Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Agriculture and Forestry

Issue 17 - Evidence - Meeting of February 22, 2007 - Afternoon

ANNAPOLIS ROYAL, NOVA SCOTIA, Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry met this day at 1:19 p.m. to examine and report on rural poverty in Canada.

Senator Joyce Fairbairn (Chairman) in the chair.


The Chairman: Honourable senators, we will now hear from people who are interested in the issue of rural poverty and who have come here today on their own to give us their views. We look forward to hearing from them.

We have with us Mr. Russell Ward, who is in the agri-business.

Mr. Ward, if you would please give us a bit of your background and tell us what is on your mind, good, bad or indifferent, following which we will, I am sure, have questions to ask.

Russell Ward, as an individual: Thank you very much. I am pleased to be able to have this opportunity. Given what I have been told, I am glad to see that we have here today a group of people from all across Canada.

The topic under discussion is rural poverty, and I am certainly part of a rural community. I have a lot of concerns in that regard because I operate a business. We have family and we have children who hope to carry on that activity, and we are looking for opportunities to continue to do that.

My father fought for democracy and came back from being overseas to start farming here in the valley. It has been a good life in general, but these last few years have been kind of tough. There is a lot of depression and stress out there. I would hope that with forums such as this we can turn that ship around.

The economy of our rural community, and a lot of other rural communities, is based on foundation industries like fishing and agriculture. Small businesses and small- and medium-size manufacturing become the economic generators for any community.

One of the biggest problems with the degradation of that economic atmosphere, as I look at it, has been the WTO trade agreements as well as others. It may not seem so at the negotiators' level. I would like some of them to come and visit our communities so they can see the downside of these trade deals.

We are good at primary production, and that is fine, but we need the next level of infrastructure. We need processing facilities. In the last few years we lost Avalon Foods, a processing facility not too far from our community in Berwick. We lost Britex, which was what I call a medium-size manufacturer. These all become the fabric of the community. We also lost a lot of our livestock and poultry processing facilities. I cannot give you the exact number of employees and jobs lost, but these are all people who live in the community and bring income to the community. Primary production and processing interface and support each other, and we have lost a lot of that.

I know from reading government releases and from the negotiators that trade seems to be the big focus. That is the thing that is supposed to solve our economic problems. Well, it is like a professor said to me in college: ``One side of the equation has to equal what is on the other side of the equation.'' I think we have gone too far on one side of the equation and not far enough on the other. If we have strong economic activity, which goes across a number of cross- sections, that also supports amenities such as schools, health services, the whole lot. I do not think there has been enough effort to look at how these things all come together to make a viable, sustainable community.

We cannot survive as a country with strong economic centres if we do not have strength within the rural areas throughout Canada. If we have weakness in one area, it is going to haul down the good things that happen in another area.

That is the picture as I see it. I feel that our governments have to be more accountable, responsible, and put more thought into these trade agreements.

I cannot think of the name of the valley in Mexico, but a lot of vegetables and other goods that come all the way from Mexico to Nova Scotia have been subsidized or produced under trade distorting situations. Someone said, ``They can produce it cheaper than we can.'' Well, I do not believe there is any responsible stewardship and accountability on the part of our Canadian government in supporting the importation of products from that area on the backs of people working under poverty. We are creating poverty here and we are continuing the poverty in which those people are living, too.

I am involved in the dairy sector, so supply management automatically comes up. I look at that as a way of doing business in that farmers are able to get a reasonable price for their products in the marketplace. When I look at non- supply management commodities, choices have been made there. However, we are in this together because most of us are experiencing low commodity prices no matter what activity we are in. To me, the game of the day for all Canadian farmers and, in fact, all Canadians, as well as the government, is to ensure we have a fair income regardless of the commodity we are producing. I am trying to connect this notion to our trade negotiating position so that one group or one way of doing business is not pitted against another. If the mission statement or the mandate behind a trade deal is to get a fair deal for everyone, then it is also important for us as Canadians and our Canadian negotiators to get a fair deal for all Canadians. If we in the agriculture sector get a fair deal, then it is good for everyone.

That kind of goes back to our communities because we are all employers. We, as farmers, are employers. The infrastructure for this industry employs people, which ends up in big paycheques and taxes. That is where I am coming from.

