Evidence of meeting #2 for Bill C-18 (41st Parliament, 1st Session) in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was farmers.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

8:40 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Greg Meredith

No, there is no plan for the current directors of the Canadian Wheat Board.

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Do I still have time for another question?

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

You still have several minutes, Mr. Rousseau.

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Okay, thank you very much.

Did you know that, when the Wheat Board in Australia was dismantled, the repercussions were catastrophic? Given that, what makes you think that the same thing won't happen in the long run when the Canadian Wheat Board is dismantled?

8:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

John Knubley

Our working group has not looked at the problems that might arise the way they did in Australia. We have focused on the regulatory aspects.

When we discussed the issues of access to ports and inland terminals, we did consider various aspects of regulation that were possible. One aspect was the access measures that Australia had adopted for terminal owners to obtain accreditation to export wheat. We did look at that to see whether it would be a regulation that would be appropriate for Canada. In the end we decided that type of regulation would not be appropriate and it would be better to monitor any anti-competitive behaviour and let the market work in the first instance.

8:45 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau Compton—Stanstead, QC

Yet the price per tonne went from $99 to $27 in Australia. That is a significant drop. How can we make sure that the same thing won't happen here in Canada?

8:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

John Knubley

Again, on the issue of Australia, in the working group we focused on the regulatory aspects. In terms of how it worked in Australia on the issues at play, what I can say as deputy minister is that I was at the Cairns Group meeting, and the Australian trade minister, Craig Emerson, was there participating in the meeting. It was at that point--andMinister Ritz has cited this occasion many times--that he indicated that the changes in Australia have been very positive and that Australian wheat now exports to 41 countries with multiple sellers, compared to 17 under the single desk of the Australian Wheat Board.

Again, as deputy minister I was at that press conference where the Australian minster spoke to the benefits of the changes that have happened in Australia.

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Mr. Knubley.

Mr. Rousseau, your time has expired. Thank you very much.

We will move to Mr. Hoback for five minutes, please.

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you all for being here today.

This question is looking forward and looking at the new entity that has been created, as well as the transition period. But before I go there, I'd like to know what cooperation or involvement the existing board had with the working group in taking advantage of the situation of signing up acres or actually going about and selling grain, as a new entity, into the new crop years, maybe two or three years out.

8:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

John Knubley

Could you pose that question again?

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

I will try to rephrase it. The board had an opportunity this summer to go out and sell grain. Did they make you aware of any sales they had made as a new entity, into the upcoming years, that they would be trying to complete the sales?

We've had accredited exporters come to visit us here in Ottawa saying that they couldn't source grain from the board after March. I just can't see any reason why they wouldn't be able to source grain.

8:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

John Knubley

I think they were coming at it from other grain companies, in the sense that they wanted certainty and predictability in terms of the future regime. It wasn't something the working group looked at.

What we do know from talking to Ian White, the president of the Wheat Board, is that the desire to establish those contracts and commercial arrangements is there. What's needed is the clarity of the passage of the bill.

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Again, that's another reason for getting this bill done as quickly as possible.

As you were getting your information that you needed to do your work, would you say the cooperation from the existing board was helpful, open, and useful, or was it more hostile in nature?

8:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

I recognize Mr. Valeriote on a point of order.

8:50 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

I have to object to the question.

The directors of the Canadian Wheat Board have a fiduciary duty to do everything they can within their power to keep that board alive in its current form. The kind of negativity that's being implied actually negates the obligations that the Wheat Board members have right now. I'd ask Mr. Hoback to reconsider or at least rephrase his question about whether they participated or not, and why they might not have.