These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Bills Pile Up

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, while the Liberal leadership campaign transition continues to drag on and the Prime Minister jets around the world making verbal gaffes, the bills are starting to pile up for Canadians. We are now over two weeks into the mad cow crisis that has shut down the beef industry costing farmers millions of dollars and putting thousands of Canadian jobs at risk.

Can anyone in the government tell us when we can expect the ban on the importation of Canadian beef to be lifted?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, a few minutes ago I had another conversation with U.S. secretary Ann Veneman. Those who have watched the technical briefing today are aware of the fact that because we did not receive some DNA matching there is a 15% chance that the lineage of the case animal was in another line.

We are therefore going to have to do testing on that line. That will take another three or four days before that science is done. We will need that science, as we have said all along, not only to prove it to the United States but to the OIE and others.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, the U.S. market has been closed to Canadian cattle exports now for two weeks. The industry is losing $11 million a day.

When we add up the cost to workers on the farm, in the processing plants or driving the trucks that carry the beef across the border, that total rises to a staggering amount of over $420 million.

Could the acting Prime Minister tell the House why he is against providing much needed financial assistance to the literally thousands of Canadians whose livelihoods are at stake?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, obviously the situation is very dire for the industry. The government certainly sympathizes with all those affected, and the Minister of Agriculture has made those views well known.

We are assessing the situation. We are certainly mindful of the damage that is being done and we do not preclude any action.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, I am sure those sympathies are appreciated but it has come to light that an influential U.S. cattlemen's association has written to American politicians urging that the American government extend its ban on Canadian beef for up to seven years. This would have a devastating impact on the Canadian economy.

If the government can afford to waste billions of dollars on a useless long gun registry, contract cancellations and massive government mismanagement, why can it not heed the advice of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and compensate Canadian farmers for their losses as a result?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are working very closely with the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and all those involved in the beef value chain. I met with the beef roundtable.

The hon. member needs to know that the best compensation for our industry is an open border between Canada and the United States, and that is our primary concern.

The government recognizes the situation fully and we will be there with and for our industry in every way we possibly can in order to help all of us and our economy get through this issue.

Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, we have word today that another herd has been quarantined to further guarantee that mad cow disease has been held in check. Unfortunately, quarantining a herd at this late date cannot help but set back attempts to reopen the Canada-U.S. border.

Why is it taking so long to identify and quarantine herds that have been in contact with the one and only animal to test positive for mad cow?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I believe it was explained in the technical briefing by officials at 1 o'clock today. The information just came to us that there had been co-mingling between one herd that had already been quarantined. That information just came forward. In order to complete the science and consider the necessary testing, that had to happen.

Mr. Monte Solberg (Medicine Hat, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the question was: Why did it take so long?

All these delays are enormously costly. Meat packers, cattle feeder operations, everybody is suffering deep losses right now. The minister has said that he has approached cabinet for a compensation package. Producers and feeders have to know whether compensation is coming and, if it is, in what form.

When will the minister release the details of his mad cow compensation package? When will we hear it?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as has already been stated by the Minister of Transport, cabinet and the government are discussing it. We are also discussing it with the industry and with provincial governments.

I will repeat that the best compensation is an open border. We are concentrating on that, but we are not ignoring the other aspects of the seriousness of this to the industry