We need to look at trade agreements. At the last WTO, we had an agreement, yet things have slipped in the area of the spirit of the agreement. My focus is on the dairy sector, and of course I am thinking of the issue of milk protein concentrates. They are coming into this country and deteriorating the economic position of those in the dairy industry. I just use that as an example. I believe that was done through one department of the government, border revenue and customs controls, and there seemed to be no recourse. If those people are accountable to the minister and to the spirit of the agreement, why was that loophole not closed?

I am being a little bit unkind, but it is like the BSE situation. We have created a lot of economic hardship and it is frustrating. For example, look at the people who are in non-supply management activities. We did not have the infrastructure to do our own Canadian processing. There were efforts to correct that situation, but if you go to many of these places that conduct this activity, you will see boxed beef from Bolivia or Uruguay in their cold storage rooms. How did it get here and at such a cheap price? I question whether this beef meets the same requirements we as Canadians are required to meet. We are looked upon as producing good, healthy food. We have to have environmental plans, nutrient management plans and quality milk programs. We not working on the same page.

I will bring my arguments to a close. I get the message. Our governments have a big responsibility in the stewardship of our country and making sure that the equation is balanced, but I question whether we have achieved a fair balance.

Thank you for the opportunity to come and speak.

The Chairman: Thank you very much. I understand some of your concerns, coming as I do from cattle country in Southwestern Alberta.

Senator Gustafson: I certainly hear what you are saying in regard to agriculture. The problem is that this is a global issue now. Jake Epp used to say, ``It would be nice if we could have things the way we would like to see them, but we have to accept things the way they are and move on from there.'' That is where we are right now. We do not control the global economy. That is done through the Americans and the Europeans, especially the French, at least in the grain industry. You have pointed out the difference between the grain industry and the dairy industry. We are in a global economy and the WTO really has not done anything for us.

Mr. Ward: No.

Senator Gustafson: I will tell you that when we lost the Crow Rate in the West, we lost the transportation subsidy that made it all profitable for us. At the same time, according to the WTO, the Americans were supposed to give something back, but they did not. We moved to give them the whole thing, but they did not move.

The question is this: How are we to prosper in the global economy if our government will not give us a Canadian farm bill that will somehow level the playing field?

Mr. Ward: I look at the issue perhaps quite simplistically. I recognize that we are in a global trade environment, and I do not want to be outside of that. When I listen to the trade negotiators, I am concerned that they are talking with an almost defeatist attitude. They will say, ``We cannot do a deal because we are one country of 146 trying to make a deal.'' However, as Canadians, we have oil and gas, all these other resources, and the biggest issue on the agenda today is water. I guess I am saying that our Canadian government has not risen to the occasion. The message that I would leave here today is that our government and the bureaucrats involved have got to revisit how we are going to get a deal that puts Canada first. I mean, we are a great country. Let us keep it great. We have basically cannibalized all our resources, and if we do not soon start doing things a little differently, we will not enjoy a good quality of life anymore. Maybe I am talking too philosophically, but that is my message.

Senator Gustafson: No, are you are right on the money, but the fact is, how are you going to convince the government that they should take us up to the point where we have a level playing field? That is the challenge. My own view is that this would come back to the government if they invested in agriculture, but it is not happening.

Mr. Ward: That is why I am here. I am hoping that your committee group will carry this message back to the government.

The Chairman: We are building up to that.

Senator Mercer: I share your frustration with the WTO. I have not seen any great benefits to Canadians in general and, in particular, to Canadian farmers. Getting out of the WTO is a big step because it is a world economy, but Senator Gustafson was very close to quoting Wilfrid Laurier in his ``Canada first, Canada always'' speech, and maybe we need to get back to that.

Are you suggesting, Mr. Ward, that the people responsible, whether it is Agriculture and Agri-food Canada or the Canadian border patrol people, be much tougher in policing imports? I am not just talking about inspecting trucks coming across our border or ships coming into our ports. I am talking about determining the origin of, say, meat from Bolivia to ensure that it was raised in a similar manner to the meat in Canada and that the quality of the processing is up to Canadian standards.

Mr. Ward: Yes. I and my colleagues are not afraid of competition, but if we are going to have a trade deal, we want to be on the same playing field. We, as Canadians, can compete with the rest of them, but I am saying that our government officials have to see to it. I mean, the other countries do it and there are clauses in the agreements where they can do it.

Senator Mercer: That being the case, then, we obviously would have to beef up — pardon the pun — the number of people doing the inspections. We would also need to help the people who can tell us that the imports from a particular group are not up to our standards.

You spoke several times about supply management because you are a dairy farmer. Are you suggesting that we should expand supply management to other agricultural commodities?

