Hon. Brian Francis: Honourable senators, my question is for Senator Gold.
Last November, following the detection of potato wart in two fields, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency banned the export of all potatoes outside of P.E.I., including to the United States and the rest of Canada. This decision shocked and devastated the industry, which is a major employer and economic contributor in our province.
Last Friday, the ban was finally lifted on the export of P.E.I. table, or eating, potatoes, but not seed or processing potatoes, which is not expected to resume until at least 2023. That could mean two more seasons of losses.
Senator Gold, what steps, if any, are the federal government taking to move up the timeline on lifting the ban on seed potatoes?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. The government is happy the work it has done has allowed the table potato export to continue, but clearly, more work needs to be done as you properly point out.
To your question, the government will continue to take what it calls a “team Canada” approach, working with the provinces, the sectors and the stakeholders and engaging at all levels to deal with the United States regarding their concerns, which they claim are based on science, in terms of the seed potatoes. That’s the best chance, colleagues, that we have to complete the reopening of the potato market in the United States.
I note that the government is providing $28 million in compensation to farmers and 290 million pounds of potatoes will be divested to processors, packers, dehydrators, food banks and other markets. Restoring complete market access for P.E.I. fresh potatoes to the United States and supporting P.E.I. farmers remain top priorities for the government.
Senator Francis: Thank you for your answer, Senator Gold. I’m concerned by the impact the ongoing ban will have on the Island industry and economy. Could you please let us know when seed producers will receive financial compensation from the federal government and when other supports will be made available to those who wish to transition to other crops?
Senator Gold: Well, thank you. I’ll have to make inquiries in terms of the anticipated schedule of payments. I’ll report back.