These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

President Won't Take Call

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, we can see how seized they are, they cannot even listen to the question.

For weeks the government has avoided dealing with the ban on Canadian beef saying that it has to wait for the science. Well, the science is now done and yet the health minister and the public works minister have both said that the border remains closed “for other reasons”.

Is the real reason the border remains closed that the Prime Minister refuses to call President Bush, or is it that he knows President Bush will not take his phone call?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the answer is no to the hon. member's question.

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, we still do not know “no” to which question. I suspect it is the latter and that he will not accept the call.

The transport minister blames the government's inability to address important issues, such as SARS, mad cow disease and softwood lumber, on the fact that his government is now in transition. The treasury board minister said that governing has become more difficult and will likely only get worse.

The Prime Minister's own cabinet now seems to understand what the Prime Minister does not, that he is the problem and not part of the solution. Canadians deserve much better.

Will the Prime Minister now step down, or are Canadians doomed to spending another summer watching his party trying to get rid of him?

Hon. David Collenette (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, perhaps the hon. member has been so far back behind the curtains over there that he has not seen what this government has done in the last six months, with an outstanding budget and an active legislative agenda, led by the Prime Minister and culminating in the passage of Bill C-42. We are 100% behind the Prime Minister and the legislative program of this party and this government.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the agriculture minister denied that he was blackmailing the provinces into signing the agriculture policy framework. Today he confirmed that unless the provinces sign on there will be no compensation for the beef industry. In my books, that is blackmail and it is shameful.

Why will the agriculture minister not provide a compensation package outside of the APF?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member who just asked the question was very vocal about the previous disaster program that we had and said that it needed to be replaced with something better. That is what we have done, at the wish of not only the opposition but lots of people in the industry. That program is there.

As the hon. member said, the previous program was no good and we wanted to replace it with something better. The third party review has said that what is there to replace it is much better than what was there in the past. I am sure that when the industry understands that fully it will be signing and it will be asking respective ministers to sign it, as some ministers already have and more will be tomorrow.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, auction markets across Canada remain closed. Neither feedlot operators nor cow-calf ranchers are able to move their animals to export. A staged opening of the U.S. border to young animals is the most likely scenario. That will mean older, grass fed cows will not be able to be sold unless they go into the domestic market.

What is the government doing to work with the beef industry to ensure there is a domestic market for these culled cows that cannot be exported?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows full well, being a beef producer himself, the domestic market is only so large. The best approach, but not our only approach, is to get the market open so we can ship not only the younger beef but also the older animals to those markets where they have been slaughtered and processed in the past.

In the meantime, we also fully understand the pressure, both financial and otherwise, on the beef industry in Canada and we will be working with the provinces and the industry to alleviate that.

Mr. Dick Proctor (Palliser, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture knows that cattlemen indicated very clearly last week that interest-free loans simply will not cut it, yet a story that has just moved on the Canadian Press wire says that the federal government is set to present a mad cow aid package to beef farmers: interest-free loans to beef farmers, feedlot operators and renderers.

Could the Minister of Agriculture please confirm that this is the case and would he tell us what else is being planned by the federal department of agriculture to assist people in the beef industry?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I said in the House yesterday, we are looking at a number of things. Certainly we are working very diligently to get the border open, which is our first choice, but we also know that we need to do a combination of other things using existing programs, and yes, maybe looking at helping the industry through some sort of a loan program to help with cash flow through this situation that they are in as well. But we are looking at a number of issues, not just one specific one.

Mr. Scott Reid (Lanark—Carleton, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the BSE scare has led to an American ban on all ruminants, not just beef but also sheep and lambs. This is no small issue. In 2002 alone, 148,000 head of sheep were exported to the U.S.A., but with this market shut down, prices are in steep decline.

During his press conference on June 4 and again in the emergency Commons debate, the agriculture minister failed to mention sheep even once. It is as if this industry does not exist in the minister's mind, so here is my question. When can we expect to see sheep and lambs included in the plan for piecemeal resumption of trade?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows full well that sheep are ruminants. The case of BSE was found in a cow, which is also a ruminant. In the rules and regulations if we change feed practices and getting our borders open to beef certainly includes any action that any country would take against any ruminant, and that is certainly the case from this side.