These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Member Should Get Act Together

Mr. Louis Plamondon (Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, BQ): Mr. Speaker, yesterday, when it announced in western Canada its aid package for beef producers, the government indicated that this program did not include cull cattle.

How can the government explain that the assistance given to beef producers does not extend to dairy producers, who are also directly affected by the mad cow crisis, since the federal government is providing compensation for only two-thirds of their slaughtered animals?

[English]

Hon. Bob Speller (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should be aware that in fact last fall we brought in a cull cow program of some $200 million which will help the cull cows across this country.

As the hon. member said, the Prime Minister and I made an announcement. We believe that $1 billion toward the farming sector in this country shows the commitment by the Government of Canada to this industry. It indicates to all Canadians that we feel this is an industry of high importance to this country.

[Translation]

Mr. Louis Plamondon (Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the minister does not understand that the compensation package he is talking about covers at most 16% of the herd. In Quebec, 25% of the herd is affected. He does not want to recognize the distinct nature of Quebec in this matter. That is what I am asking him.

Should his $1 billion package not have included cull cattle as well, taking Quebec into account, and the fact that 25% of its herd has to be renewed each year?

[English]

Hon. Bob Speller (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should be aware that in fact farm groups in Quebec are very supportive of this issue. They believe, as we do, that governments at all levels should be able to support their farmers as best they can, given these difficult times.

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, CPC): Mr. Speaker, beef producers sit here with the border closed. The government ad hoc programs will not solve the problem. They need the border opened.

The Prime Minister has said that the ambassador to the U.S. is the most important position but has yet to fill it, even though the current ambassador's position expired last October.

Rather than hold the spot in Washington open for some Liberal Party crony or relative, why does the Prime Minister not appoint a professional diplomat to Washington now to get to work on opening the border?

Hon. Bill Graham (Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I hope the hon. member, by her question, did not mean to tarnish the reputation of an exceedingly effective diplomat who is presently serving this country in Washington. We have an exemplary public service. We have an exemplary diplomatic corps. We have a first class representative in Washington.

We have an opportunity to change diplomats when the proper rotation comes up. The Prime Minister, who is in constant consultation, has ensured that we have the highest quality of representation everywhere in the world, but particularly in Washington.

Mrs. Cheryl Gallant (Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, CPC): Mr. Speaker, leaving the most important diplomatic post in limbo jeopardizes the livelihoods of tens of thousands of Canadians.

The Prime Minister is afraid to be photographed with the U.S. president because of Liberal Party election optics. When will he at least name a diplomat who is not afraid to be seen representing Canadian trade interests in Washington?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, first, the member casts aspersions on one of the leading members of our diplomatic corps. He is in the post because he is that competent. He is a professional diplomat.

What I will take exception to is the reference to President Bush. I had a very good meeting with President Bush when I was in Monterrey and I look forward to meeting with the president again. We are going to work on files that are important to Canadians: BSE, softwood lumber and how we can keep the border open to the free flow of commerce. We are going to deal with the problems within this continent and outside of this continent. The hon. member ought to get her act together.