These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

BSE a Health Issue

Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, in his speech yesterday on the BSE crisis, the Minister of Agriculture said, “Unfortunately we are dealing with a health issue”.

If this is a health issue now, there is no way live cattle will ever cross the border because of the testing requirements. If that is the new reality about which the minister is talking, then our livestock industry will need a massive overhaul.

When will the minister table his revised plans for dealing with this crisis as a health issue?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows the border was closed on May 20 to the United States and other countries because BSE is considered to be a health issue.

What he also knows, and I pointed out yesterday, Canada's chief veterinary officer along with the United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries are leading a discussion at the OIE meetings in Paris in September, and they are there right now, in response to a letter that the United States, Canada and Mexico sent there asking them to review the science, the surveillance and the feeding practices and put the whole situation as far as health in a proper and new risk assessment.

Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, I can understand the minister trying to shift this from trade to health because they have no political capital to fight a trade issue with the United States.

If the minister feels this is a health issue, then we had better get some better answers than the Minister of Health had on SARS. If it is a trade issue, then the Minister for International Trade had better get up to speed here rather than what he did on the softwood lumber crisis.

If we are forced to reconfigure our livestock to a mainly domestic market, producers need a plan. We need that plan now and we need a budget now. When will the minister deliver it?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, this is entirely and completely the work of the beef roundtable, which was in place for some time before the BSE issue. At that time it was talking about the industry and how to expand the industry and respond to international demands and market situations. At the present time that very same beef roundtable, with provincial and federal representation, producers, processors, consumers, is involved in how to best adapt the beef industry to the realities of the day. At the same time it is working to get our borders reopened.