House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was board.

Topics

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4 p.m.

An hon. member

Cash advances.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Absolutely, cash advances. The member is absolutely right. It would stop the board's ability to offer or to administer cash advances. I do not think the member for Malpeque probably understood that when he wrote the motion but that certainly is the impact that it would have. Actually, my colleague makes a very good point. One of the reasons he probably does not understand the impact is because he does not live anywhere near the region where the board applies.

Western Canadian farmers have told me time and again that they are capable of making their own decisions. They do not need people coming from outside and telling them what is good for them. The member for Malpeque has been doing that to western Canadian farmers for many years and they are getting mighty tired of it.

One of the things that the motion would affect is the ability to administer cash advances. If our farmers do not have that ability, they have nothing. We just extended and improved the cash advance program. We are working through the final regulations to give farmers the opportunity to borrow up to $100,000 cash free and then they can turn around and borrow up to $400,000 against their inventory. We do not want to interfere with that and we are wondering why the member for Malpeque would be.

The motion would also interfere with the ability to manage the contingency fund that is so important to the board's operations. It interferes with its ability to establish and to manage any of the separate funds that it sets up. I am sure that the board itself does not want restrictions put on that. It restricts any opportunity to provide for enhanced employee benefits. I do not think the member for Malpequeprobably understood that either when he brought this forward.

It actually interferes as well with the ability to change the election process and improve the election process even as the board requests. The board actually agreed with us on the idea that these permit books that were not active be removed from the active mailing list. The board was with us on that in spite of what the NDP and the Liberals have said. If they were to come to use with a suggested change for an election process, this motion that the member for Malpeque has brought forward would stop us from being able to do that.

It also would stop the government from being able to appoint directors or a president. I am sure the member did not mean to interfere in that way either. It would interfere with the board's ability to invest in outside projects and, of course, it is involved in a number of things at universities, at research centres and there are partnerships around the world. It would also interfere with the ability to do the board's final audit for the year.

It actually goes further than that. It would interfere with any ability to change regulations that have anything to do with the board's operations. That would render the board's operation impossible because there have been 525 orders in council over the last 14 years and they deal with most of the issues that I have just mentioned. Orders in council concerning the board regularly go out. The member for Malpeque apparently wants all of that stopped until we have a plebiscite.

I do not think he understood what he was doing when he wrote this. However, I am sure that will not change his mind in terms of insisting that his party would support it. The motion would actually cripple the board and bring total chaos. He has brought 100 unintended consequences that he did not realize because of the poor wording of his motion. Hopefully he will take a bit more time the next time and maybe talk to some of us who understand the board and how it operates. A number of people, including some of my colleagues, have spent many years dealing with this issue. They certainly have the capability and the capacity to direct the member for Malpeque and to give him some clear understanding of what the board is all about.

I want to take a minute to talk about one of the other options or opportunities that we have offered western Canadian farmers. The member for Malpeque said that he has been a farmer advocate for many years and that he wrote a report last year that supposedly said that farmers needed more access to opportunities and to capital, and that they needed more ability and power in the marketplace.

My colleague, the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, brought forward Bill C-300. It is not a big bill but it is a good bill. It basically says that under Bill C-300 prairie producers could market their own wheat and barley directly to processing facilities owned by prairie producers. It seems pretty straightforward does it not? Prairie producers can market their own grain to a processing facility that is owned by their friends and neighbours.

Finally, we have a small thing here that would give farmers an opportunity. In the past of course this has not been allowed. Swift Current is in the centre of my riding where a few years ago people wanted to set up a pasta plant. They had support from the area and they had a great project going. It was going to be very successful and we thought we could compete with anyone in the world. We decided that there was no sense in sending our grain to another country so someone else could make it into pasta and get the benefit from that. We decided we should keep it at home and make pasta in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, and ship it out to the world. Since we grow the best durum in the world we wanted to see what we could do with pasta.

