These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Floor Price for Cull Cows

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, BQ): Mr. Speaker, Quebec producers, and dairy producers in particular, are losing a great deal of money on their cull and are asking the federal government to cooperate with the Quebec government in setting a floor price for cull cows.

Why is the Minister of Agriculture reluctant to intervene in setting a floor price when this is a matter of interprovincial trade, which is his responsibility?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the information contained in the question is incorrect. It is a policy of the Canadian government to assist producers in Quebec.

[English]

Quite frankly we are working very closely with the province of Quebec and with the producers in Quebec to find the necessary way of assisting them. There have been many suggestions about how to go about doing it and we are examining all of them.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Gauthier (Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the problem with the minister is that, while he is examining suggestions, for the past 18 months, the dairy producers in Quebec have been losing the shirts off their backs because the minister refuses to understand.

I am asking him today to set a floor price for cull cows. That is not demanding anything of him, except goodwill. Why is the minister reluctant to help producers in Quebec and to accede to the request of Quebec's agriculture minister? All it takes is a little goodwill.

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Again, Mr. Speaker, the hon. member simply is not correct. We have provided over $366 million to producers in Quebec under our business risk management.

In addition to that, the essential difficulty is that there is not an opportunity for Quebec producers to sell their cull cows in a competitive environment. One of the things we did on September 10 was to provide an initiative that would allow for the creation of increased slaughter capacity, including in the province of Quebec. This is the long term, permanent solution to the issue facing producers.

[Translation]

Ms. Denise Poirier-Rivard (Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, BQ): Mr. Speaker, Quebec producers who raise cull cows are dependent on a single slaughterhouse serving all of eastern Canada, which sets prices and might start looking elsewhere if a floor price is set only by the Government of Quebec.

Does the minister recognize this is a possibility? Does this not prove to him that his intervention is necessary, since this is a matter under his jurisdiction and he cannot remain indifferent?

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am quite glad that the agriculture critic for the Bloc has informed the House leader of exactly what the issue is, and it is slaughter capacity. As she pointed out, the difficulty is that there is only one source or one place that the cull cows can go to, so an initiative that will allow for the creation of additional capacity and allow for a competitive environment for that capacity is the long term solution to that issue.

[Translation]

Ms. Denise Poirier-Rivard (Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, BQ): Mr. Speaker, other provinces were prepared to give Quebec's agriculture minister their consent to cooperate in setting a floor price for cull cows.

Since Quebec is clearly prepared to act and other provinces are prepared to cooperate, what is the minister waiting for to show not only an interest in this issue but also a firm desire to act and, in so doing, to help the producers?

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is exactly that strong will that has resulted in the investments that have been made in Quebec. Exactly that strong will is why we are fully engaged with the province of Quebec and the minister of agriculture for the province of Quebec. It is why we have been meeting with producers in Quebec, including meetings today that have been happening with the UPA, to discuss the range of options that are available in order to do even more than what we have already done.