These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Uncompensated Losses over $240 Million

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, BQ): Mr. Speaker, Quebec's farmers have chosen today to express their despair, after more than 18 months of having the American border closed to Canadian beef, particularly cull cattle.

How can the federal government be so insensitive to the plight of the farmers of Quebec, whose uncompensated losses have reached $241 million so far?

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, those comments are just not accurate. Under business risk management, we have put more than $366 million with producers in the province of Quebec. That has been a substantial amount of money.

I was very pleased to see over the weekend the progress in opening the border, with the referral of the rule to the office of management and budget. We are working on that as well.

We are meeting with the organizations in Quebec. We understand that there is some additional work that needs to be done, and we are determined to do it.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, BQ): Mr. Speaker, let us be clear with the minister. Right now, a farmer can get between $100 and $200 for a cull cow. The same cow is then sold to consumers at between $800 and $1200. It is not surprising that the abattoirs have more than doubled their profits over last year.

I call on the minister to do something, which will cost him nothing, and that is to work with his counterparts from Quebec and the provinces to establish a base price for cull cows in order to save the farmers. It will cost him nothing, requiring only good faith.

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are working with the province of Quebec. I talked as recently as last Thursday with the minister from Quebec. The member is not accurate when he says that no money is flowing: $92 million under the TISP and $17 million under the cull animal program.

I do agree that there is a need to do additional work. There is a need to deal with this specific problem. We intend to work with producers and with the government to deal with just that.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ): Mr. Speaker, if it is so clear then I invite the minister to go say that to the farmers currently protesting in Montreal at Lafontaine park. He can go tell them that and see if it is so clear.

The farmers have announced that they will set the floor price for cull on November 29. This is a pressure tactic they are using to save their business.

Does the government realize that it has just a week to act and work with the farmers from Quebec and all the provinces on setting a floor price in order to save hundreds of farm businesses in Quebec from bankruptcy?

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, perhaps the Bloc Québécois has just realized that there is a problem in Quebec. I have been working on this issue since I was appointed in July. It is nice that the Bloc members finally have come to recognize there is an issue.

We are working with producers in Quebec and with the Government of Quebec. We understand that there is an issue with cull animals, and we are working to deal with that.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ): Mr. Speaker, farmers are exasperated because for a year and a half now they have been suffering the effects of the U.S. border being closed to Canadian beef.

Why has the federal government not realized that its aid package for farmers with cull is inadequate and that setting a floor price would be much better and cost the federal government absolutely nothing?

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I said in answer to an earlier question, some $366 million has been directed in business risk management to the province of Quebec. In terms of establishing a floor price, the province of Quebec has the ability to establish a floor price within the province of Quebec. It does not need the federal government's assistance in doing that.

However, they are right. There is an issue with cull cows. There is an issue for producers. There is work to be done, and we are determined to assist them. That is why we are working with the producers and with the Government of Quebec.