Madam Speaker, I begin this debate a little heavy-hearted, because this is an issue that is near and dear to me and I just want to reiterate what I just heard.
I just heard the member of Parliament for Calgary Skyview advocate against jobs in his own riding in the Calgary airport, jobs of shipping horses. This is from a bill from the member for Kitchener—Conestoga.
Apparently this is the pressing issue in Kitchener—Conestoga. It is not affordability. It is not any other issue, like day care, crime or violence in our communities and streets or people using food banks; the most pressing issue in Kitchener—Conestoga apparently is what some Métis people in Alberta are doing, and a few farmers in Manitoba, Alberta and Quebec are doing, when it comes to horses.
It is a niche market, as I will freely admit, and my constituents admit that, but it is an important issue. I am referring, obviously, to this notion of somehow singling out horses for export from our agricultural community. In essence, the government and its acolytes in the Senate have launched a two-pronged attack. The first bill here is Bill C-355, which we are debating today, and the second is Bill S-270. Both of these bills would prohibit the export of live horses from Canada for the purpose of slaughter. The primary difference is that Bill C-355 would only restrict that export by air, while the Senate bill would do so more generally and broadly.
Since this issue is not often discussed in the public domain, other than in misinformation campaigns, I would like to begin my speech today with a few statistics and some key information about this valuable industry.
There were only 347 exporting breeders in Canada, and they exported a total of 2,600 animals for slaughter in the last year, 2022. For the education of my colleague for Calgary Skyview who just spoke and said that we used to export 7,000, that was because we used to have PMU barns and we used to produce a lot more horses because of that pregnant mare urine, which is a biotic used for the creation of birth control. As that was phased out in favour of therapeutics, the number of horses has gone down.
However, we still need a market for these animals, but that member would not know that. I do not think there are a whole lot of horse breeders or horse raisers in Calgary Skyview, which is fine. I always find a lot of humour in listening to my Liberal colleagues from urban areas talk about how much they clearly do not know about agriculture. That number is complemented by another 10,840 live horses that are also exported, but not for the purpose of slaughter. Basically, a five-to-one ratio of horses that are actually exported are not for slaughter, but who is going to know what the motives are of the buyer of that particular horse when it is purchased in Canada and shipped on an airplane?
While the distribution of this industry, as I said, is spread across the country, the greatest number of these animals comes from my province of Alberta, as well as Ontario and Manitoba. It should be noted that 25% of these horses come from indigenous herds. I remember when this government used to say that there is no relationship more important to it than the relationship with first nations people; a quarter of this industry is actually providing income and stability to the economic viability of first nations, primarily the Métis in Alberta.
Canada consumes 1,000 to 1,200 tonnes of horsemeat every year. This is mainly in la belle province of Quebec. As well, over a billion people—16%, so almost two in 10 people on this planet—consume horsemeat, so almost 20% of human beings on the planet consume horses. That is an astounding number, but apparently it is not good enough for those who do not know the industry, do not know anything about agriculture and never represented anybody in agriculture, and they are just going to shut down this industry.
It is also very healthy meat, with 20% more protein than beef, 25% less fat, 20% less sodium and double the iron of a beef sirloin, so I do not know why my colleagues across the way are protesting so much.
Now that we have a picture of what this industry looks like in this country, I would like to stay with what the Liberals propose to do with Bill C-355, and it is nothing short of shameful. The bill would require an unreasonable regulatory process to be undertaken prior to any flight being allowed to depart with a horse on board. This includes a signed declaration, to be approved by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, that the horses are not being exported for slaughter.
Can members imagine? The pilots have about five minutes when the plane pushes back from the gate when the pilots have the authority to get their documentation, get everything signed, push back and take off.
Now, we would have to have an approved letter from the Minister of Agriculture just before push-back. I am sure that would be an interesting bureaucratic hoop to jump through. This declaration must then be in the hands of the pilots of that aircraft and the chief customs officer of the airport. If it is contravened, the consequences of this act would be devastating. On the higher end, fines of up to a quarter of a million dollars, imprisonment for a term of not more than two years or both may result.
One gets less for violating a gun prohibition order in this country. This is the way the folks across the aisle think about these particular issues. There is nothing more damaging to Canada, apparently, than a farmer.
This is not speculation. The Air Line Pilots Association, International, for Canada has expressed concerns. It represents 95% of the unionized pilot workforce employed at 21 airlines.
The result of this bill would be to essentially restrict the air transportation of all horses in and out of Canada for all purposes. Not only would this bill impose an unfair burden of proof on the pilots and exporters, who cannot always be assured of what the end use is of the horse that is on board, but it would also dissuade them from even taking any live horses as cargo because of the overly punitive fines.
As previously mentioned, Canada exports 10,840 live horses for purposes other than slaughter. This bill would inadvertently hurt those producers as well, as it would make it harder for them to find air shippers that are willing to take their cargo.
For example, this may cause delays for those who need to fly horses engaged in Olympic or other equestrian competitions, as well as horses that are simply sold for their genetics and used in breeding programs elsewhere in the world.
These delays could jeopardize their opportunity to compete and represent their country internationally. We would lose things such as the Spruce Meadows and show jumping. We would have all kinds of problems, even applying for an Olympic bid in this country, because somebody would bring their horse here and would like to take it home with them. “Not a chance in Canada,” say the Liberals.
I must say that this bill is not just about the export of horses. It is part of a larger issue, which is the general assault on the Canadian farmer, who is already burdened by costly carbon taxes and excessive regulations.
We saw this disregard for farmers again recently, when the Liberal-controlled independent senators blocked Bill C-234's passage through the Senate. Finally, when they did pass it, they amended it to gut the bill of its impact. Instead of healing the urban-rural divide, the government is still stoking division.
This debate is personal for me. The horse export industry is prominent in my riding of Red Deer—Lacombe. A testament to this importance can be found in some of the feedback I have received from constituents and stakeholders. As one can imagine, in mixed and rural ridings such as mine, the impact of such legislation can be of outsized importance. This includes a member of an Alberta Métis group.
As part of a larger statement to us, they have stated, “There has been no consultation with indigenous producers and people on the plan to ban the export of live horses. The Canadian government has a history of stepping on indigenous farmers.”
There is a duty to consult in the Constitution, and they have not done that with this bill. I would also like to point out that the rationale for banning the bill, based on the so-called premise of animal welfare, is all based on misinformation and untruths.
This is especially the case when it comes to claims of mistreatment and abuse of these animals during their transportation. I can tell members that I grew up on a farm. On the farm, our animals are the most important thing we have. They are part of our business. We have to treat them well and with respect, because our business and livelihood both depend on the health and viability of these animals.
Since 2013, over 41,000 horses have been exported. The mortality rate at all stages of transport, not just on the airplane, is 0.012%. Basically, this is statistically insignificant. I want to highlight that no deaths as a result of the transportation of these animals have occurred since 2014.
We have veterinary oversight. We have very stringent transportation rules for animals. This is a clear campaign by misinformed individuals who simply want to make an emotional argument to try to shut down an industry that they disagree with ideologically.
This is absolutely frustrating, not only for my constituents but also for all farmers. It is a slippery slope. I urge all my colleagues in the House to vote against this bill.