These comments are direct quotations from the Hansard documents.

Agricultural Policy Framework

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture's deadlock with the provinces is holding farmers hostage. His refusal to compensate farm families on the brink of bankruptcy until the remaining provinces sign on to the agriculture policy framework is callous and mean-spirited.

In the meantime, the Canadian agriculture sector is facing its biggest crisis since the Depression.

When can farm families expect the minister to live up to his own government's commitments and start the flow of compensation? It is a liquidity issue. They need the money now.

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should be aware that last Friday I announced $600 million in transition funding to farmers across the country. That is on top of the $312 million from the federal government, plus the provincial money, as far as the BSE recovery program is concerned.

The hon. member also knows from his experience, legal and otherwise, that there has to be agreements and signatures before money can be moved. Three or four provinces have refused to sign federal-provincial agreements which would allow us to move hundreds of millions of dollars to those provinces.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, PC): Mr. Speaker, that is blackmail. That is blaming the provinces again. His government's inability to strike compromise with provinces and other nations is legendary. When will the minister give up on this stubborn refusal to work with the agriculture sector on this critical file?

I ask the minister, I ask the Prime Minister and I ask his understudy, when will they get fully engaged on this file? What discussions does the Minister of Agriculture currently have under way with his counterpart in the United States? When will he come forward with a comprehensive plan to get the US border open to Canadian cattle? When will he do that?

Hon. Lyle Vanclief (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in the last number of months, we have had directly and indirectly, because I have kept track of them, close to 100 interventions with the United States. We have had face to face meetings, phone calls of diplomats, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, my colleague the trade minister, the industry, the food inspection agency and I can go on.

As far as working with the provinces, I have had signing authority since May. The provinces just need to sign the papers so we can flow the money to the farmers. We know they need money. Those provinces are not even committing their 40%--

The Speaker: The hon. member for Vancouver East.