House of Commons Hansard #12 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Ways And Means
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1) I wish to table a notice of a ways and means motion respecting the imposition of duties, of customs and other taxes to provide relief against the imposition of certain duties and taxes and to provide for other related matters.

At the same time, I would ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of a motion.

Firearms Act
Routine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-236, an act to repeal the Firearms Act and to make certain amendments to the Criminal Code.

Mr. Speaker, I rise to table my private member's bill to repeal the Firearms Act and to require that persons convicted of using a firearm to commit a crime must serve five years in prison; and that the sentence is increased to ten years if the firearm is actually fired.

This bill is important because the Canadian people want a serious crackdown on the unlawful use of firearms rather than legislation which aims primarily at law-abiding gun owners.

(Motion deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Negotiation Of Terms Of Separation Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-237, an act to provide for a national referendum to authorize the Government of Canada to negotiate terms of separation with a province that has voted for separation from Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to table my private member's bill entitled the negotiation of terms of separation act. This legislation provides the principles to determine whether a provincial vote to separate is valid and would require partition of any provincial electoral areas not voting to leave Canada. It would require a clear statement on a separation ballot of what a yes vote truly means. If Parliament agreed that such a vote was valid, then the Government of Canada would be required to hold a binding national referendum to authorize it to negotiate terms of separation.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Fiscal Responsibility Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Reform

Ted White North Vancouver, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-238, an act to establish principles of responsible fiscal management and to require regular publication of information by the Minister of Finance to demonstrate the government's adherence to those principles.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to introduce this bill. It is quite lengthy and sets out requirements for the Minister of Finance to state his intentions over the next few years to forecast the finances of the country and to give reasons on a yearly basis as to why he is not meeting his targets.

In addition, it requires the publishing at least three months before the start of each fiscal year of a complete budget policy statement using standard accounting practices so that all the obligations of government are listed.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Consumer Packaging And Labelling Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Reform

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-239, an act to amend the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (recombinant hormones).

Mr. Speaker, this bill is directed toward the ethical and health components of new technology. Genetic engineering is evident with bovine growth hormone. This bill would make certain that those individuals who wish to have the choice to use or not use milk produced in this way would have the product labelled. The bill has larger implications in terms of genetic technology in general. It will also look at labelling of other foods that are genetically engineered.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Debt Servicing And Reduction Account Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Reform

Ted White North Vancouver, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-240, an act to amend the Debt Servicing and Reduction Account Act (gifts to the crown).

Mr. Speaker, this bill would put an end to a process that has been taking place over the years. There has always been a debt reduction and servicing account where people could make gifts to the crown, supposedly to reduce the debt. But the government has always had access to that account and could play this sort of shell game where it pays off a bit of the debt and then borrows the money back again.

My bill would make sure that any money given specifically to the crown to pay down the debt would have to stay in trust until such time as there were surpluses, then it could be used to pay down the debt.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Immigration Act
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-241, an act to amend the Immigration Act (right of landing fee).

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce my private member's bill in the House today. This bill amends the Immigration Act to prevent the assessment of the right of landing fee on immigrants in addition to the application fee. This will prevent economic discrimination against immigrants from low income countries which may be caused by such fees.

Canada is a land of immigrants and the current right of landing fee placed on people coming to Canada in addition to their application fee is discriminatory and regressive.

This practice goes against our history and against our vision of our country. Almost everyone can trace their roots back to immigrants and even today immigrants continue to play an important role in Canada's development.

This bill is a step in returning Canada back to its vision regarding immigrants. This bill was introduced in the second session of the 35th Parliament and I hope that members of the House will seriously consider the bill's intent and purpose.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Jim Gouk West Kootenay—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition from my constituents who point out that they are opposed to the potential legislation on dietary supplements that would significantly and very negatively impact on the health and well-being of thousands of Canadians, especially the elderly and the chronically ill.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to table a petition from citizens across Canada who are concerned about national unity.

They ask that Parliament confirm that Canada's boundaries can only be resolved either by a free vote of all Canadians or through amending the Constitution by means of the amending formula.

