These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Compensation Package Details

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, yesterday I again asked the government for the details of a compensation package for the beef industry and yesterday the government again refused to answer those questions.

We are approaching an animal health disaster of epic proportions in this country. We have hundreds of thousands of cattle in feedlots. Those feedlots are within days, if not within hours, of going bankrupt.

When will the industry get some details of the government's compensation package for dealing with this dire situation?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. Leader of the Opposition has a talent for stating the obvious. Everyone knows how dire the situation is and that is why the Minister of Agriculture was in Alberta yesterday, working with people in the beef industry to find a lasting solution to this problem.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I may have a talent for asking about the obvious, but the government sure has a talent for not answering.

The government has apparently indicated that it is only prepared to look at this problem within existing programs. The existing APF is not designed to deal with the special circumstances of natural disaster. The WTO allows for special programs and the APF operates at glacial speed.

Will the government commit to a compensation package that deals with the special circumstances of the natural disaster and the animal health disaster that we are facing here?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there are a number of ways in which we can help the industry. One way the hon. Leader of the Opposition could help is to encourage the provinces and the farmers in those provinces to sign the implementation agreement so that there is a disaster program for farmers for this year. I have authority to sign that on behalf of the federal government. The provinces need to do that.

We are also discussing with the industry, as I did yesterday and today, ways in which we, for example, can help it with interest-free cash loans and those types of things in order to help it work through the situation in which we are all involved today.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, this is a trade problem. Trade is the federal government's responsibility and it cannot pass the buck to the provinces.

Let me move on to a detail I asked about yesterday. We all know that Canadian beef is the best beef in the world, but we know the damage this crisis is doing to our reputation. Yesterday I pointed out that the delay in solving this problem will do long term damage to the market share, permanent damage to market penetration of Canadians products.

Will the government consider a compensation package to advertise, promote and market Canadian beef around the world?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member has said, the quality and safety of Canadian beef speaks for itself.

We had a system that worked. We had one cow, which did not get into the food chain. The world is recognizing that. We need to complete the science so that we can clearly demonstrate not only to our biggest customer, the United States, but to the rest of the world that it was one isolated cow. That science is proceeding. We are not destroying any more animals than necessary. We need to complete that science and that is the only way we will solve this problem.

Mr. David Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the government is not prepared to deal with this issue. Now the minister is trying to blackmail the provinces into signing the APF and is using this issue to do that.

We have been patient. Producers have been patient. The beef industry has been patient, but that patience is running thin and frustration is rising. We want some specifics. Since there is no compensation plan, what conditions must be met to clear our Canadian beef for export?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not know how many times we have to explain it to the opposition. We have technical briefings every day. We need to complete the science.

We had an approach and had an 85% expectation on the lineage of where the one cow came from. We have nearly completed the science. Out of 1,300 tests, 1,100 are back and they are all negative. Negative is good. We did not want to destroy any more animals to prove this science is necessary. Unfortunately, starting yesterday, we had to continue on another track in order to double-check and make sure, as is indicated so far, that--

The Speaker: The hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands.

Mr. David Anderson (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, science has become the mantra of the minister. He thinks that if he keeps saying it long enough we are going to go away. That is not going to happen.

For five years the elk industry has been buried under the heading of science and the government has avoided its responsibilities.

This is a one cow crisis that seems to be turning into the excuse for a full-out trade barrier by the United States. Specifically, what are the Americans demanding from us before they will open the border to our beef?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will say it again, it is the completion of the science so that we can demonstrate that we do not have any more mad cows in the country and that our system is there and that it works. When that is completed we will be able to lay that on the table in front of the United States and demonstrate that to the Americans. Then the discussions can take place on opening the border.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, while the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food avoids giving straight answers on concerns over BSE, the Canadian cattle industry and our international trading partners are waiting for timely assurances.

When will the government implement a national strategy to instill international and national confidence in Canadian beef and when will the minister announce a compensation package for those suffering the ill effects from this Canadian beef problem?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I met with members of the industry yesterday in Edmonton and those members are in Ottawa today discussing it with officials. Those discussions are ongoing today. We certainly, as I said earlier today, look forward to expressing to those in the industry how we will be able to help them get through this situation that they are in.

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the HRDC minister. Carrie Sanford has worked on the kill floor of XL Meats in Moose Jaw for the past 12 years. She is a single mother of two children and she is making less than $30,000 a year. She has taken her vacation pay and despite the minister talking about her officials proactively, next Monday Ms. Sanford is going to be laid off as a result of mad cow without an ounce of help or compassion from the government and she will have to wait two weeks before collecting EI.

With a $10 billion surplus, why will the government not be helping Carrie and her children on Monday?

Hon. Claudette Bradshaw (Minister of Labour, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is asking about a specific case. If he would like to send me the information, I will gladly send it to the minister and see if we can get an answer for him.