These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Producer Assistance

Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC): There you go, Mr. Speaker, if you have nothing to say, say it loudly.

The Minister of Agriculture must realize by now that the agriculture sector in this country cannot heal itself.

Two weeks ago he said that he would go back to cabinet and ask for more money for our cash-strapped farmers.

I would like to know when he pled his case with cabinet and when farmers across the country can expect a bankable program.

Hon. Mark Eyking (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Agri-Food), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for asking me my first question in the House. I will try to do my best to answer it.

Over the last eight months beef farmers have faced a crisis. We have many programs in place, such as the NISA program and the BSE program. We also had the CAISP rolling out last month in which we put $15 million. We also have the cull program that will be coming out. We are just waiting for inventories from the provinces.

I can assure the hon. member that we will be there for the farmers with more programs in the upcoming months.

Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for staying true to Liberal form and not really giving us an answer.

For the first time in history Statistics Canada shows a negative $13 million balance for all agricultural sectors across the country. That is everybody. The primary producers of our safe quality food supply are in peril. They are going down hard.

Since the government is powerless to re-open borders, will it at least redesign its programs to get money to the farm gate? That is the trick.

Hon. Mark Eyking (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Agri-Food), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with this from all angles. We are dealing with it on an international level in Washington and we are also dealing with it at the local level.

In 2002, $3.5 billion went to farmers. Last year we paid over $5 billion to farmers. We will be paying more.

Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the agriculture industry is the third largest employer of Canadians. It is one of our top five industries. Agriculture is in a crisis. The industry is sinking and the farmers are going down. Their loans are being called in. The industry is on the verge of collapse. This is an emergency and needs to be treated like an emergency.

I would like the Deputy Prime Minister to tell me if she will ask the Prime Minister to take emergency measures to address this crisis and to do it now.

Hon. Mark Eyking (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Agri-Food), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are taking measures on all angles to deal with this agriculture issue. It is not the third but the second most important industry in this country. We are dealing with it in Washington. We are dealing with it on an international basis. We are dealing with the farmers and we are working with the stakeholders and the beef industry to deal with this issue down in the United States.

Mrs. Lynne Yelich (Blackstrap, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to make a correction to what the parliamentary secretary said when he quoted me as saying that agriculture was not the third but the second most important industry in Canada. My words were “It was the third largest employer and one of the top five industries of the nation”. I did not say as he indicated. I would like that corrected.

The Deputy Speaker: The House will recognize that is not respectfully a point of order. The matter of clarification has been put on the record in the House.