These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Phase Two

Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the parliamentary secretary for agriculture said that with the border open a crack the crisis is over.

The agriculture minister thinks since he threw around a few dollars livestock producers are saved. Guess what, both of them are wrong and both need new jobs.

Farmers are on Parliament Hill today to ask questions of their AWOL minister. When will he accept the industry's recommendations and announce phase two and the budget to implement it? When will the minister do that?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank Canadians and all the members in the House for supporting the beef industry this summer. We know the situation that has been created in the beef industry.

I also want to say and point out to the hon. member that it was only a very few weeks after the situation that the government came forward with over $300 million. There are hundreds of millions of dollars more available to producers. Let us use that up and then we will see what more money we need after that. That is the goal that I have. Unfortunately, there has to be agreements to allow that to flow. We will do that.

Meanwhile we will continue to work on opening the borders more than they are open at the present time.

Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the minister stays true to form. He always ignores the victims in this. He is forgetting about the farm and ranch families, the real folks out there, and the livestock producers. The primary producers are left hanging out to dry.

Why does the minister always put his own political agenda ahead of these producing families?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have spent $560 million between the federal government and the provincial governments since June. There are hundreds of millions of dollars available in the programs that we have for the farmers. That money can flow to the farmers in interim payments as soon as the signatures are there to allow it to flow.

The United States, Mexico and other countries have recognized the food safety system that we have in Canada. These countries have begun to open their borders. The United States is expediting the process to open its border to live cattle under 30 months of age. We will continue working with all those countries.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, there should be no greater priority in the country right now for the government than addressing the BSE crisis and getting the border open. It has been 120 days since the nightmare began. The government has been ineffective and unable to get the border open.

I would like to ask the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Minister if the government is willing to participate in a non-partisan effort to send a delegation to Washington with stakeholders to get the border open for Canadian cattle.

Hon. John Manley (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member that there has been no priority of greater significance to the government.

Since the outbreak of BSE we have been trying to deal with the crisis that was created. Let us understand that it is not the Canadian border that is closed. The Canadian border is open. It is the borders of our partners in trade that are closed.

At every level of the government, the Minister of Agriculture, the Prime Minister, myself and other counter-colleagues have dealt with our counterparts again and again. We have met with some success but more is sought. We will not rest until the border is open.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, where was the Deputy Prime Minister, where was the House leader, where was the Prime Minister and where was the agriculture minister a few hours ago when farmers from the Ottawa valley gathered on the front lawn of Parliament? They wanted to hear from their representatives. They wanted to hear from the government.

What exactly is the plan? What is being done to open the border? Why were there no representatives of the Liberal Party on the steps of Parliament to answer to the people they are supposed to represent?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the Liberal Party was nor where we will be. We told that group yesterday that we would meet with them, the rural caucus and myself, this afternoon. We will meet with representatives later this afternoon. We have done that all along and we will continue.

As far as opening the border, the hon. member should recognize what our industry has done, what our food inspection agency has done and what members on all sides of the House have done. They have pointed out to the United States, and Canadians have said, that Canadian beef is safe. It is the first time in history that any non-BSE country has opened up to a product from a BSE country. I guess they forgot that.

Mr. Bill Blaikie (Winnipeg—Transcona, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the mark of a good Minister of Agriculture is that we should be able to find a certain substance on his boots, not in what he said when he gets up in the House of Commons.

The fact is that the Minister of Agriculture was a no-show today and has been a no-show all summer for the people in the cattle industry.

Therefore I will address my question to the Deputy Prime Minister. When is the government going to get it and do something for farmers instead of just resting until the border is open?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the hon. member is saying that $300 million on top of the other support that is there for Canadian farmers is a small amount of money.

Certainly we know they would like more. There are hundreds of millions of dollars more that the government wants to move to Canadian farmers but we must have the legal authority to do so.

I have had the signing authority since April to do that for the provinces and for the producers in the provinces. Let us use that money up. We have partially opened the borders to Canada and Mexico and some other countries. Their borders are closed and they are the ones that need to open them. We have shown them the science and they are reacting.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, roughly 800,000 cows and bulls over 30 months of age are normally culled and sent to slaughter every year. We can consume about one-half of them domestically. We cannot export the other half. Disposal of these excess animals is a major unresolved problem. What is the government's plan for disposal of these excess animals?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, some time ago, even before the BSE situation, I put in place a beef round table. It has participants from the industry, from the processors and from the consumers. They have been meeting on a regular basis and have spent considerable time with provincial, federal and industry people recently, talking about the ways which we can develop to use this good meat in a beneficial way. We will be working with the industry to do that.

In the meantime, again I say, let us move the money that we have there in order to assist our producers until we further assess all this and develop the programs and products in order to use this good quality meat.

Mr. Howard Hilstrom (Selkirk—Interlake, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, more failure by the minister.

The fall roundup is starting right now. Cull animals are being separated out every day. They cannot be sold for enough to cover transportation and selling costs. Ranchers cannot afford to feed them. The government's lack of action will force the ranchers to shoot and bury them on the ranch rather than feed them.

Why, four months into this economic crisis, this social crisis, has the government done absolutely nothing?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to point to out to the hon. member, to the House and to all Canadians that because of the efforts of everybody, of governments, individual Canadians and organizations and our food chains, grocery stores and retailers in Canada, in the first two or three weeks after the one animal was found, we only slaughtered about 23,000 to 25,000 animals a week in Canada. In the last week in August we moved that up to 73,000 animals a week, which is more than we were slaughtering before the situation occurred back in May.

That is the approach that we will continue to take to find markets and uses for the good Canadian beef that has been recognized by all Canadians and that is being recognized by our customers in the world.