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View Larry Maguire Profile
View Larry Maguire Profile
2020-05-13 17:01 [p.2302]
Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to speak to Bill C-16 in the House today as well. This bill is an act to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act. It is a bill to increase the amount that the commission can borrow to $500 million.
Before I start, I want to thank my colleagues from Foothills and Beauce for their presentations today, and the excellent speeches they made in regard to the need for further support in the agricultural industry. I also want to acknowledge the hard work, as I just pointed out, of the people in the dairy industry and their work in trying to convince the minister, who was trying to convince us and farmers that she's walking the talk. According to the reports I am getting, it is not working so well for her. We certainly want to give the minister some more ideas today as far as what kind of help we are hearing about in the country that might help her make a more firm commitment. I hope to leave the minister with those ideas.
I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Huron—Bruce, another great region of Canada, as far as agricultural production goes. Maybe that is why my ancestors in the Wingham area left there in the 1870s, to go west and find greater fertility on the bald prairies out in Elgin, Manitoba. Many of my ancestors still live there. I will have to get back and see them again sometime.
In supporting Bill C-16, we know the importance of the dairy industry in Canada. We also know the shortfalls that the government has had in regard to dealing with the dairy industry. My colleague from the Bloc today was trying to do a bit of a history lesson. He said he was a teacher, but I want to reiterate. My colleague mentioned the great trade agreements that we have had. I have had people from the dairy industry in my office supporting the TPP agreement that we signed. My colleague from Abbotsford signed that agreement with the prime minister and our minister of agriculture from Saskatchewan as well at the time.
These were great trade agreements that people in the dairy industry realized were an opportunity for them to continue with their industry in a very extensive way, and that the Conservative government at the time had their backs. We had put forward, as my colleagues from Quebec have indicated, a $4.2 billion plan to help the dairy industry with any kind of support it needed as the adjustment took place for the great pluses in other areas of the industry and other industries in Canada that were going to take place under the TPP.
I want to acknowledge that the government did make $2 billion available to the dairy farmers of Canada just a week or so before the election last fall, which seemed to be a bit suspicious timing. The Liberals did that because the agreement they were signing with the United States was not as good for the dairy industry as the one we were looking at signing with the TPP, so the Liberals felt there needed to be support there. We in opposition know and acknowledge again how important the dairy industry is.
There are many sectors that are hurting in the Prairies and in Ontario, because I have spoken with Ontario cattle people. I have spoken with my Quebec colleagues, and some in the Maritimes too, in regard to the hurt in the agricultural industry today. There does not seem to be the acknowledgement there that is on a parallel, as other colleagues have mentioned, with some of the other industries that have been supported in this COVID-19 pandemic. I reiterate that, to the question I asked of the minister a while ago, she said the Liberals would be there to help with the asks of the agricultural industry. In the question that I asked earlier, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture indicated that it would take $2.6 billion to support that industry.
This was a few weeks back when the organization made this claim, and yet the minister announces $252 million, of which $150 million is for the AgriRecovery program. As my colleagues have said, that is budgeted regularly every year in every province for the partnership arrangement that the provinces are involved in, to have an AgriRecovery program. Therefore, these are not even newly budgeted funds, and that is the biggest portion of that $252 million.
I acknowledge the expansion of the $200 million today in support of the Canadian Dairy Commission Act because of the need to make sure we do not have these kinds of perishable agricultural products spoiling and not being saved for further use. That is a very big concern, but it is a parallel that is not drawn by the government's commitment to the agricultural industry in sectors such as the beef and pork industries at this time. I would compare, as others have, the spoilage of butter, cheese and milk products not being acceptable to it being just as unacceptable to see piglets or culled cows being euthanized in Canada today as well. That is the result of a lack of immediate support and a delay in the support from the government in trying to meet and adapt to the needs of our agriculture industry, particularly our livestock producers.
The government thinking it can do it through the AgriRecovery program is, I guess, one step better than trying to do it through AgriStability, but I want to correct the Minister of Seniors. She just said the government was working hard to try and get the AgriStability program to 75% margins when, in fact, that is where it is and the industry is wanting it to go to 85%. The Minister of Agriculture acknowledged that, so I want to make sure they are on the same page in their own cabinet.
I want to reiterate that there is support in AgriStability, but many farmers have been through disasters before and support comes 18 months to two years after the fact. It is far too late for an immediate hit in a pandemic situation like this. What I mean by “immediate hit” is this. I have had feedlot operators tell me that it is costing them $800,000 a month to feed the cattle they have in a 10,000-head feedlot back home, and that one is a reasonable size in a province the size of Manitoba. I also know that from the bigger feedlots in southern Alberta, these are 20,000 to 25,000 heads of cattle each. I have been on many of them. They are huge operations and it costs upward of $2.4 million a month to feed that many livestock in those areas. This is about food security. We could talk about the size of the operations or anything else, it is all relevant, but we really have to make sure we are dealing with food security.
One of the programs I have heard a lot about, and that farmers have indicated they would qualify for and sign on to, is the Western Livestock Price Insurance Program. I will pass their suggestion on to the minister, that she should look at it and utilize it. It does not work now because, as I said in my question to her today, the premiums are not affordable. If it were made affordable, the government could use it now and go ahead with its AgriRecovery.
However, let us go back to March 13, the day the House rose. All parties agreed to that, so we know there was a disaster going on that particular day. We could use that as a reference point. If we look at Western Livestock, the Ontario people tell me it would work for them. If the premiums were affordable, they would sign up immediately, knowing full well that they would get a return out of it this year. The big problem with any insurance program is liquidity, so if the government were able to help with premium levels becoming more affordable, then it would get the buy-in from the livestock industry across Canada to make the liquidity viable. That is a big issue with that program.
To develop that, the farmers would have to sign on for three or four years and the government would have to look at supporting the industry as well. Farmers have told me that is what they would do, because they know it would be more predictable in helping them stabilize their livestock industry, both on the pork side and the beef side.
If they are going to sign up, we could look at agreeing on that in the House. It is all because we would have a recognition of the COVID-19 area.
That commitment is what makes it liquid, and the provinces would therefore be able to phase themselves in. We pretty well have to do it through federal funding right now, because the provinces are already being supported by the federal government in many ways.
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