Mr. Chair, I want to thank the member for Timmins--James Bay, our critic for agriculture, for giving me some time tonight. I also want to thank the constituents of Sault Ste. Marie and area for their confidence in me so that I could be here tonight standing in my place to speak up on behalf of the farmers of Algoma and all farmers across Canada and tell the government it has to stop playing games with the lives and livelihoods of some of our best people. Either there is money or there is not. This is a cynical, dangerous game the government is playing.
As I understand the program, the money being made available is a charge against the CAIS program. For those who do not know about the CAIS program, it does not work. I am also led to believe that the remaining money in is included in this package as well. The minister needs to be clear about what money is really available, how much, how much is new money and how someone can apply. None of this has been done. Farmers are making life-altering decisions without proper and adequate information. Let me explain.
If the CAIS program is used to flow the money, nobody knows if they will qualify because of the formula which looks at a farmer's last five years of financial information, and drops the highest and lowest. The industry has been so volatile it is just plain difficult for anybody to know.
Many farmers in Algoma who were expecting to qualify for CAIS this year have not. As a matter of fact the family that is here tonight has told me that they know of 20 to 25 farmers in the Algoma area who have received letters of denial for CAIS for this year. Cheques that are desperately needed for the cash flow for the families to get through the winter and keep the banks at bay will not be there. My hunch is they are not qualifying because they received BSE money last year and it is affecting their formula.
That is precisely what they are afraid of with this new program. It is going to drive farmers further into debt and disqualify them from applying in subsequent years. The minister needs to come clean on this. This is no way to treat the people who produce our food.
Let us look at TISP as an example of the kind of game that is being played here. When TISP was first announced, it was to be $150 per animal. Then it was decided it would be $80 per animal. When the money finally flowed, it was $56 per animal. How can anyone plan anything with that kind of fluctuation and reduction? It left approximately $30 million in that envelope which the farmers who applied and qualified could have used. That money should have been transferred without complication once it was determined there was money left. Now we are told it has been folded into this new money.
We are also told there is really no new money in the package to increase capacity to slaughter and to process. It is loans and loan guarantees. As my colleague from Timmins--James Bay said, this will not create one new plant. It will enrich the already existing operators and continue to bankrupt small farmers.
I say to the government, get real. Get out there and talk to some farmers. Talk to the gentleman here in the gallery tonight who drove nine hours to be here for this debate because it is so important to him and his neighbours. He left his farm and work and drove here to say by his presence that he and his neighbours are in trouble and they need the government's help.
The minister needs to make new, real money available and get it to the farmers now with no strings attached. The minister needs to put new, real money into support for new processing capacity across the country so at the very least we can bring some competition and some real market discipline to the industry. Otherwise we should get ready for bankruptcies, fewer farmers, and even greater reliance on the U.S. based food processing and distribution systems.