These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Returned Empty Handed

Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture returned empty-handed from his last sojourn to Washington. We know he is talking with Secretary Veneman but aside from some proposed changes in regulation, we see literally no movement on the big issue, getting that border open.

Will the minister assure Canadian livestock producers that he will not come back from Washington without a firm date on when that border will be open to live trade?

Hon. Bob Speller (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member said, the Government of Canada is deeply committed to getting the border open. Officials from my department and from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have worked closely and tirelessly with their American counterparts to develop a North American approach to this issue.

I will be meeting with Secretary Veneman again. In fact I just got off the phone with her 10 minutes ago. I am continuing to work with her to ensure the border is opened as soon as possible.

Mr. Gerry Ritz (Battlefords—Lloydminster, CPC): Mr. Speaker, livestock producers need to see some sort of a plan to see an end to this trade dispute. We are not sending the minister down there to hold the towels while the big boys use the executive washroom.

In light of a recent federal judge's decision in Montana to hold up Canadian beef again, how can the minister think he is making any real progress on convincing the Americans that we have a continental beef industry?

Hon. Bob Speller (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should know that was a legal decision made in the United States by a U.S. judge. We are looking now at the options that we have. What that shows to us is the importance of getting the border open and getting it opened as soon as possible.

I can assure all hon. members that the government will not give up on the farmers and farm families across the country who depend on that border being open.