These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Blue Mountain Packing Plant Prevented From Opening

Mr. Leon Benoit (Vegreville—Wainwright, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the government has stood by and watched for months now as the top brass at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have prevented the Blue Mountain packing plant from opening. Cattlemen desperately need this plant. It is ready to go. Inspectors on the ground have said so. The government continues to be part of the problem instead of the solution.

In fact, how many plants has the CFIA approved in western Canada in the 18 months since the BSE crisis hit? The answer is none. Why is that?

Hon. Wayne Easter (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am very well aware of the issue the hon. member talks about. In fact, I have talked to some of the investors who are involved. CFIA has a job to do and that is the protection of food and safety and the security of food for Canadians and in terms of our exports. It has set up a process in which it will send an expert out to the plant on Monday to try to settle the issues on the ground, but the bottom line has to be the protection of the food and security of Canadians and in terms of our exports around the world.

Mr. Larry Miller (Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, CPC): Mr. Speaker, thousands of livestock producers in my riding and across this country are suffering from this Liberal government's complete failure to address the BSE crisis. It has consistently used the American election as an excuse for not challenging the border closure. With the U.S. election now over, this government can no longer stall in taking further action on the BSE crisis.

I ask the agriculture minister, why has this government refused to stand with producers by taking effective trade action through the WTO or NAFTA?

Hon. Wayne Easter (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, if there has ever been a government that has stood with its producers on a tough issue, this is the government that has. Not only have we made 150 interventions with the Americans, with officials and regulatory authorities, we have actually, with the provinces, put $2.3 billion of ad hoc programming on top of the regular safety nets for producers.

We recognize that there is a difficult situation out there and we are working with producers to cure it. We are trying to increase the slaughter capacity. We are trying to improve the market with the fed and feeder set-aside programs and--

The Speaker: The hon. member for Ottawa South.

Mr. Dave Batters (Palliser, CPC): Mr. Speaker, beef producers devastated by the BSE disaster are being forced to decide whether or not they can afford to sign up for the CAIS program before the November 30 deadline. This government has made participation in CAIS a condition for receiving portions of the BSE aid money announced in September.

This government is forcing beef producers to pony up the dough in order to access disaster relief and it is clearly imposing hardship on producers. My question is for the agriculture minister or his designate. What will he do to help farmers who cannot afford to enroll in the CAIS program? And when will he commit to getting rid of the cash deposit?

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

Hon. Wayne Easter (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think the member should go back to the record and look at the minister's previous answers on the cash deposit and he will recognize where that one is at.

In terms of producers, who we recognize are facing financial difficulty, we have made the announcement of September 10, which was to increase our slaughter capacity, and we brought into place a fed cattle and a feeder cattle program so that producers can get better prices out of the marketplace. We have introduced other programs, the cull cow program--

The Speaker: The hon. member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock.

Mr. Barry Devolin (Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, CPC): Mr. Speaker, CAIS was never intended as disaster relief. It was meant to even out cashflow in a business as usual environment. As it turns out, CAIS is actually failing two groups of farmers: first, the farmers who took money out of their own pockets to sign up for CAIS and still have not received any assistance; and second, farmers who could not afford the deposit in the first place and are now ineligible for the program.

BSE is not business as usual. It is a national disaster. We would not demand that flood victims put up their own money in order to be eligible for flood relief. Why does the government continue to rely on this failed program?

Hon. Wayne Easter (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Rural Development), Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I would think adding with the provinces over $2 billion over and above CAIS is really not relying on that program in its entirety. We recognized that there had to be ad hoc programming and we went out there and did it. As I said, we are trying to manoeuvre the market price so that producers can get prices out of the marketplace. We are trying to increase the slaughter capacity so we can have a made in Canada solution. We are working with the United States and with Japan and others to find other markets for our beef. We are there for producers--

The Speaker: The hon. member for Cambridge.