Evidence of meeting #3 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

  • Allen Oberg  Chair, Canadian Wheat Board
  • Ian McCreary  Former Director and Farmer, Canadian Wheat Board
  • Kenneth A. Rosaasen  Professor, University of Saskatchewan
  • Stewart Wells  Director, District 3, Canadian Wheat Board
  • Henry Vos  Former Director, Canadian Wheat Board
  • Ron Bonnett  President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture
  • Jeff Nielsen  Former Director, Canadian Wheat Board
  • John Knubley  Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food
  • Greg Meredith  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Blaine Calkins

You posed a question publicly to Ms. Ashton. To my knowledge, nothing has been received, but there was no compulsory reason for Ms. Ashton to produce the report.

Please proceed with your line of questioning, Mr. Hoback.

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

It is disappointing. She must have some inside information about Cargill's ownership structure that nobody else around the table has.

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

They're privately owned.

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

That's my point exactly.

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Okay.

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Somehow she knows that the share value is going up.

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Yes, there are no shares.

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Anyway, Minister, I want to thank you for standing up for farmers. Thank you for putting up with this barrage of questioning and having the gumption to see this through. I appreciate that. More importantly, my constituents and farmers appreciate that and want to pat you on the back. They're ready to celebrate once this is done. It'll be a great celebration right across the Prairies, because they have been shackled, jailed, bullied, and targeted. Now all of this is going to come to an end.

It's interesting that when you travel abroad and start talking about the Wheat Board, people go up to you and ask if you really have an entity like that in Canada, of all places. We are definitely righting a wrong that's been in there for way too long, and I commend you for doing that.

Minister, one concern that my constituents and farmers have is that the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board seems to have a scorched earth policy of making sure that anything new in this new entity will not survive. They're trying to make sure that it's discredited. They've spread a whole pile of fear that the entity itself will not be capable of working. In fact, they're spending farmers' money right now doing that.

The other concern I have is that they're spending farmers' money in a legal suit against the government, trying to stop the government from moving forward on what farmers really want. Parliament creates a law. Parliament has the right to repeal its laws at its will. Even our colleague, Mr. Martin, would agree with that comment, because he has said that before.

Do the CWB directors' legal challenges pose any risk to the passage of this legislation?

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Well, I'm no lawyer, but any lawyer will tell you that it's like the weather forecast—there's a 10% chance of everything.

Even the board's internal legal process has said that there is a slim-to-none chance of this moving forward. Certainly the government of the day has the right to change legislation. That's what we're doing. Again, we're not dismantling the board; we're simply moving away from the monopoly.

As you said, it's a scorched earth policy. I find it very sad that the board did not continue to forward contracts and hedge, and so on.

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Exactly.

9:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

That would have been an ideal time to make sure that the new entity had grain on the ground and could move forward. Instead, they just shut it down. That's really unfortunate, because there was an option for that to happen. That's why at royal assent other groups will be able to move forward, including the new entity. We'll be able to start offering those forward contracts in hedging at that point. That's one of the reasons we're pushing hard to get this done as quickly as possible.

I also find it very disturbing that as the board lost favour with farmers, they spent $65 million to $70 million, that we know of, on these lakers, without a lick of consultation with farmers. They took that money right out of the pool accounts, which was really unfortunate. Now they're spending money on lawyers and advertising campaigns without discussing it with farmers. It's actually coming back to bite them a little. Farmers are moving away, saying they've gone over the top.

If I had any warning at all, I'd say, “Slow down, check what you're doing, and come work with us to make sure this new entity has a chance to move forward. We will do our best to make sure it has a chance to get grain on the ground and farmers supplying it.”

At the same time we're also seeing farmers counter-suing the board for using their money like that. I think that's one option farmers will always have. It's unfortunate that it has to get tied up in the courts. From the legal opinions I've seen and been privy to, I don't see this as tying us up at all. I certainly look forward to hearing what any judge has to say about this. As you rightly point out, Mr. Martin has agreed with us on the supremacy of Parliament.

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

I have a question about the working group and Mr. White's participation in it.

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

He's not allowed to participate.

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Can you explain why? Do you know why he wasn't allowed to participate--

9:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

We asked for representation from the board on the working group chaired by Deputy Minister Knubley, and we got a flat no. We asked for Mr. White as the chair, and probably one of the directors--or however they wanted to set it up. We asked for representation from the board. They did not want to have anything to do with anything other than the monopoly, period. That was their line in the sand.