Mr. Ward: That is the way we do business in those sectors. I am not saying that the other sectors should take it on, but it has been a model by which a group of farmers in Canada have been able to operate on a reasonably sustainable basis without receiving a whole lot of subsidies.

Right now, we are faced with the fact that every country is looking for access to Canada because they can get a good price for their products, but we do not have an opportunity to access other countries. Producers in other commodities, whether it is grain or beef or whatnot, have chosen to do business where they want. We can say, yes, that is what they should do, but there are other factors.

I see it happening in the dairy industry now. A lot of their infrastructure is internationally owned. I have made this statement before. Many of these agreements really have no substance to them because a lot of business is done through international companies. You people from the West can correct me if I am wrong, but a number of your processing facilities are internationally owned. The situation with BSE did not really make any difference to those companies, but it was very dramatic for us in the East.

Senator Mercer: I agree, but I am not from the West. I am from Hants County.

Senator Gustafson: Supply management of the Western Canada grains sector could not work because we export 80 per cent of our product. Eighty per cent of our farmers would have to quit if we were to just supply what we ate. We could not possibly do that.

Mr. Ward: Yes.

Senator Gustafson: Of course, that is the problem. The grain farmers are really hurting the worst under this situation.

Senator Peterson: Being from Saskatchewan, I can certainly relate to the issues you have raised and the dilemma in which we find ourselves. They sometimes seem insurmountable, but we have to come up with solutions.

The Americans and the Europeans are not going to stop giving subsidies no matter what we say. Their farm lobbies are too strong. It is such a small part of their whole operation that it would be like swatting a fly. They are just not going to do that, so we have to take it as a given.

As Senator Gustafson said, we cannot consume what we can grow. We know that farmers in Canada are the best in the world, but as one presenter in P.E.I. said, ``How long can we be the best in the world, overproduce and lose money? You just lose money faster.'' Therefore, we come back to this question: Can we develop a domestic policy whereby farmers would grow what can be consumed, would get a fair price and maybe a carbon credit for all the land that they take out of production? Is such a policy viable?

Mr. Ward: I keep coming back to my theme that the negotiation of a trade agreement must include all of these considerations, these demographics. It is difficult, but I am offering the challenge. We have capable technical people, and I am asking that they get the job done. I am asking them to come up with a trade agreement that is beneficial to the Canadian agricultural industry, whether it is a grain producer in Saskatchewan or Alberta, a beef producer out West, or a farmer in Ontario or here in Atlantic Canada.

For me to be viable and sustainable as a producer, I have to understand that it is a changing world. We are in a global market, and we have to have a trade agreement in place which reflects that fact. That is where I am coming from, but I have not worked out the particulars.

Senator Peterson: We are going down the road. It is a global world out there, but I am not so sure it is in agriculture. I think 85 per cent of our trade is done with the Americans, who view trade as a good thing whenever it is working well for them.

Mr. Ward: Yes.

Senator Peterson: We only have to look at the softwood lumber dispute. How many times did we go to the WTO? We won every time and still they decimated our industry.

Mr. Ward: Yes.

Senator Peterson: They will do the same thing here. It is hard to negotiate a package with someone who is ready to swindle you, who does not really care.

Mr. Ward: No one is prepared to leverage our advantages against the Americans. Everyone is scared. I mean, we have gas, we have oil and we have water.

Senator Peterson: Yes, I agree with you, but if we start going down that road, the ballgame is over. We can forget about agreements, about promises, about everything, but we do seem to have the trump cards.

Mr. Ward: Yes.

Senator Peterson: They take all of our oil and all of our gas. If they ever got access to our water, we would really be in trouble. I guess we just have to treat it as a tough problem.

Senator Mahovlich: We negotiated a deal. They were tough negotiators. Pat Carney negotiated for years. Who is doing well in this deal? Someone must be doing well.

The Chairman: The bureaucrats.

Senator Mahovlich: It is not the farmers. You can hear them from one side of the country to the other. They are all complaining.

Mr. Ward: Yes.

Senator Mahovlich: Who won in this negotiation?

The Chairman: The bureaucrats do most of it.

Mr. Ward: I do not have access to the statistics, but all I hear is that Canada's trade is its economic livelihood. Now, the trade must all be in communications and telecommunications, I do not know. Perhaps it is in hockey.

Senator Mahovlich: That is true.

The Chairman: Maybe that is who we mean.

Senator Mahovlich: A lot of Canadians are playing down in the States.