This is one of the most critical issues facing our country and I hope the government will give serious consideration to these constructive suggestions.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Algoma—Manitoulin, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present petitions today from hundreds of people from the St. Joseph Island and Desbarats area of my riding.

The petitioners are concerned with the court decision in Ontario last year overturning a conviction of a women who went topless in public. They ask that the federal government do something about this matter.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

October 7th, 1997 / 10:10 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Adams Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I suggest that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bill C-4. On the order: Government Orders

September 25, 1997—The Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board—Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food of Bill C-4, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Canadian Wheat Board Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

moved:

That Bill C-4, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to open the debate on the proposed new law to change the Canadian Wheat Board, and to bring about the biggest changes in western grain marketing in more than half a century. At the outset I want to thank the government House leader for ensuring that this new legislation, Bill C-4, is before the House of Commons at a very early stage in this new Parliament. It is getting prompt, priority attention which is important to prairie farmers.

I noticed one urban news reporter complaining the other day that Bill C-4 had “suddenly” been introduced in the House. It may have escaped that reporter's attention that amendments to the Canadian Wheat Board Act have been under consideration for more than two years. The consultations and analyses have been both exhaustive and exhausting, probably the most comprehensive in history. The whole process has been thoroughly public and transparent.

We promised to move quickly in this new Parliament to make the Canadian Wheat Board more democratic, more accountable and more flexible and to place more decision-making authority in the hands of grain producers than ever before in history. Bill C-4 fulfils that undertaking.

The Canadian Wheat Board is a $6 billion enterprise doing business in 70 countries worldwide. It ranks among the top 10 Canadian exporters. It is the country's biggest single earner of foreign exchange. Once Bill C-4 is enacted, farmers will be in the driver's seat like never before.

Throughout its history the Canadian Wheat Board has been governed by a small group of up to five commissioners, all appointed by the Government of Canada without any requirement that anybody be consulted and legally responsible only to the Government of Canada. But in today's dynamic and changing marketplace, producers have made it clear that they want the Canadian Wheat Board to be more accountable to them. They want more control, and that is what Bill C-4 will provide.

Under the new law for the first time in history, the CWB will be run by a duly constituted board of directors. There will be 15 directors in total and two-thirds of them, 10 directors, will be elected directly by prairie farmers. That is a solid controlling majority. If Parliament is able to deal with this bill promptly, the elections to select these new directors can be held before another crop is planted.

The law will provide that all of the powers of the Canadian Wheat Board are vested in the hands of its directors. Because two-thirds of them will be elected, they will be directly accountable through the democratic process for how they manage the CWB's multibillion dollar business.

In addition to their general power to run all the affairs of the CWB and in response to specific recommendations from farmers, the directors will have the explicit authority to choose their own chairperson, to set the salaries of the directors, the chairperson and the president, to conduct regular performance appraisals on the president and to recommend his or her dismissal if thought necessary.

Contrary to erroneous assertions of some of the wheat board's more strident critics, like that gaggle of political drifters who make up the so-called Saskatchewan Party in my home province, neither the CWB nor the government will retain any power to fire any elected director.

To ensure that farmers are well served, the directors will be entitled to full disclosure of all facts and figures about CWB operations, including but not limited to audited financial statements. They will be able to examine the prices at which grain is sold, the price premiums achieved, all operating costs and whether the CWB is truly efficient.

Through its elected directors the CWB will gain the benefit of the practical expertise of real producers. If they are not satisfied with how the CWB deals with farmers or its sales strategy or the way it does business, they will have the authority to change things as they see fit democratically.

One group that has been particularly outrageous in its attacks on the Canadian Wheat Board is the National Citizens' Coalition, a funny bunch that would not know a bushel of barley from a handful of rice. It alleges, wrongly, that this new legislation would give the directors and the officers of the CWB free rein to ignore and break the law. That is patently false. If you have any doubt, just read the bill.

The directors and officers of the CWB will be under an explicit obligation to act honestly and in good faith, exercising all reasonable care, diligence and skill. If they fail in that duty they will expose themselves to legal liability. They will carry a very heavy fiduciary responsibility.

