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View John Barlow Profile
CPC (AB)
View John Barlow Profile
2020-02-18 23:22
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Vancouver Granville.
I have heard many of the interventions this evening through this emergency debate and I want to bring a different perspective to this discussion tonight. I want to put this in context.
About 20 years ago, a previous Liberal government actually arrested farmers and put them in jail for crossing the border and trying to sell their grain in the United States. In perspective, right now we have protestors illegally blockading critical infrastructure across Canada and a Liberal government that is doing nothing to address that situation.
I want to talk about the collateral damage of the inaction that is happening and put that in perspective. Canadian farmers who are trying to sell their own grain are arrested and put in jail by the Liberal government. We have protestors, the court has said this is an illegal blockade and the Liberal government is not doing anything. We can imagine the message this is sending to Canadian agriculture. The blockades are bringing Canada's economy to its knees, and there are very real consequences.
On Friday, a grain producer from my riding came into my office in High River. I have to admit that it is not often I see farmers and ranchers almost in tears, but this 80-some-year-old farmer was extremely frustrated. He has gone through what has been deemed the harvest of hell this fall. He is now finally getting his crops harvested. Throughout January and February, when there was a nice day, some of the farmers in my riding were out in their combines trying to get whatever crop off they possibly could.
I now have this farmer in my office asking what else he can do. He suffered through one of the worst springs and falls in 60 years of farming. He finally harvested his crops, but now he is dealing with a blockade. There are no trains at the terminal where he could sell his commodities and get his product to market.
These are the very real consequences farmers across this country are facing. It is not just in western Canada or in my riding, but in every corner of this country.
Members across the floor are talking about not wanting to rush this through and wanting to have a discussion and open dialogue and saying they will be there for as long as it takes. However, there are business owners, farmers and ranchers across this country who literally cannot wait for this dialogue and the Liberal government to just stand back and hope that this resolves itself. They will be bankrupt before this is resolved if the Prime Minister continues to stand on the sidelines.
This is not just rhetoric. I have heard from many of my colleagues across the floor that this is rhetoric. I would like to mention the stats of what is going on right now. Currently in the port of Prince George, there are 19 ships waiting to be loaded with grain. They are short 400,000 tonnes of grain that is not there to be loaded. In the port of Vancouver, there are 42 vessels waiting to be loaded.
Just in Prince George alone, it is 400,000 tonnes of grain they are waiting for, which is about 4,000 railcars. Every day of waiting is about a million dollars. If we include both ports, every week the cost directly to grain farmers is between $40 million and $50 million. When those ships are not loaded, the demurrage costs are passed directly on to the producers. They cannot pass those costs on to anyone else. They are price takers. They are the end of the line. If we add this up over the four weeks, this has cost Canadian agriculture well over $200 million to $300 million, and that is only in grain. I am not talking about cattle, fertilizer, pork or other commodities. That is only in grain. We can understand the implication this is having on our farmers and ranchers.
This is not only on the commodity side. I spoke to a propane dealer today, who said that Quebec and Ontario may have four to five days of propane reserves left and that it is being rationed. I have heard similar stories from Atlantic Canada. This includes farmers who are trying to heat their barns and dry their grain. Every time they turn around, they are getting another punch to the gut. They are throwing up their hands and asking what more can they do and wondering why no one is paying attention to the anxiety, stress and frustration they are feeling.
The ironic part on the propane side is that these same farmers are now hit with a Liberal carbon tax, which is costing them tens of thousands of dollars a month.
We heard from the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, which said that the carbon tax was equal to 12% of one's revenue just disappearing.
The farmers finally got their grain off in the fall. Then they were faced with a CN rail strike, where again the Liberal government did not take any action and decided to stand on the sidelines and wait for it to resolve itself. That is finally now starting to get caught back up. Then in January, farmers were hit with a carbon tax. In February, now they are being hit with illegal blockades across this country and they cannot get their products to market. I hope my colleagues across the floor can see the utter frustration from Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector. Every time they turn around they are getting another punch in the face by the Liberal government.
When we asked the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food if she knew the impact the carbon tax was having on Canadian farmers, her response was that her department was not keeping any data on it and she was hoping to find evidence and data on it. Before one puts in a carbon tax, maybe one should have done an economic impact analysis on the agriculture sector.
For the last two weeks I have heard the Liberals say that they are not going to enforce the court injunction and they just hope it resolves itself peacefully and quickly. I am sorry, but that is just not good enough. I am absolutely not inciting violence or anything along that line, but sooner or later they have to understand there are real economic consequences to this inaction.
I do not know how else I can say this, but Canada's economy is on its knees. Even when this is resolved, whenever that may be, to just assume that Canada's economy is going to pick back up and get back on track is simply not the case. I spoke to CN last week and it is 200 freight trains behind. That will take not days, not weeks, but months to get caught back up.
The government also has to understand the implications this has on our global relations with some of our most trusted and important trading partners. They look at Canada as a supplier. They are our customers. What will customers do when the ships they have sent from Japan, China, India, Australia, New Zealand and Peru to be loaded in Vancouver or Prince George are turned around empty? They will take those ships to where they know they are going to get a reliable supply. They will go to Brazil, Peru or the United States. These are customers that we will have lost.
This impacts our reputation in the global marketplace. More than 50% of the commodities we produce in agriculture are exported. Almost more than any other country in the world, we are reliant on those export markets. We cannot have this unreliability within the critical infrastructure and the supply chain from coast to coast without there being very clear consequences to what is going on.
I have talked a lot about the farmers on the ground who are being impacted by this, but I also spoke with Chuck Magro, the president and CEO of Nutrien on Friday to see the impact this was having on its business. It is the largest fertilizer company in North America and is based in Calgary. This is Nutrien's busiest time of the year. It is trying to get its supplies not only across Canada to its domestic customers but also to ships to send it around the world. If these blockades are not removed in the very near future, Nutrien will be forced to shut down some of its most important plants across Canada and lay off people. Nutrien is now 125 railcars short and that number continues to grow each and every day.
In conclusion, I want to be crystal clear to my colleagues across the floor that there are very real consequences to this inaction and this grandstanding. Farmers, ranchers, food processors across this country are going to be bankrupt. They are desperate. They need people to stand up and show they are fighting for them, but unfortunately, time and time again the government has shown that it is not.
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