These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Non Existent Program

Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the border remains closed to live cattle and ruminants for an indeterminate amount of time, making increased slaughter capacity essential. The industry's losses are well over $7 billion. This government thinks that its token relief is sufficient. Farm families are still waiting on CAIS money they hope they qualify for. Millions are being gobbled up by administrative overruns. The loan loss reserve program announced in September does not exist because lenders and the government cannot agree on how it will work.

How can Canadian farmers and ranchers expect to access the fabled loan loss reserve program when it does not exist?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think Canadian taxpayers would be surprised to hear the hon. member characterize the $1.9 billion that this government has committed for BSE as a token. He may think it is a token. Canadian taxpayers do not think it is a token and beef producers do not think it is a token.

We have seen a 20% increase in slaughter capacity. There is another 10%, so a total of 30%, online that will see increased slaughter capacity.

I am pleased to announce today that an agreement has been reached with the FCC, so that it is now participating actively in providing loans to assist those who want to increase slaughter capacity.

Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC): Mr. Speaker, due to his past experience, this minister has been banking on the border reopening.

The agriculture minister has not delivered any of his promises. He talks about billions in farm aid, yet producers are going broke. Much needed CAIS money is not reaching the farm gate and not one penny has helped build even one packing plant. This is just another example of Liberal promises made, Liberal promises broken.

Why will this government not use the contingency fund to offset the losses in the industry and support farm families?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is simply wrong. He may want to go to Prince Edward Island and ask those who were involved in the new plant in Prince Edward Island if there was federal money invested in that plant. He would get the answer that yes, it has seen federal money put into the plant.

He may want to ask those beef producers who received $106 million in emergency advances under the CAIS program whether or not they have been assisted. Or, he might want to ask those producers who today have received almost $1 billion in general CAIS payments whether they think there has been assistance provided. I think the answer from them would be yes.

Mr. Rob Moore (Fundy Royal, CPC): Mr. Speaker, farmers continue to suffer as a result of this government's incompetence. This government's bungling of our relationship with the United States contributed to the vote by its senate calling for the border to remain closed. From day one this government's strategy on the crisis has been to simply hope for the best.

It has been almost two years and our farmers have received nothing but empty promises and meaningless announcements, with no help at the farm gate. The time to act is now. Will this government commit to using the contingency fund immediately to help Canadian producers?

Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, as in the answer to the previous member, no help at all. There is $1.9 billion in specific payments for BSE, the close to $1 billion that we have now had an opportunity to pay out in CAIS, and the fact that it will pay close to $1.4 billion in respect of the 2003 year.

We have been fully engaged with the Americans and it is not the American government that is opposed to opening the border. In fact, the American administration very much stands with Canada on this issue and the President has indicated that he will exercise his first veto to ensure the political process sees the border open.

Mr. Rob Moore (Fundy Royal, CPC): Mr. Speaker, much of the money that the government is talking about has been soaked up in administrative costs and is not reaching the people who need it. Aid is only effective if it reaches the farm gate. We also know that the CAIS program is not effective in dealing with a disaster of this magnitude. Farmers need this government's help right now if they are to continue farming.

Will the government immediately take steps to take money from the contingency reserve and help our producers?

Hon. Ralph Goodale (Minister of Finance, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, members of the House will know that last year we dedicated very close to $1 billion for purposes aimed at assisting agricultural producers in this country. That money was drawn from the contingency reserve. We will do what is necessary to defend the farmers of this country.