These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Comparing Proposals

Mr. Rick Borotsik (Brandon—Souris, PC): Mr. Speaker, farmers expected the Minister of Agriculture to have a safety net package in place by April 1, almost two weeks ago, yet it was only a week ago that the minister hired two consulting firms to analyze this program and tell him how wonderful it was, while at the same time directing these same consultants not to consider a proposal raised by farmers.

Why is the minister afraid to allow a third party consultant to compare the Canadian Federation of Agriculture's proposal with his own?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member should get his facts straight and read the letter that I sent back to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture approving the third party participants in this, that it approved as well, and also agreeing to analyze and to review the information it provided to me on March 28 of this year at 6 o.clock in the afternoon, three days before the end of the present federal-provincial agreement that ran out on April 1.

Mr. Louis Plamondon (Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has referred to a report drafted by an interdepartmental working group for the four ministers concerned, and given to them a month ago. Yesterday, the parliamentary secretary informed the dairy producers meeting in Quebec City that a decision by the minister will be forthcoming within two weeks.

Can the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food confirm that a decision will be announced within the timeframe indicated yesterday by the parliamentary secretary?

[English]

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois has asked that very same question several times this week and the answer is the same. The ministers have looked at the recommendations and the recommendations will be reported to the industry within the next few days.

[Translation]

Mr. Louis Plamondon (Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, BQ): Mr. Speaker, there does not seem to be a very good connection between the parliamentary secretary and the minister.

According to our sources, the report offers three hypotheses: first, modification of the definition and reclassification. Second, a return before the Canadian International Trade Tribunal. Third, the implementation of safeguards.

Can the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food guarantee that he will opt for the first, the only hypothesis that will make it possible to put an end to the importation of substitute products, as the dairy producers are demanding?

[English]

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will repeat what my colleague, the Minister for International Trade, and I have been saying all along. A number of recommendations have been made by the industry and they have been looked at by the four portfolios involved in this. We will be making a final recommendation on that within the next few days.

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, Ontario farmers cannot operate without the knowledge of what supports are available for disaster assistance for the 2003 stabilization year. With the April 1 deadline past, market revenue insurance and other companion programs could end leaving farmers unprotected.

Will the Minister of Agriculture extend current safety net programming until an agreement is signed?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the industry and all the provinces have known for over three years that the federal-provincial agreements that were in place would be ending on March 31 of this year.

We have been working with the industry and with the provinces to put in place a new program that will cover both stabilization and disaster, which is exactly what the industry wanted.

The industry has known since June 20 of last year that the disaster program that was in place was, quite frankly, not liked by the industry. They requested changes to it and we will be making those changes for this year.

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that companion programs are important risk management tools on which Ontario farmers rely.

Will the minister agree to look at the alternative proposals from the farmers and the provinces and take their concerns into consideration in the agricultural policy framework to end the uncertainty for Ontario farm families that they face with no agreement? Do it for the families.

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have taken that into consideration and the transition is there for the federal participation into some companion programs. The hon. member should be fully aware that the minister of agriculture for the Province of Ontario signed that framework policy in June of this year. They and their industry have known that and their minister signed that on behalf of her farmers in the Province of Ontario.