These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Lack of Leadership

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the mad cow outbreak has had a devastating effect on a national industry in Canada, losing millions of dollars. Many of the provinces are frustrated by the lack of federal leadership from our Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister has reportedly met with President Bush twice in the last few days. Could the Deputy Prime Minister tell us whether or not he has finally remembered to bring up the issue of mad cow?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, at this point I think both heads of government are dealing with the issue in the appropriate way, which is that there are extensive discussions and consultations going on between the two levels of government.

The presence here and assistance of U.S. representatives has been helpful in planning the ongoing process. I think we will be awaiting the continued development of the response based on science until the appropriate intervention point arises.

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, from that answer I would say the Prime Minister has not said a single word about mad cow to the President of the United States.

Four hundred workers in my riding at Cargill have just been laid off. The government seems to believe that they can just be abandoned.

My question is specific. Will the government suggest the two week waiting period for employment insurance be relaxed for those people who lose their jobs due to this serious problem with BSE?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think that the hon. member ventures down a path which could cause some very great difficulties. I think the distinction between enabling people to voluntarily go into quarantine in circumstances which arose in the context of the SARS outbreak is quite different from people who are experiencing layoffs due to business conditions.

I would urge the member to think of the implications of eliminating the two week waiting period for all Canadians, because in fact, there is no reason to distinguish at that point among anyone or any reason for layoff.

Mr. Grant Hill (Macleod, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, an outbreak is an outbreak.

Thousands of animals are ready for market and there just now is no market. While the industry is on hold, thousands of workers are losing their jobs. The government could easily remove the two week EI waiting period.

The Liberal government was quick to act when the city of Toronto was affected by an outbreak, and rightly so. Why is the government refusing to act when rural Canada has an outbreak?

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I know that the hon. member wants to score some political points, but I really do urge him to note the distinctions between those people, and there are many of them--

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

Mr. Kevin Sorenson (Crowfoot, Canadian Alliance): Shame on you. Wake up, John, this is a whole industry we are talking about.

The Speaker: Order. It is time for the Chair to score some political points and get some silence in the chamber. We cannot hear the Deputy Prime Minister's answer because there is so much yelling on every side. I am not a judge of political points but we will want to be able to hear the answer and see if it is in order.

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, at some point we have to be responsible. The inability of the hon. member to distinguish between people who we are urging to voluntarily go into quarantine and those who are laid off as a result of conditions that arise in an industry, if he is asking for a waiver of the waiting period in the conditions in which he is describing, then he should be urging it for those in the tourism sector for example, who have also faced layoffs as a result of the SARS outbreak. If we start that--

The Speaker: The hon. member for Crowfoot.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it has been 13 days since a single cow was detected with BSE. The Canadian economy has taken a $390 million hit so far. The tests on all the depopulated cattle will be completed this week. So far, all the tests have come back negative without another case of BSE.

My question is for the minister of agriculture. Has the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food received a commitment from U.S. Agriculture Secretary Veneman that once the tests are completed that the border will be opened immediately?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I have had a number of discussions with the U.S. secretary of agriculture. Like us, the Americans are waiting for the results of the final tests. Hopefully they will continue to be negative. We have no reason to believe that they will not.

I can assure the hon. member that we have already talked about the types of steps and how quickly we can open the border. However, first of all, we need to have the science so that we can demonstrate that not only to the United States but to everyone else in the world. We look forward to getting that very soon.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it is heartening that at least this minister remembers conversations he had with the U.S. unlike the Prime Minister.

If an immediate full opening of the border does not occur by the first of next week, this BSE issue will become a full blown national economic crisis. One option available could be a partial reopening of the border to Canadian boxed beef from animals less than two years of age.

Is the minister negotiating a partial reopening of the U.S. border to this beef?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, based on the comments I made in the previous answer to the hon. member, yes, we are.

We are having discussions about the possibility of opening the border for such things as veal, which is young beef, and for young animals both carcass and live. However we need the science before we can do that. Again, we hope that the science continues to show what appears to be the case so far which is that this was one isolated animal that did not get into the food chain.