The project never got off the ground. The main reason the project did not get off the ground is that the Canadian Wheat Board said, “We are not going to let producers deliver their own grain to this facility and then process it. They have to go through the buy back”. They have to take their grain which is in their bins and they have to sell it to the board and then they have to buy it back at a higher price. Then they can try to sell it to the pasta plant.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Plus freight and elevation.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Plus freight and elevation, exactly. It just did not make sense. It did not make it profitable. That project has sat for years waiting for an opportunity. I talked to people at home and they still wish that they had the opportunity to participate in that. Bill C-300 deals a little bit with that opportunity that we think we need to have for western Canadian producers.

The surprise to me was that members of the opposition decided that they would oppose this. The opposition is led by an agriculture critic who says that farmers need some strength in the marketplace, but when we came forward with a bill that would actually give them some, that would not have changed the marketing system, he opposed it. His colleagues opposed it because they do not know any better and they get their direction from him.

We would think the NDP would be on side with a proposal such as this, small community projects and people could get together and work with their neighbours and set up a processing facility to process their own grain. One would think the NDP would take that up in a minute, but the NDP decided that ideology was more important than farmers. For some of us this is not much of a surprise any more.

We see it in the debate that is going on right now. We simply want to offer western Canadian farmers the choice to do their own business. Let me as a western Canadian producer when I get up in the morning decide that I am going to sell some grain. I am going to take a look at what the price of grain is. I am going to make what I think is good deal and I am going to move my grain.

The opposition members do not want that to happen. They want me to have to go to the Canadian Wheat Board and I have to sell it to the Canadian Wheat Board. I have to buy it back and then I have to try to find someone to buy it from me.

Someone called me last night and said that right now he has a barley sale, organic barley into the United States. He made the sale. He went to the board for the buy back and the board told him that he could have the buy back if he wanted to pay $122 a tonne for a buy back, which is unbelievable. That is almost $3 a bushel extra just to buy his own grain back. His grain is sitting in the bin. He has made a sale into the United States for his organic grain which the board does not market. Then the board tells him, “You have to give us over $3 a bushel just to get your own grain back”. That is a true story.

It is interesting that the member for Malpeque will not believe me when I say that. He does not understand how the system works. That is very unfortunate. He is the one on the other side who is in charge of telling the opposition members what their agriculture decisions and policies are. He does not understand what farmers have to go through.

The member for Malpeque wonders why people become angry. The reason is that he does not have a clue what is going on in western Canada. He does not seem to care. He has an ideological position that he thinks he is going to stay with no matter what. Meanwhile our farmers are going broke.

The Liberals have a history of doing this to our farmers. I do not think they should stand up in the House and try to pretend that they are protecting farmers on the Canadian Wheat Board issue. A few years ago when we had grain farmers who wanted a choice, who wanted to do something different with their wheat, what happened? Did the Liberals offer to have a plebiscite? Absolutely not. The Liberals locked the farmers in jail.

People went to jail and people were being strip searched for weeks at a time. That was as a consequence of that member, the member for Wascana and the Liberal caucus at the time making a decision that that was the way farmers in western Canada should be treated.

Western farmers are tired of it. They want the opportunities that farmers in the rest of Canada have. They want an opportunity to get out there and market their grain. Western farmers are not afraid of the opportunities that face them.

When I say that the George Morris Centre says that there are between 8,000 and 15,000 jobs that would be available in western Canada if we had these value added opportunities, farmers say, “Let me at it. Let me have the chance to do that kind of a thing”.

The government will continue to move ahead. We want to bring choice to western Canadian farmers, the same choices that farmers across this country have. We want to give them the same opportunities that other farmers have. The farmers are very supportive of what we are doing here. It is unfortunate that some of the special interest groups funded by NDP governments and by Liberal caucuses are standing in the way of the opportunities for western Canadian farmers.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, we have seen quite a line from the parliamentary secretary, that is for sure. We are seeing a new tactic. Just to make a point, we are seeing the difference between the two parties, we really are. We consult with farmers. We take their advice and then we try to represent their interests in the House. The member opposite, the parliamentary secretary, obviously just takes his direction from the Prime Minister based on ideology. We are seeing a new tactic.