Mr. Ward: They all want their deals in American money.

I cannot answer that one, senator. All I know is that this is the buzzword of the day. All I hear is that we must export because this is the only way Canada can survive. We are an exporting nation. However, when I look at our resource industries, we have no wood left, no fish left. I do not know where we are with respect to minerals, gas and oil, but if we do not start looking at them, we will not have those either.

Senator Callbeck: Mr. Ward, I am glad you came to the table. We had a good discussion at lunchtime and I encouraged you to come forward. Being from the Island, I can certainly relate to what you are saying. There is no question that we are good at primary production and can compete efficiently, but unless we have a level playing field, it is nearly impossible.

Mr. Ward: Yes.

Senator Callbeck: With respect to taking land out of production, it is interesting to watch what is going on in Prince Edward Island with potato production. As you know, farmers are being paid for not growing potatoes.

Mr. Ward: Which in some ways is a supply management principle.

Senator Callbeck: Right, but it seems to be working. Whether it will continue, we will have to see. Thank you for coming today.

Mr. Ward: I am pleased to be here. I did not think I was going to create this much of a stir.

Senator Mercer: You did.

Mr. Ward: I was kind of scared I would get myself into deep water that I could not get out of.

The Chairman: Thank you very much.

We now have with us Bill Goucher, President of the Annapolis and Area Food Bank Society, and Frances Rafuse, the food bank's volunteer treasure. We are delighted to have you here and interested to hear what you have to say.

Bill Goucher, President, Annapolis and Area Food Bank Society: First of all, I would like to say that I am one of the fortunate ones to have had most of my ancestry arrive in this area on the Charming Molly. I have spent nearly 80 years in this area and feel that I have gained a great deal of insight into the issue of rural poverty, which has always bothered me.

I have taught in the schools of Annapolis Country and Kings County for 40 years, and during that time, rural poverty has increased considerably among the children. It is my contention, ladies and gentlemen, that if this country does not start to build a stronger foundation of health among its children, the grown-ups who will be the leaders of this country in the future will not have the strength. If they do not have the strength, they will lack the character to build a strong nation, which I hope will be built.

I am in my third year as President of the Annapolis and Area Food Bank, and we serve a large area. We serve the district that sends children to the Annapolis Education Centre; that is, to the high school, the junior high school and to Champlain Elementary School, which is over across the river in Granville Ferry.

Working in the food bank, I see several challenges in regard to the rural poor. As you probably know, this area has suffered some setbacks in regard to employment. The first one occurred when Canadian Forces Base Cornwallis closed and threw many people out of work. Recently, we had another closer with Shaw Wood furniture factory. These are but two of the factors that have increased unemployment. One can say that the opening of the call centre at Cornwallis known as Convergys has helped, but there are factors that have to be pointed out. One of those is that you may have a workforce, but it has to be educated to a certain degree, and this is an area where that is lacking. The people who work there have very limited means of public transportation; most cannot afford their own vehicles. The hours of work do not lend themselves particularly to people with families because no daycare or child care facilities are readily available.

The workforce that I am speaking about has lacked education. This is one of the main factors that has stopped many of these people from gaining employment above the minimum wage to provide them sufficient funds. Many who do gain higher education fail to find employment in the area because there is no demand for their skills. When there is no demand for your skills, you have to go look for work elsewhere. Therefore, there is an educational drain out of this area.

Those who fall on the resources of social assistance do not receive sufficient funds to cover the necessities of a bare existence. When we subtract the rising cost of electricity, heating oil and rent from what these people receive, there is not much left over to provide good, wholesome food for children.

What happens when a family in this state suddenly has a child come home and say, ``Mom, I broke my glasses today?'' The child may say, ``Mum, the school says I need two pairs of sneakers.'' He is lucky to have one pair. There goes more money down the drain, which means less of the healthy food these children need. Our food bank then steps in to provide for these children as best we can.

About two years ago, we discovered that the Champlain Elementary School was working hard to provide a breakfast program for its children. The food bank concluded that the best thing we could do would be to help them. After due consideration, we decided that we would supply all the bread for this breakfast program so that we would at least know that these children were getting good food to start their day off.

In the food bank, we mainly see very sad cases, and we find that people will readily say that they brought it upon themselves. The parents may have brought it upon themselves, but the children did not and those children have a right to be looked after. They have a right to proper eyeglasses. They have a right to proper dental work. They have a right to be clothed properly so they are not made fun of when they go to school. Many of the children in the families that we serve are under the age of 12.

