OTTAWA – Jay Hill, Member of Parliament for Prince George-Peace River, made the following remarks in the House of Commons today to draw attention to the plight of beef farmers in his riding:
“Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to note that it is appreciated, certainly by the official opposition, the Conservative Party of Canada, that we have this opportunity to bring the House up to speed on the situation in our own ridings, and to try to present the case for some immediate action above and beyond what little the government has done on this file.
I can tell members that the situation, I believe in all of Canada, certainly in western Canada with which I am most familiar, is grave, and that goes for Prince George–Peace River, a very prominent cattle country part of Canada. In the Peace River region, on the east side of the Rocky Mountains, we have a very large grain and livestock producing region, and likewise in and around the Prince George area, and down in the McBride area that will be added to my riding under boundary redistribution, there are also a lot of cattle farmers and cattle producers of both cow and calf and feedlot operators. The situation has reached or passed crisis proportions.
We have family businesses that in some cases have been in business for two or three generations, that virtually are on the verge of losing all their equity and going out of business. It is that serious.
I can tell members that the average Canadian out there needs to understand the seriousness of this. This is not a case of the Member of Parliament for Prince George–Peace River standing here and crying wolf. This is serious business and I want to make that abundantly clear here today. When we have a situation where individuals have struggled not for one lifetime but in some cases for two or three lifetimes to build up a business, and they are on the verge of losing it through no fault of their own, it should send a chill up our spines.
This is not a case where somebody made a bad business decision. This is not a case where they overextended themselves or they wanted to take a holiday to Hawaii rather than reinvesting the money. These people have their backs to the wall, and I would argue that the government, while recognizing it in rhetoric, has done precious little to alleviate their pain and have them in a position to pay their bills.
A lot of these people are proud people. Cattle producers predominantly, when we look at the history of the nation of Canada, have very seldom come looking for assistance from government. They are very independent people, but my God, their backs are to the wall this time. They have had to come and say, “We need some help to get over this hump. If you want a cattle industry in Canada, we need some help here”.
I can tell members that the outrage in Prince George–Peace River over the last number of days, when it became clear that $250 million has been blown out the window with this sponsorship program at the same time that people are going to lose their farms, their ranches and their feedlots, there is a growing anger across this land, and I hope the government is listening.
What has changed since last Wednesday? What have we heard from the Minister of Agriculture? What have we heard from the new Prime Minister? What have we heard from the government that would indicate a ray of hope for the cattle industry in Canada since our take note debate held last Wednesday night, participated in by members of Parliament from all parties including government members who spoke very eloquently, very passionately about the plight of farmers in their ridings, as well as they should?
Regardless of what party we represent in the House, first and foremost I would argue we represent real people in real situations, whether we are from the back country of Ontario or northern British Columbia where I come from, real people with real problems suffering real time right now.
What has changed since our take note debate? Has there has been any ray of hope? I would argue no, I have not seen anything. No one follows the news closer than members of Parliament. Every day we get news clippings and we scan it to see what is happening not only here in Ottawa but across the land so that we are kept up to speed about what is happening in our regions, our provinces and in the country as a whole. I have not seen anything coming from the government from last Wednesday that would indicate to the people in my riding or elsewhere that there is a ray of hope that we are going to turn a corner with this crisis. That has to be extremely depressing and troubling for these farmers and ranchers as they struggle with this crisis day-to-day.
It is not just one or two individuals, it is families and in many cases, young families. I cannot imagine what it is like for those young children to come home to the farm or ranch right now and see the look of anguish on mom and dad’s face as they struggle with this in what they must believe is hopelessness. They are looking for a little bit of hope from the government and they are not getting it.
Despite their best efforts, farmers are now facing an added catastrophe. They are running out of feed for their animals because their business was not built upon having these animals to feed all winter long. Anybody who understands the first thing about animals and about agriculture and farming knows that in cold weather an animal eats a lot of feed to maintain its body heat to keep it sustained when it is outside in minus 20°-30° weather. Some of these farmers have had a real struggle to get good quality feed put up for the winter and now they find that animals that would have gone to market are still on the farm because they are virtually worthless and the farmers have to try to scrounge up the feed. It must seem to them that they are pouring this money down a bottomless pit with no hope on the horizon.
When we try to impress upon Canadians the importance of an issue like this, as we all know unfortunately 10 minutes can go very fast, so I want to say what is necessary. I think we all understand what is necessary. It is necessary for the government to make the admission here and now that the program it has put in place is a very great disappointment. It is a failure. The government has to recognize that. The money is not getting through to the people who need it. Farmers have not seen any increase in their income so that they can sustain their operations for the short term to hopefully get over this hump. So we need an immediate cash infusion.
I heard that last Wednesday night from all parties including the government party and I certainly hear it all across the land. I implore the government to revisit this issue and to try to find the money instead of putting it into sponsorship programs, to put it into supporting our cattle producers.”
For more information, please contact:
Jay Hill, M.P. (613) 947-4524