These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Fixed Timetable

Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC): Mr. Speaker, no one is disputing that, least of all the Conservative Party of Canada. We have to support our armed forces.

The American border has been closed now to Canadian cattle for over 18 months. Farmers are desperate. The best assurance program that the government can give would be to announce a firm date when the border will be open.

On Sunday the Minister of Foreign Affairs told us that President Bush would be proposing a timetable with clear commitments to open the border. Later, the minister's aides tried to retract that commitment.

Could the Prime Minister affirm whether there is in fact a fixed timetable to reopen the Canadian border so that cattle can get in to the United States?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there was no retraction. The reality is that a week ago the Americans announced that the rule had moved from the USDA to the OMB. The OMB process is one that has a time-specific timeline on it of 90 days. It is that clock that has begun to run. We were pleased to see that particular progress. I was pleased to hear the President today make a commitment to move that process along as expeditiously as possible.

Ms. Françoise Boivin (Gatineau, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it is evident that the Canadian cattle industry has suffered from the effects of one case of BSE. It has caused distortions in supply, slaughter capacity and trade markets.

Considering the good news received from Hong Kong that its government is lifting a one and a half year ban on beef imports today, could the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food tell the House what additional steps he has taken to open our trade markets for Canadian beef?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Yes, Mr. Speaker, we have been making some progress. As I mentioned earlier in question period, there is the move of the rule to the OMB and today President Bush saying that he will direct his officials to expedite that process and progress in the Japanese and Taiwanese markets. Today we were very pleased to hear that Hong Kong is reopening its border to Canadian boneless beef under 30 months of age.