These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Government Systematically Slow

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the American border has been closed to Canadian cattle now for 127 days; 127 days and the government still has no marketing strategy for Canadian beef, still has no plans to resolve the feeder cattle issue with the United States, and still has no planned trip to Washington by the Prime Minister and government leaders.

Why is this government acting so systematically slowly in getting this border open?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member fails to recognize and appreciate the fact that Canada is the only country in the world that has had other non-BSE countries open their borders to our product. That has been because of the efforts of a lot of people: ministers, diplomats, phone calls by the Prime Minister, the industry involvement in all of this, and the recognition by both the Canadian and the United States industries that this is an integrated industry in North America. Therefore they have as well recognized the safety system that we have here in Canada and therefore have begun to open their markets.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, none of that answered my questions about the inaction. It does not explain why there is no marketing strategy for our beef. It does not explain why the feeder cattle problem is not resolved. And it does not explain why there has been no trip to Washington.

But there is one possible explanation and that is that this government wants to wait until it has a new Liberal leader to take credit for resolving the problem, at the cost of more worry and money for Canadian farm families. Is this government deliberately dragging its feet so that the new leader can take credit for the border being opened when it finally happens?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, when the United States has already imported over eight million pounds of beef from Canada, the hon. members are saying it is nothing.

When nothing was happening, they were upset. Now that we are starting to move product, they are upset. Do we have further steps to take? Yes, we do. Are those actions taking place? Yes, they are.

The Secretary of Agriculture in the United States again said this week she is expediting the process to move live cattle under 30 months directly to market in the United States. That is another big step that will be in the near future.

Mr. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the House will note that the government did not refute my allegation; if this is not about playing partisan politics with the new leader.

For weeks there have been suggestions that there be an all party, non-partisan committee to go to Washington. That includes former prime minister Brian Mulroney. There have been suggestions that Premier Klein be invited to Washington. I know we in this party are prepared to do that. Others in this House are prepared to do that.

If this is not about promoting a new Liberal leader, will this government agree to lead an all party delegation to Washington to resolve this problem?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the approach that this government and this industry, with the provinces, have taken has been very successful in comparison to what has happened in similar situations in the rest of the world.

Some premiers have been to Washington. Some premiers have spoken out on this issue. I leave it to those people over there, as other people have, to judge how successful their actions and their statements were.