These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Mexico Reopens Border

Mr. Peter Adams (Peterborough, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

I have heard that Mexico has reopened its border to Canadian beef products.

Will the minister bring us up to date on this? When will shipments start and are there similar opportunities in other countries?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Peterborough for his involvement and engagement on this and other issues for his agriculture constituency.

Yes, we are very pleased that the country of Mexico has opened its borders to boneless beef. This will now allow certificates to be granted and shipments started to Mexico. It is our second largest trading country. That will add to what we have already shipped to the United States, this month's certificates, 35 million pounds. We are looking forward in the near future to making similar announcements for countries such as the Philippines, Russia and others.

Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, the government has failed to answer my questions regarding BSE so I will try a question from Beth, a constituent of mine. Beth writes “My family operates a cattle hauling business that has been at standstill since BSE hit. Twelve families depend on this business. We have no cash coming in. The aid program that is being offered has not filtered down. What about the spin-off businesses that are collapsing as a result of this? We need help”.

My question on behalf of Beth is, who in the government is prepared to step forward and help businesses like Beth's? Who will do that?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the way to recover for the beef industry is to get beef moving and then Beth and her employees will have an opportunity to truck cattle again.

As I have said, we have the American border open partially. We have the Mexican border open now and a majority of the product that we have sent to Mexico, to our second largest customer, will now be eligible, can I say, to go there.

We are moving very well as far as opening the border to the United States for live cattle under 30 months of age. We anticipate that in the not too distant future that is the way Beth and everyone in the beef industry will start to recover even more so from the situation that we are all in.

Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, Canadian Alliance): Mr. Speaker, that border is only open a crack and the minister knows it.

Beth is 68 years old and she is watching a lifetime of hard work, sweat and tears slip away. She went on to say that she has been in contact with the government and she was told there were other things more important on its agenda. BSE was third on the list behind SARS and the definition of marriage. It is unbelievable.

Her question is straightforward. How can the most devastating issue facing our industry be third on the list of the government's priorities?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, maybe the hon. member could give me a copy of the letter from whoever responded on behalf of the government.

We have a number of issues and that party over there wants us to address all of them. The reaction of the government within 30 days of announcing we had BSE was to come forward with $260 million, followed up with $36 million more. Two weeks ago I announced $600 million in transition funds. We signed implementation agreements. There is over $500 million in business risk management for Canadian farmers.

We have made that money flow. We have shown we are there to support.