the slaughter capacity. In Canada, four slaughterhouses, including two American owned businesses, account for 91% of the total weekly slaughter of steers and heifers.
On behalf of Quebec and probably the other provinces, we ask the minister to set a floor price, because the slaughterhouses have benefited and are still benefiting from this crisis. This is a well known fact. Fred Dunn, the Alberta auditor general, carried out a study which showed that the slaughterhouses gained the most during this crisis.
If he wanted, the minister could set a floor price for the slaughterhouses as early as tomorrow. Can we rely on him for that?