These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Photo Ops in Lethbridge

Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC): Mr. Speaker, if I were a cynic I would think there must be an election coming. The Liberals over there are finally recognizing there is an urgency in the agricultural sector in Canada. More announcements today that they never plan to deliver.

The real issue is reopening the border. Does the Prime Minister not think that his time would be better spent lobbying in Washington than photo ops in Lethbridge?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I saw the reaction this morning of the president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. I saw the reaction this morning of the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. I saw the reaction of the president of the Canadian Beef Export Federation.

They did not consider it a photo op. They appreciate the $1 billion. They are also working with the government on the other front, which is to get the border open.

Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC): Mr. Speaker, nobody is denying that it was a Liberal love-in in Lethbridge this morning.

Agriculture Canada officials admitted to the committee last week that of the BSE moneys allocated in last year's budget, less than one-third actually were delivered.

The announcement this morning was just more of the same. We are still missing all the criteria: the dates and the application forms, all the things that let producers trigger the money.

Is the minister going to wait until after the next election to give producers the details of this newly recycled money?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, no, indeed, this is not recycled. This is incremental and we fully expect the cash to begin to flow in April.

Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, CPC): Mr. Speaker, today the Prime Minister used the pain and despair our farm families are going through as a backdrop for what turned out to be nothing more than a Liberal campaign stop.

The Prime Minister was surrounded by more Liberal candidates than producers when he made that announcement.

The government has known for months that it has had money in reserve. Why did it put farm families through hell before the money was delivered?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Prime Minister and myself spent a number of weeks consulting intensively with the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and other farm organizations to ensure, first, that we got the amount right, and second, that we got the program designed right because we wanted this program to be of direct benefit to Canadian farmers and to put the cash in their hands at the earliest possible moment. This government will not apologize for helping the farmers of Canada.

Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we have been into this crisis for 300 days and this morning the Prime Minister said that we have to recognize the urgency of the moment.

We have been fighting since May 20, 2003, to make the government wake up and deliver something to these producers. It took 300 days for the government to finally realize the urgency of the moment.

When will producers get one thin dime from the Liberal government?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the government has previously budgeted in the order of $500 million for this process.

In relation to the announcement made this morning, if the hon. gentlemen--

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: Order, please. I am sure the Minister of Finance appreciates all the help he is getting in his answer but he seems to know what he is trying to say and I cannot hear it.

Hon. members will have to calm themselves and allow the Minister of Finance to give his answer. He has the floor.

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if the hon. gentlemen were more interested in substance than histrionics he would have noticed that in an earlier answer I said that we expect the cash to begin to flow in the month of April.

Ms. Anita Neville (Winnipeg South Centre, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

We have heard much about the devastating blows that the agricultural community has faced. I am wondering if the parliamentary secretary could please tell us what the government is doing to assist farm families.

Some hon. members: Oh, oh.

The Speaker: Order, please. We are hearing a question. Has the hon. member finished her question?

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Hon. Mark Eyking (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Agri-Food), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is good to see everybody excited about this great money that is going to farm families today. I would like to thank the member for Winnipeg South Centre for bringing in that concern today: $1 billion, with two-thirds going to the beef industry. That, along with the other programs, is going to put the farms in pretty good shape. This is a good day for agriculture and a good day for the rural community.

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Neigette-et-la Mitis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister just announced $680 million for cattle farmers, but this assistance excludes cull cows, which is a problem mainly in Quebec.

How can the government announce such substantial assistance without any help for Quebec farmers faced with the cull problem?

[English]

Hon. Mark Eyking (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Agri-Food), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question. The cull cow program is in process and taking place now. We are getting all the inventory of all the animals across this country and we are going to start rolling out the cheques. I also would like to tell the hon. member that this $1 billion program we announced today will also have money in it for dairy farmers.

[Translation]

Mrs. Suzanne Tremblay (Rimouski—Neigette-et-la Mitis, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary just talked about a $1 billion program, but on television the sum announced was $680 million. It would be nice to get the facts straight.

Quebec's farmers have already denounced the help that is currently available, since they can only get compensation for two-thirds of the animals they slaughter.

How does the government explain to farmers that it did not deign to improve assistance for cull, when these farmers are in an extremely difficult situation? Is this government trying to say that Quebec farmers do not count?

[English]

Hon. Mark Eyking (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Agri-Food), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, Quebec farmers do count. They produce the most dairy products in this country. We are going to be there to help them with the cull cow program. We are going to be there for them. This $680 million is for beef producers only. There is $1 billion altogether but it is for other farmers besides dairy and beef.