|These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard
Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it has been a full two years since the U.S. border closed to Canadian beef, cattle and other livestock. Injunctions were demanded by the special interest group, R-CALF. Judge Cebull, who was sympathetic to their cause, has added insult to injury by granting them.
Farmers and ranchers across the country are waiting for the other shoe to drop. On May 9, R-CALF filed for another injunction to ban Canadian beef.
Why has the agriculture minister never aggressively tried to fight these injunctions that are strangling Canadian farmers and ranchers?
Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, clearly we have been working with the USDA and in the U.S. court system to ensure that the Canadian position is made clear.
I have had three meetings by phone with the agriculture secretary, including as recently as two hours ago. We are determined to work with the Americans to fight these injunctions. We are determined to work with them whatever the outcome may be.
Mr. James Bezan (Selkirk—Interlake, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have wasted two years under three agriculture ministers who should have been aggressive on this file and taken action under NAFTA and WTO.
While the current agriculture minister stalls on taking the appropriate trade and legal action, farmers and ranchers are drowning in red ink. Producers are worried about their future if Judge Cebull and R-CALF close the border to boxed beef.
Where is the agriculture minister's plan to farmers and ranchers and to open markets if R-CALF closes the border again?
Hon. Andy Mitchell (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, obviously we want to see regularization of trade with the United States, but the hon. member misses some important facts. We have moved the United States from being in opposition to a border opening to being our allies in getting the border open.
In 2004 we have been able to achieve 90% of the trade in beef and beef products with the United States that we had in 2002. We have been able to increase our slaughter capacity by 30%. We have provided assistance to the producers to the tune of $2 billion.