|These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard
Farm Income Program
Mr. Myron Thompson (Wild Rose, CPC): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Agriculture bragged about the millions paid out to producers.
A couple in my riding, Dan and Wanda Meyer from Didsbury, Alberta, both have to work off the farm in order to pay utilities and put food on the table for their three children. They were excited when they saw a brown envelope with a cheque for the direct payment portion of farm income payment. When they opened the envelope the cheque was in the whopping amount of $106.40, far short of the few thousand that they were expecting.
Given the large amount of cash in brown envelopes changing Liberal hands in Montreal restaurants, how can the minister sleep at night knowing that near destitute farmers are receiving this pittance?
Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I go back to the point that I made before to the hon. critic, and that is the importance of not trying to politicize this to score points on the floor of the House of Commons.
The reality is that we have had a number of programs, particularly in terms of BSE over $2 billion. At the year end we had another program valued at over $1 billion. Already 70% of that money has flowed. Hundreds of thousands of producers are benefiting from that.
As a government we will continue with the strong commitment to Canadian producers that we have demonstrated in the past. We will continue to do that in the future.
Mr. Myron Thompson (Wild Rose, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I wonder what the minister would have to say to the families of the four most recent suicides in Saskatchewan.
Wendy and Doug Newton are from my riding. They are a hardworking couple from Crossfield who have been forced to work off the farm as well to keep it alive. They were excited when their cheque arrived on April 26. However, it was in the amount of $304. They, too, were expecting thousands.
Can the minister please explain how $304 will save the Newton farm?
Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we could trot out all the particular examples the hon. member wants, but again, what he is trying to do is to set the stage on something that is not a reality.
The fact is that through our CAIS program we have already provided $1.6 billion to Canadian producers. Through the farm income program we are providing close to $1 billion to Canadian producers.
The hon. member is correct, and all members in the House who understand agriculture know the serious concerns that our producers have. We are taking serious steps to assist them. We are not trying to score cheap political points.