Canada’s Beef is Safe
Statement by David Kilgour,
MP for Edmonton Southeast
House of Commons, Ottawa
4 February 2004
Hon. David Kilgour (Edmonton Southeast, Lib.): Mr. Chair, on the point just discussed by my colleagues opposite, Canadians are showing great confidence in our beef safety systems. I understand that we are consuming about 60% more beef in restaurants everywhere across the country since the crisis began. What an act of national solidarity with our beef producing families.
Canadian agri-food products are sought in more than 180 countries for their high standards of safety and quality. When the international team of scientific experts came to review our handling of BSE last June, they gave us very high marks in the thoroughness of the investigation. That should come as no surprise because Canadian agriculture, specifically the Canadian beef industry, has done a great many things right when it comes to food safety and food quality.
For example, the quality starts here with the assurance program the Canadian Cattlemen's Association piloted in the 1990s. Our national cattle identification program is unique in North America and is seen as a model for the U.S. and other cattle producing countries. The Government of Canada has been a partner in these initiatives and others, aiming to secure our reputation for safe, high quality beef.
We have supported significant investments and in kind support through programs such as the Canadian on farm food safety program. We have launched the $62 million Canadian food safety and quality program which supports initiatives such as the HACCP based systems for on and off farm as well as work on food quality and traceability.
Last month the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced further measures to make a safe system even safer. The government is investing more than $92 million toward enhanced animal surveillance and national animal identification. That funding will go in part to increase animal testing beginning with the testing of 8,000 head a year this year, rising to 30,000 within a few years.
In short, Canada has taken a science based approach, including the banning of cattle from the U.K. in 1990, BSE surveillance in 1992 and a ruminant feed ban in 1997. Canadian beef is probably the safest in the world.
Canada has addressed almost all of the key recommendations from the international team of scientific experts and we are continuing to evaluate and address the others. There is no reason, as all members in the House would agree, why trade should not resume. This is consistent with the recommendations against irrational trade barriers in the international review panel report released today.
Because this is a crisis, it is a priority for all of us in all parts of the country. We have raised BSE with our key trading partners at the highest levels, including our Prime Minister speaking with President Bush. I believe he spent more time on this issue than any other issue in his bilateral talks with the president.
The efforts are bearing fruit. Earlier this month the agriculture ministers in the U.S., Mexico and Canada promised to work together to show global leadership on the issue. South Korea and Japan have agreed to work closely with Canadian food safety and veterinarian officials to address any safety concerns. In short, we are making progress on the international level and all of us hope that it continues.
Mr. Peter MacKay (Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, CPC): Mr. Chair, I congratulate the member and all members present who have partaken in this debate. It is a very timely one. Many Canadians were left with the impression that much of the concern and much of the terrible fallout and effects of the BSE crisis were just starting to wane when of course another animal was identified and linked to Canada. So I am very pleased to see that the Parliament of Canada has brought this forward in the first week of our return.
My question for the hon. member opposite is with respect to a North American approach. He referenced the restaurants and hotels, and my colleague from St. John's West referenced this as well. This is an approach that obviously is going to have to follow the protocols, the science, the efforts made now to an integrated approach that will allow for the early prevention and identification of BSE. Ensuring that consumer confidence is restored is another aspect that I know the minister himself has concerned himself with.
To the hon. member opposite, does he believe that part of the grand scheme, the strategy that has to follow here, is going to involve a great deal of cooperation with the United States and Mexico to ensure that there is a North American approach taken to this situation?
Hon. David Kilgour: Mr. Chair, the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex referred earlier to the Canadian Cattlemen's Association and the international panel on the U.S. investigation into the BSE cow in Washington. I believe the report came out this evening.
The report is favourable toward Canada's position. The report emphasized the integrated nature of the North American cattle industry. It says that the United States cannot dismiss the Washington state case by considering it an imported case. The international report also calls upon the U.S. to demonstrate leadership in trade matters by adopting import-export policies in accordance with international standards, and I assume that means Mexico as well, thus encouraging the discontinuation of irrational trade barriers when countries identify their first case of BSE.