These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Bush to Visit

Ms. Denise Poirier-Rivard (Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the mad cow crisis is hurting Quebec farmers. After 18 months of the U.S. ban on our cattle, it is high time this matter was resolved.

Does the Prime Minister intend to take the opportunity of President Bush's visit to Canada to tell him that we consider it completely unwarranted to close the border to all cattle because of one cow in Alberta 18 months ago?

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Clearly, Mr. Speaker, we have been making the point to the Americans on an ongoing basis that we believe we should have access to the U.S. market. In fact, we have had almost 160 separate interventions. We were very pleased last week when President Bush informed the Prime Minister that the rule change had moved out of the USDA and into the OMB with a specific timeline attached to that process.

[Translation]

Ms. Denise Poirier-Rivard (Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Minister for International Trade has confirmed that the American president may announce the end of the American embargo on Canadian beef within a six-month period. Announcing a timeline is all very well, but the farmers have to live in the meantime.

In addition to this timeline, will the Prime Minister be announcing temporary aid measures to help farmers get through this crisis?

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I have said in the House in answering questions from the Bloc in the last couple of weeks, we provided over $366 million through business risk management to producers in Quebec.

As the hon. member has pointed out to me and others, there is a very specific problem in terms of the cull cows. We are working with the province of Quebec, and producers in Quebec and elsewhere to address that. The long term solution, of course, is to build increased slaughter capacity and we announced funds for that initiative on September 10.

[Translation]

Mr. Roger Gaudet (Montcalm, BQ): Mr. Speaker, on October 15, the Government of the United States decided to impose countervailing duties of up to 15% on imports of live hogs from Canada.

Does the Prime Minister intend to explain to President Bush that these duties are unjustified and that Canada does not want another interminable conflict like the softwood lumber issue?

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member may know that when the Americans brought an action against the Canadian government in terms of a countervail, a ruling clearly indicated that was not the case. The decision found in favour of Canada and no countervail was put in place.

In terms of the anti-dumping, we have been working with the industry, and in particular through our embassy in the United States, to indicate clearly that such an action is not only not in the best interests of Canadian producers, it is in fact not in the interests of American producers as well. We have been making that case to the Americans on an ongoing basis.

[Translation]

Mr. Roger Gaudet (Montcalm, BQ): Mr. Speaker, John Block, former U.S. secretary of agriculture, has called these duties totally unjustified and said that Canadian exports do not harm American production.

Does the Prime Minister intend to tell President Bush that these duties harm not only Canadian farmers but American farmers as well, because a number of them buy their feedlot stock from Canada?

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, that is what I just said. I absolutely agree with the member. We will continue to make that point to the Americans.

Ms. Belinda Stronach (Newmarket—Aurora, CPC): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Foreign Affairs promised Canadians on national television to expect a happy surprise tomorrow when the President of the United States will announce a fixed date for reopening the border to Canadian cattle. Yet at the same time, officials from his own government were downplaying expectations. Canadian ranchers, feedlot operators, dairy producers, truckers and their families will not appreciate game playing from this government.

If there is no announcement of a fixed date for the opening of the border, will the minister himself apologize to Canadians for irresponsible management of the Canada-U.S. relations file?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in the answer to an earlier question, what in fact took place last week was an announcement by the President informing the Prime Minister that the rule that is necessary to be put in place to make a change was passed from the USDA to the Office of Management and Budget. That process has a set time period to it, 90 days, and that clock has begun to run. Once that is completed, there are 60 days in which it can be implemented.

Ms. Belinda Stronach (Newmarket—Aurora, CPC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister. We will hear many fancy words tomorrow from the Prime Minister and his ministers, but the reality is that the U.S. President is making his first visit to Canada, its largest trading partner, at the end of his term. There is no better proof of Liberal failure to build this critical relationship.

Will the Prime Minister apologize to Canadian livestock producers, dairy farmers, their families and communities for taking 18 months of their suffering to get the President's attention to BSE?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, that certainly is not the case. We have been actively engaged with the Americans since May 2003 to open the border. In fact, we saw after 100 days the opening of the border to certain muscle cuts that could go to the United States. That was very helpful to the industry. Through that period of time we have had four separate programs to assist our producers in dealing with the BSE issue and we continue to work with the Americans. Last week's announcement in terms of the rule change is evidence of that.