These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Canadian Producers Suffer

Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC): Mr. Speaker, speaking of work, while Canadians welcomed the U.S. President to Canada, what Canadians do not appreciate is the failure of this government to get any substantive movement on the BSE or softwood files. The softwood lumber dispute is into its fourth year. It has been almost two years since the border was closed to Canadian livestock.

The President and the Prime Minister have met face to face on at least four occasions prior to yesterday. A mutually beneficial partnership should result in results for Canadians. Why do Canadian producers continue to suffer while the Prime Minister focuses more on photo ops than substantive results for producers?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is simply wrong. In terms of progress, a time specific process in the OMB for the rule change has been put in place.

In addition to that, yesterday we saw access to the Hong Kong market being provided. We have seen access to beef products and embryonic products in China. We are hosting both Japanese and Taiwanese officials to make even further progress.

[Translation]

Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC): Mr. Speaker, nothing has been accomplished.

While the Liberals have been wining and dining, they have been feeding the farmers with nothing but empty promises. The Prime Minister has come back from Halifax with an equally empty plate. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has no control whatsoever over how long the opening up process will take.

Can he tell us whether he has obtained any assurance on the specific date the ban will be lifted? We want a date, Mr. Minister.

The Speaker: No doubt the hon. member means to say “Mr. Speaker”, although the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food now has the floor.

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, there are very substantial differences between the members on this side and the members on that side. Because of the actions that we have taken, beef producers in this country have received over $2 billion in assistance during this particular crisis. In terms of no progress in the border opening, yesterday we gained access to a market that we did not have the day before. There is also a time specific process in place with the United States.

Ms. Belinda Stronach (Newmarket—Aurora, CPC): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Before the President's visit, the minister teased Canadian farmers and their families with the promise of a fixed date for the border to reopen. Two days ago I asked the minister in this House whether he would apologize to Canadians if there was no such surprise. It did not happen. This devastated industry remains locked in a bureaucratic process that could take longer than six months and cost this industry another $2 billion.

In the face of this great failure, will the minister now apologize to Canadians for misleading them about what to expect?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the only apology that should be taking place in the House is from hon. members opposite who want to take this situation and score cheap political points as opposed to trying to achieve real progress. As the Minister of Foreign Affairs said last week, there needs to be a timeframe put in place and that is exactly what has been put in place by referring this matter to the OMB.

Mr. Roger Gaudet (Montcalm, BQ): Mr. Speaker, we know that it will be another five to six months before the U.S. embargo on Canadian beef is definitively lifted. The UPA, the Government of Quebec and the Colbex slaughterhouse have done their part to find a solution to the crisis. The Canadian government is the only one dragging its feet.

Does the government intend to get down to business and work with these three stakeholders?

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I have mentioned on a number of occasions in the House, there are a number of solutions that are being suggested. There is the long term solution, which is to create increased slaughter capacity in the province of Quebec in a competitive environment. We have announced support for that programming. Also, solutions have been suggested in terms of what the price of milk will be set at in the next few weeks. There is the issue of what the rule change will be in the United States and how that will impact the process in Quebec. There have been suggestions both in terms of direct payments as well as in terms of a minimum price.

We are discussing all those, both with producers and all provinces. In the words of a motion that will be in front of the House tomorrow, we intend to do this as soon as possible.

[Translation]

Mr. Roger Gaudet (Montcalm, BQ): Mr. Speaker, how can the government continue to maintain that it invested $366 million to deal with the cull cow crisis, when the UPA states, with figures to back it up, that only $90 million was actually received by the producers? This $90 million is a long way from $366 million.

[English]

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in terms of all programs that have been provided nationally, when they are fully expensed, they will be in the neighbourhood of some $2 billion; in Quebec, on business risk management, $366 million.

As I said to the hon. member on a number of occasions, there are some specific issues in specific sectors. We are determined, in working with all provinces and producers, to deal with those issues and to find solutions.

Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP): Mr. Speaker, George Bush came and went, and the border is still closed to Canadian beef. Meanwhile Canadian farmers are having to feed their cattle for another long winter.

If cull cattle could talk, they would tell us that they were more concerned about dying of old age than ever getting mad cow. Even if the border does open some day, we know that cull cattle will not be crossing stateside.

Why will the government not admit that it has no plan in place, practically, to deal with the immediate crisis in cull cows?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for giving me the opportunity to point out to the House that since putting in our repositioning program on September 10, we have seen the price of fed cow go from 65¢ to 85¢ last week. That is $1 billion from the marketplace to producers.

We have also provided assistance in building slaughter capacity to deal with older animals. We also have the feeder set aside program to assist producers in the cost of feeding their young animals over the next 14 to 16 months.

Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP): Mr. Speaker, that is another supersized helping of a big whopper from the government.

The prices for cull cows are not going up, and the CAIS program designed to help this has been an absolute disaster. I have been phoning the minister's office, trying to get help for a number of farmers who are going under. Guess what? It does not even have staff in place to deal with them.

Given the absolute failure of this program, why will the government not put in immediate money for debt and tax relief for the farmers who are going under?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I have mentioned many times in the House, as part of the September 10 program there is a managing older animals component. That has been offered to the provinces. As I have mentioned to members opposite, we are dealing with the cull cow issue and we will continue to do that.

The reality is that on this side of the House we are looking for and providing to producers assistance to help them in this difficult time to the tune of $2 billion.

We have seen with the rule change going over to the OMB a very specific timeframe put into place.