Question Period
(29 November 2017)

From Hansard - 29 November 2017

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Assistance for Cattle Producers

Ms. Beck: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As all members are aware, wildfires near Burstall, Leader, and Tompkins destroyed thousands of acres of land and claimed the lives of hundreds of cattle. The government has promised some funds, but it isn’t enough. And over a month later, producers are still waiting.

Mr. Speaker, according to today’s financial update, agriculture expenses are down — almost $90 million less than expected, partly due to a reduction in crop insurance claims. Why won’t this government use some of this surplus to provide much-needed disaster relief to these producers?

Hon. Mr. Stewart: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the member for her question. The wildfires were a tragedy. There’s no question about that. And first of all, I extend my condolences to the family and friends of James Hargrave, who lost his life, and to those who were injured as well fighting the wildfires, Mr. Speaker.

The livestock branch has put together a technical document on disposal recommendations and we’ve provided the five impacted RMs [rural municipality] with dollars, Mr. Speaker, to help with the disposal of dead stock. We’ve providing funding to the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association, Mr. Speaker, in the amount of $100,000 to bolster their fund that they’re raising to help the victims of the wildfires.

Mr. Speaker, AgriStability is available to those who have it, and a number of them may be able to trigger claims this year because of the losses in the wildfires from AgriStability, Mr. Speaker. And regular programs, agricultural programs are all available.

And as the grassland recovers from the fires, Mr. Speaker, our experts in the ministry will be helping producers with grazing plans and monitoring the recovery of the grass.

Ms. Beck: — I thank the minister for that answer, Mr. Speaker, and share in the condolences and the sentiments expressed.

But the reality is — we all know, and the minister knows this — that what has been provided for producers to this point is simply inadequate. We have producers who are looking to replace their herds, who are wondering how they’re going to come up with the dollars to feed their cattle over the winter, and to find pasture land to graze these cattle on in the long time.

We have had a surplus in the agriculture funding as noted today of $90 million. My question is this: will the minister commit to using some of that funding to help these producers in this very desperate time of need?

Hon. Mr. Stewart: — I thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’ve illustrated how the government will help those producers, Mr. Speaker. And it’s substantial of course. You know, this is another case — the Finance Minister mentioned it earlier — where we’re criticized for not always running a surplus. And every instance where there’s an opportunity to spend more money, the opposition encourage us to do just that, Mr. Speaker.

Ms. Beck: — Mr. Speaker, this really isn’t the time for spin. I appreciate what has been done to this point, but we all know that it is not adequate. Those answers and that spin will not feed those cattle. It will not replace the herds. It will not provide the much-needed answers to these producers who are wondering where they’re going to graze their cattle next year. There are provisions that should be made available by this government in the time of this unprecedented disaster — wildfires of this scope — to help these producers. The minister knows that more is needed. Will he commit to it today?

Hon. Mr. Stewart: — Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And again I thank the member for her question. It’s legitimate. Mr. Speaker, we have provided substantial funds for this. We’d all like to give more, but our programs don’t cover insurable assets, Mr. Speaker. So while in our hearts we might like to stroke a big cheque from public funds to help these people, some of whom are actually hurting, Mr. Speaker, our programs do not cover losses on insurable assets. And virtually all of the losses in the wildfires were insurable assets and that’s why, on top of everything else we’ve done — with veterinary help, help to dispose of animals — we provided the $100,000 for the Stock Growers.

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