During my 40 years of teaching in this areas, I was well aware of the number of children who come to school without breakfast or even lunch. Many times, I shared or gave all of my lunch to a hungry child. Many of you know that teaching is demanding, but the difficulty greatly increases when the child is hungry. A growling stomach does not lend itself to an attentive ear.

The increased time and regulations for people to obtain unemployment benefits seems to me to be very unreasonable. I was shocked this morning when I read the newspaper and saw news of a great surplus, yet it seems that our people are not able to access any of it.

Paperwork must be filled out for a person to get benefits, but people without an education often make mistakes in filling those forms out, which puts them another six weeks or eight weeks behind. In that time, those people need somewhere to go, and so the food bank fills that void.

When we established our food bank in 1992, we thought perhaps it would only be for a short duration, but the need is increasing all the time. At present, the Annapolis and Area Food Bank Society serves about 43 families. Of these, 70 per cent are single parents and, as I said before, the children in those families are under the age of 12.

One of the key drivers that contributes greatly to rural poverty is the lack of education or lack of desire to get an education. It is a sad thing when you find a family coming to a food bank and you begin to look back in history only to discover that they are perhaps the fourth generation to depend upon what used to be referred to as ``the dole.'' This means that they have lost respect because most of us like to feel that we can carry our own weight. They reach the point where they say, ``I am not even going to try any more,'' and so they come to us.

As my dad used to say, poverty is with us and will always be with us. However, I do not agree that we need to let it get to the point where the foundation of this country will be built upon children who have not had proper nourishment during a time when we could have helped them.

I thank you for the opportunity to make this submission.

Frances Rafuse, Volunteer Treasurer, Annapolis and Area Food Bank Society: As treasurer, we are totally, 100 per cent funded by the generosity of the people in our own area. We receive no corporate funding. We do not ask for help and have never had to ask. We have never once said, ``The food bank needs money.'' This surprises me every time I am doing receipts at Christmas time because we get enough money over Christmas to carry us through the entire year. We have never asked for one cent. The money just comes from the people of the area, who are not all that wealthy. Some of them make sacrifices. A lot of that money comes from little kids who know that there are other little kids who are hungry. It tears at your heart to look at a child who realizes that another child is in serious need. Our mandate is to feed the people in our area, and the people in our area support our efforts.

The Chairman: You must be doing a very fine job, and we are glad that you are both here today.

Senator Mercer: As a Nova Scotian, I appreciate the work you do and the fact that you do it with limited resources and that this community is so generous, which is typical of many communities here.

Mr. Goucher, in your brief, you mentioned a call centre and talked about the difficulty with child care. Is there no child care centre associated with the call centre?

Mr. Goucher: Not to my knowledge.

Senator Mercer: I ask that question because call centres work at odd hours, not the nine to five that child care centres work. That is the issue, that this call centre works the shift work.

Ms. Rafuse: Yes.

Mr. Goucher: Yes.

Senator Mercer: We heard this morning from the mayor and the warden about public transit and the Kings Transit Authority. Has public transit helped in any way with respect to getting poorer people in the community back and forth to work?

Mr. Goucher: Kings Transit has helped with regard to the shifts that work within the hours covered. For example, I know of one girl who got her boss to let her start her shift at one o'clock because the bus goes at 12:30. She is then able to catch the one after her shift is over to go back home. However, that is only one route and there are three shifts a day.

Senator Mercer: However, we have learned in our study that this is a unique community in the sense that there is public transit in a rural community. This is the first one we have seen, which is great news for the community.

You said that you serve 43 families, 70 per cent of which are single-parent families. That is a startling statistic. You are a former school teacher. You did not mention literacy in the process, but you talked about the lack of desire for education. Is literacy at the crux of this problem?

Mr. Goucher: Very few of our single-parent families have received a high school education. For those who have, they have fallen into the trap of being unwed mothers. Even though there is continuing education for some, a lot of them feel that they are not in a position to take advantage of it because they have small children at home. To go to community college, there is tuition and they certainly do not have that money.

Senator Mercer: Are there no community-based literacy programs carried out by volunteers or service clubs?

Mr. Goucher: I do not believe there are.

Ms. Rafuse: This leads to a whole other issue because these people are unfortunate enough to be in a mindset. It takes more than encouragement to get them to do anything for themselves. They follow a pattern. We even ploughed a garden, gave them the seeds and asked them if they could come and plant their own crops, but it did not happen. Not one seed was ever planted in that garden, unless some of the board members did it.

