These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Leadership Transition Interferes with Border Opening

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the government's delays in dealing with the mad cow crisis are leading to a catastrophe in the beef industry. The acting Prime Minister admits that some of these delays are due to the Liberal leadership transition. This obviously has not been helped by the Prime Minister's gaffs in dealing with President Bush.

On the latest delay, only now the government has begun testing a second line of cattle for mad cow, even though it knew about this line from the beginning.

Why did the government wait weeks before testing the second line?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition states, the government is seized with this particular issue. It cares about this issue. It cares about all those people whose lives have been disrupted, so much so that the Minister of Agriculture, this day, is in Alberta dealing with beef producers.

I can assure the House that the government will be very sensitive to any solution that brings fairness and equity to all those affected.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister did not care enough to even remember whether he had a conversation with President Bush, and to deal with that relationship with prudence. He has been utterly irresponsible.

The industry is now facing an emergency. The industry is losing millions of dollars daily. Families are in danger of losing their livelihoods. Cattle feeders, specifically, have said that they want to know what federal plan there will be and that they need to know by Friday.

When can producers expect the details of the federal government's compensation package?

Hon. Herb Dhaliwal (Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first, the Minister of Agriculture has done a tremendous job on this file. He has been front and centre. In fact, even today he is meeting with the beef industry. He has been talking to his provincial counterparts. He has been talking to the secretary of agriculture in the United States. He has been on the front lines making sure we do everything we can to resolve this.

What we are doing to make sure we have the science, we are having a full investigation. We hope by early next week we will have all that information so we can open the borders and continue to export our products across the world.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, at least we can give the minister credit for not praising the performance of the Prime Minister on this file. That does not, of course, answer the question, but I will move on.

Even once the ban is lifted, the beef ban by the United States, there will be a permanent loss of market share. What will the government do about that? Will the compensation package include plans for the promotion and marketing of Canadian beef abroad?

Hon. Herb Dhaliwal (Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, of course we are concerned with the effect on the industry. We are monitoring the situation. We are evaluating it.

However, unlike the hon. member and his party, we do not believe we should be building firewalls across the country. We believe we should be building bridges and strong national solutions to problems such as this. That is why we are working on it and will continue to work on it.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, speaking of delays, it took just one day, a single day, for the government to accept a proposal to buy luxury jets, approve the sale, issue a contract and take possession.

Canadian farmers and plant workers are losing their livelihoods waiting for the government to debate and decide if the agriculture sector is indeed hurting.

When will the government offer a compensation package for the cattle industry? Why can the government purchase luxury jets and have that deal go through in a day while farmers have to wait weeks?

Hon. Herb Dhaliwal (Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am sure the hon. member knows that there is a program for compensation for those herds that have to be depopulated. All the farmers will be able to get compensation for that.

As far as a larger review, this is something that is ongoing. The situation is evolving. We need to have a good understanding. In fact, that is why the Minister of Agriculture today is in Alberta, to make sure that he meets with the beef industry, has that view and takes that view into consideration.

This situation is being worked on. The Minister of Agriculture is on top of this issue to have a good understanding of what is needed to resolve some of these issues.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, those ministers' assurances are not allaying fears across the country. We have to dispel any fears that it is unsafe to eat Canadian beef.

Today, Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg called on Canada to reform its testing standards. He is not the only one troubled by our nearly four month delay in reporting the case. We saw the harm from the delay in the government reaction to SARS. We have seen the harm in the delay of the helicopter program. The minister's feeble response this morning does not cut it.

When is the agriculture minister going to bring about the implementation of measures to expedite testing?

Hon. Herb Dhaliwal (Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): First of all, Mr. Speaker, Canada has the best testing system in the world within that framework.

For the hon. member to question that, he should know better. He should not be standing up in the House and questioning a system that is recognized all over the world by the international community. He knows better. He should be speaking about the good work done.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is recognized as the best in the world. It is doing everything possible to make sure there is a full investigation and let the scientists do their study so we can open the borders and give confidence to people around the world that Canadian beef is safe.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): I have no confidence, Herb. That is the problem.

An hon. member: Relax, Peter.

The Speaker: I am quite relaxed. The hon. member for Winnipeg--Transcona has the floor.

Mr. David Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the BSE saga continues. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has commissioned three international experts from the United States, Switzerland and New Zealand to issue a report on our response to BSE and to address the issue of the safety of Canada's beef supply.

Could the minister tell us what are the terms of reference for those experts and their future report?

Hon. Herb Dhaliwal (Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will certainly bring the question to the attention of the Minister of Agriculture who, as members know, is meeting with representatives of the beef industry to make sure they have their input. I will make sure that the hon. member gets a comprehensive response from the Minister of Agriculture.

Mr. David Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, it is unbelievable that there is not a spokesman in the House who can deal with this issue. The CFIA has stated that these individuals will be asked to validate the Canadian actions and to determine whether policy adjustments are warranted.

Could the minister tell the House if the reopening of the border is contingent on the findings of the team from the United States, New Zealand and Switzerland?

Hon. Herb Dhaliwal (Minister of Natural Resources, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has stated before, we need to make sure we do the science. That is exactly what we are doing. It is on sound science that we will be able to convince the international community and the U.S. that this was an isolated case. So far we have only found one cow that was infected with BSE; no other animal has been found. It is something we are looking at.

As I said in my earlier response, we hope that next week all the tests will be done so that we can start moving our product to our markets around the world and into the U.S. That is what the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is doing right now.