These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Increase Slaughter Capacity

Ms. Diane Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the border is still closed to Canadian cattle. It is urgent that we increase slaughter capacity in Canada. Despite the promise made by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food last September, there is still no program. Even more insulting for producers, the Liberals have just promised more funds for this phantom program.

Why is the minister continuing to insult our producers by making promises he does not keep?


Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, let me make it very clear that the hon. member is incorrect when she says the border is closed to Canadian beef. Indeed Canadian beef continues to cross the border. It is important that producers know that continues to be the case.

In terms of slaughter capacity, from a low of 65,000 animals per week, we are now at 83,000 animals per week, a 30% increase. We have seen two new plants opened in the last few months. We will continue to assist the industry. We will make revisions as necessary to put as many resources out there as quickly as possible.

Ms. Diane Finley (Haldimand—Norfolk, CPC): Mr. Speaker, Alberta and Manitoba today announced $40 million in additional funds to encourage increased slaughter capacity. The Conservative Party called upon the government to provide incentives for growth by providing incentives for co-op investment. There was nothing in the budget.

When will the Liberals provide real incentives for investment instead of offering the sleeves off their vests?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I hate to correct the hon. member again but the budget did in fact contain tax measures to help with agricultural co-ops. I believe it is on page 143 of the budget if the hon. member wants to look at it.

Alberta and other provinces are announcing a combination of things, not just increased slaughter capacity, which we are there for and which we believe needs to be done, but as well, as we announced back in September, the need to create new foreign markets. It is not just an issue of having increased capacity. It is an issue of having a place in which to sell that capacity. We understand that and we are doing both.

Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, CPC): Mr. Speaker, today was to be a celebration in Canada's cattle industry, but due to the government's complete mismanagement of the BSE crisis, this dire situation has only worsened. Instead of celebrating, once again we are facing the possibility of prolonged closure of the United States border to the movement of live cattle. It is rumoured to be affecting our boxed beef exports as well.

With ill-informed forces outside Canada working to destroy our cattle industry, why have we not seen construction started on at least one new world-class packing facility in Canada? Why have we not seen the establishment of these new secure markets?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have been fully engaged with the United States in making the point that the opinion of many in that country is ill-informed. In fact the critic from the hon. member's party was engaged in that process with us. That is why, rather than having the U.S. government opposed to us, in this respect both the USDA and the President are four-square behind Canada in our move to get the border open.

We have seen new plants in Prince Edward Island. We have seen new plants in British Columbia. We will partner with additional new plants across the country.

Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we all know that the U.S. Senate voted to overturn that USDA rule. It has been political and continues to be a political issue.

There are other outstanding issues the government is not addressing, including the slaughter capacity, and they are the increasing number of cull cows in this country and the harmonization of health standards.

With this politically motivated crisis squarely back in the government's hands and with cattle prices falling through the floor, producers are asking, after two years why the government has not moved to insulate the industry from further destruction by dealing with these outstanding issues. When can they expect some action?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as I said in the answer to the Leader of the Opposition, $1.9 billion of federal money is dealing with this issue.

In terms of repositioning the industry, we were out there in September with the provinces and with the industry with a repositioning strategy. We will pursue that. There are many issues that need to be dealt with. Older animals is one of them. We are committed to doing that. We will do that working with the industry and with the provinces. We will come up with approaches that will do what they are supposed to do and work to deal with--

The Speaker: The hon. member for Beauport--Limoilou.