As far as transportation goes, I would like to mention that the bus only travels main highways. Many of these people live in communities that are far outside the transit line.

Mr. Goucher: Yes, I would say probably 60 per cent of them.

Senator Gustafson: As you know, this committee is studying rural poverty. Are you getting a lot of the rural poor coming to your food bank?

Mr. Goucher: I would say probably 85 per cent of them are rural.

Senator Gustafson: In your opinion, then, is rural poverty a greater problem than urban poverty?

Mr. Goucher: Definitely.

Senator Gustafson: In Saskatchewan, I think that is starting to be the trend. It has never been, but due to years of very low commodity prices, many of our rural people are finding life very difficult. They are proud people in that they have always been self-sufficient. This is not true in every case. There are exceptions, but there used to be a saying, ``We have never been short of food.''

It is a different world now. People are not growing gardens. They could be. They are not milking cows by hand. They are not feeding chickens anymore. We have seen advancements in our society, but some of them have not been for the better.

Mr. Goucher: In my childhood, it would have been rare for my parents go into the winter without at least 300 to 400 bottles on the basement shelves, salt mackerel with sauerkraut, the potato bin full. It was tough, but we never went without.

Senator Gustafson: That is right.

Mr. Goucher: When food is abundant, you say to people, ``You should get out and get this picked and stored,'' but we cannot seem to get that message across to them. They eat packaged foods. You buy this afternoon what you will eat for supper tonight. I did not grow up that way. I find that difficult to understand because my dad might have gone to the store once a month. He grew the staples the rest of the time. We knew what we were going to have because it was in the basement.

Senator Gustafson: I was a boy 10 years after you were. We had a wagonload of potatoes that would go into the basement and we were not in potato country.

What is the age of most of the people who use your facility?

Mr. Goucher: I would say the oldest adult would be in their early sixties, maybe 65. The rest range from 21 to 30.

Senator Gustafson: Are these people healthy?

Mr. Goucher: Yes.

Senator Callbeck: In terms of the drivers of rural poverty, you said there were two factors: the lack of education and the lack of desire for education. I want to ask you about the latter because yesterday, in Edmundston, we heard about a lack of respect for education. We heard about this as well in Prince Edward Island. I would like to hear your thoughts as to what we can do to try to turn that around.

Mr. Goucher: You have hit a subject that perhaps I should not go to because you will be telling me that my time is up. I find that these people have lost or never had self-respect or self-discipline. When a child does not have self-respect or self-discipline, you have a real problem.

In my years of teaching, the first thing I needed to do was let those children realize that they were individuals and that what they had to offer was of value. They learned self-respect. Once a child learns self-respect, then that child zooms ahead. Until they learn self-respect and self-discipline, they are content to take whatever you give them. I found that once self-discipline was established in my classroom, I did not have to worry about anything except teaching.

It is sad today to see young people who are allowing themselves to drift to such levels as I cannot even imagine. My grandchildren will say, ``You better go talk to grandpa before you do that because you know what he thinks about it.'' I established the idea of self-respect and self-discipline and then let them go on their own, but you need those qualities before you can go on your own.

Ms. Rafuse: Your question is the most difficult one I have had to think about for a long time because I do not know how you teach or get through to someone who has never had respect for education. We now have second- and third- generation people coming to the food bank, so it is becoming a vicious circle. How do you get through to a particular person to stop that cycle? I am sorry, but I do not have the answer — I wish I did.

Senator Callbeck: It is a tough question, and I do not know if anyone has the answer.

Ms. Rafuse: For example, it may be that if the people they live near or associate with are happy with that way of life, then they are all happy with that way of life.

Mr. Goucher: This poverty question is also exacerbated by ads saying, ``Don't pay for two years.'' Two years seems a long way off, and the first thing you know, two years is on the doorstep. They have no concept of budgeting.

Ms. Rafuse: The first time I heard a cellphone ring, we were getting groceries ready for a boy. His cellphone rang and I had to go behind the counter and laugh because none of us had a cellphone.

The Chairman: The better part of my life over the last 20 years or so has been devoted to the issue of literacy. Unless people are encouraged at a very early age, illiteracy becomes a pattern from one generation to another, which is something we have to face. Whether that lack of desire is in your area or other parts of our society, it is everywhere.

You are performing extraordinarily good work and we thank you for explaining how you are doing. I bet the people who come to your operation leave with their heads a little higher after they have met with you. Thank you very much.

The committee adjourned.