The provisions in Bill C-4 on this point are virtually identical to provisions that appear in the Canada Business Corporations Act which applies to all federally incorporated private sector companies in the country.

Despite the structural changes in governance and accountability, the Government of Canada will continue to provide the Canadian Wheat Board with very substantial financial guarantees, covering not only the initial payment set at the beginning of each pooling period and the CWB's credit sales program, but also all of its general business borrowings.

Since the CWB is a multibillion dollar enterprise, the amounts outstanding under these guarantees are often very large. Historically, because of the wheat board's strong performance, the federal guarantees have been called on in only rare and isolated circumstances, but the Government of Canada is on the hook if something suddenly goes wrong.

For this reason the government will continue to have a window on Canadian Wheat Board affairs, in addition to that line of accountability directly to western farmers.

Such a window is also necessary because any Canadian exporter of wheat or barley, whether on the prairies or elsewhere, requires a Canadian Wheat Board export permit. Consequently, the government will select a minority of the CWB's directors, five in total, including the president.

Please note that under the new law the choice of president requires consultation in advance with the other directors. The directors as a whole will have the right to set the president's salary, to appraise the president's performance and to recommend dismissal if necessary. Farmers will always hold a two to one majority among the directors over all.

To enhance the Canadian Wheat Board's flexibility, to give farmers more choice in how they are paid for their grain and to speed up cash flows to producers, Bill C-4 will enable the Canadian Wheat Board to make cash purchases of wheat and/or barley, increase initial payments quickly whenever market conditions warrant, close and pay out pool accounts at any time, provide an early pool cash-out option, fully use modern risk management tools, issue negotiable producer certificates, offset storage costs, facilitate deliveries to condo storage systems and receive grain through on-farm mobile elevators.

This new law will also empower producers to determine democratically what is and what is not under the Canadian Wheat Board's marketing jurisdiction. If farmers want to exclude some type of grain, in whole or in part, from the Canadian Wheat Board's current single desk system, that can be done, subject to three clear conditions. First, the CWB's directors must recommend it. Second, the Canadian Grain Commission must approve an identity preservation system to protect quality standards. Third, if the proposed exclusion is significant there must be a vote among producers to approve it.

Conversely, if farmers want to include rye or flax or canola within the Canadian Wheat Board's mandate, that too can be done, again subject to three very clear conditions. First, the farm organization which represents the producers of that commodity must make a formal written request for the inclusion. Second, the CWB's directors must recommend it. Third, there must be a vote among farmers to approve it.

These provisions are balanced and fair both ways, for either exclusions or inclusions, and in either case the authority is vested where it belongs, not in politicians but in the hands of farmers themselves.

Virtually every marketing innovation which farmers have debated over the past several years will be possible under this new law. In a nutshell, that is what Bill C-4 is all about, empowering producers, enshrining democratic authority which has never existed before, providing new accountability, new flexibility and responsiveness, and positioning farmers to shape the kind of wheat board they want for the future.

Canadian Wheat Board Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Calgary Southwest
Alberta

Reform

Preston Manning Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-4, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act and other acts. In doing so I have two purposes.

The first is to draw the attention of hon. members, in particular members from urban ridings, to the importance of agricultural reform. Second, to express my disappointment that the bill before us is such a pale and timid imitation of what is required to prepare the Canadian Wheat Board and to equip Canadian grain growers to succeed in the 21st century.

There was a time when a majority of the members of the House had rural and agricultural backgrounds. That is now not the case. There was a time when at least two or three of the leaders in the House would have come from farm backgrounds. That is now not the case. In fact, of the five party leaders in the House, I am the only one that actually grew up on a farm. I trust hon. members will forgive me if I engage for a moment in a little nostalgia before turning to the subject matter of the bill.

My grandfather on my father's side homesteaded in Saskatchewan at the turn of the century. He broke prairie sod with oxen south of Rosetown, Saskatchewan. With his three sons he went through the technological transformation of the agricultural industry, from ploughing with oxen, to ploughing with horses, to the old days of steam machines, to the days of gasoline and diesel tractors. He also went through the economic and political transformation of the agricultural economy, from the homesteading days of unregulated markets through the period of exploitation by the railways and the grain companies, to the agricultural reform period of the twenties and the thirties. That established the pools, ultimately resulting in the creation of the Canadian Wheat Board and the foundations of the current grain handling, production and marketing systems.

My father entered politics in Alberta during the depression. Throughout the years that he was a cabinet minister and the premier of Alberta we operated a dairy farm east of the city of Edmonton. We operated a farm that milked about 70 cows. We went through the evolution of supply management and the transformation from hand milking to mechanical milking, from stanchion barns to loafing barns with milking parlours, all the time subject to the cost-price squeeze that has become characteristic of trying to operate a family farm.

I recount this to say that almost all of us, no matter what we now do, if we go back far enough, will find family roots in the agriculture industry. I am also reminded that no matter how far away we may now be from the farm, if we are still in the habit of eating three times a day, we have a vested interest in the state of agriculture and in agricultural reform.

Therefore, I hope that when bills like this are brought before us and when agriculture questions are asked in the House, members from urban ridings, like me, will not simply turn glassy eyed and ignore what is being proposed or what is said. I trust that we will continue to give agriculture and members from predominantly rural communities the attention that their traditions, industries and concerns deserve in this country.

I would like to turn to the subject of the reform of the Canadian Wheat Board. No federal political party holds more grassroots, public political meetings in the west than Reform, meetings at which this subject has been discussed at length for years. If I can briefly survey what we have found over the last number of years it can be summed up in three positions.

First, there are those who would abolish the wheat board. There are those who favour doing away completely with the Canadian Wheat Board. They point out that the whole world is moving toward a more market driven free trade in the agricultural and food product sector. They maintain that the trend cannot be arrested nor should it be arrested and that in that environment the Canadian Wheat Board is a monopolistic anachronism. This is not the position of the Reform Party but we are aware that that position exists among some producers.

Second, there are those who want to keep the Canadian Wheat Board essentially as it is or as it was. Many of these are older producers who remember the exploitation of farmers by the grain companies and the railways in the early days of the west. Many of these are producers who are uncomfortable in having to deal with the complex and ever-changing market forces of the international grain trade. They believe the future prosperity of the grain farmer lies in the direction of following marketing principles that have served well in the past.

It is not the position of the official opposition that the Canadian Wheat Board should remain as it is or as it was. We are convinced that many of the old marketing principles, however valid they might have been in the past, are no longer a reliable guide to capturing the markets of the future.

There is a third option and this is the option favoured by the official opposition and by an increasing number of producers. That option is to fundamentally reform the Canadian Wheat Board to make it more market sensitive and more accountable: more sensitive to a freer, more diverse, more competitive market and trading environment, and more accountable not to the government and the minister but to the consumers and producers it is intended to serve. This is the position of the Reform Party and the opposition.

When we look at the bill we see a feeble attempt to appear to be reforming the Canadian Wheat Board without any real or substantive changes required to make real reform a reality. Only a government and a minister hopelessly committed to the status quo would regard the tinkering in the bill as substantive change, to use the words of the minister. The minister tries to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, a feat beyond the competence of this minister.

My colleague, the member for Prince George—Peace River, and other Reform members, will discuss the defects of the bill in detail and will present some real reform alternatives. The bottom line of our analysis is that Bill C-4 fails to improve the market sensitivity of the Canadian Wheat Board and fails to substantially improve the marketing options open to producers.

The bottom line of our analysis is that it fails to significantly improve the accountability of Canadian Wheat Board producers in the manner that is being demanded by producers and required for the 21st century.

Because of the importance of grain marketing to Canada, especially in the west, I urge all members to give the bill the attention it deserves and to take counsel from the members among us speaking particularly from rural and agricultural ridings.

For the foregoing reasons which will be expanded by my colleagues, I urge members to defeat the bill, to send it back to the minister and the department, and to demand a real Canadian Wheat Board reform act suitable for preparing the board and the producers it serves to cope with the demands of the 21st century.