It was interesting listening to the parliamentary secretary as he spoke of the motion the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food put forward. We are seeing a new tactic now from the governing party. On top of the gag orders and the propaganda campaign, we are seeing scare tactics.

This motion is about one thing. There are three pillars to the Canadian Wheat Board: single desk selling, price pooling and the government guarantee. The motion and the report is about a clear and direct question asking whether those eligible to vote support or oppose the single desk selling provisions of the Canadian Wheat Board. Simply put, that is what the motion is all about.

Is the parliamentary secretary willing, on behalf of his government, to allow producers the choice whether or not they want single desk selling to be maintained under the Canadian Wheat Board as that pillar which gives it the ability to maximize returns to primary producers?

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is also good to see the member for Malpeque realize he has problems with the motion, so he will try to turn attention away from it. The fact is that it is so poorly written it would affect virtually every activity in which the Wheat Board is involved. If we had a vote tomorrow, we would see the member voting for it. Obviously, we have to be far more responsible than that. The member is in opposition. He can resort to whatever hysteria and hyperbole he wants, but as the party in power, we have to be responsible for the decisions that we make. Our decision is that we think western Canadian farmers need choice in marketing and we would like to bring that forward to them.

I would like to make one other point, which is that I am extremely proud to follow the man who is the Prime Minister of this country right now. Canadians have seen what a leader he is and they are turning to him. They are very thrilled with the fact that we are actually keeping our promises. Everywhere we go across this country people are saying, “We cannot believe that you people kept your promises after 13 years of what we had before”.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am going through some material here, comments over the last few years made by the hon. parliamentary secretary. It seems to be a trend, a vendetta against the Wheat Board, that it is corrupt, that its directors are stealing money, that it has broken laws and refuses to sell grain.

I am just wondering if the parliamentary secretary and his government is representing the farmers. We are representing the farmers. We are speaking for farmers. There are grassroots organizations and other people speaking up and letters coming in.

How do the Conservatives know that they represent the majority of the farmers? I think they do not know because they are afraid to have a vote.

Is the parliamentary secretary in agreement with me?

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that question was asked, because I really wanted to get into that and I actually forgot about it during my speech.

The Wheat Board itself has done surveys. We would have to stretch it to say that it was trying to find a real neutral position with the survey. The last one actually showed 54% of producers in western Canada want choice as their option. They want choice in marketing. That was the Wheat Board's own survey. Sixty per cent of them in the Wheat Board survey actually said that the Wheat Board would be far better off if it had competition. It would make it a far more effective and efficient marketing entity if it had some competition.

While the member wonders if we represent farmers, we actually do because we have the rural ridings in western Canada, so we are proud to say we represent farmers. It is not just ourselves who are saying that there needs to be choice. Farmers themselves are saying, even to the Wheat Board when it asked in its surveys, that they want choice and they would like to see the opportunities that come out of that, the same opportunities that the rest of this country has.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague opposite speaks frequently of unknown, undesirable and unintentional consequences. There are two areas that I am particularly concerned about in terms of the unknown, undesirable and unintended consequences.

The first relates to the democratic processes, or the lack thereof, that we are seeing as we move forward on this issue. My colleague here has certainly enunciated them.

The second is quite devastating. We hear frequently from members of the press in our community that when questions are put to Conservative members from Manitoba day after day after day after day, their calls are not returned. Their calls are not returned because those members know what the implications are for the city of Winnipeg.

Does the parliamentary secretary understand that this means the elimination of 500 jobs in downtown Winnipeg? Does he understand that it means a loss of an additional 1,800 jobs in the province of Manitoba? Does he understand that it means a loss of $66 million in wages and salaries? Does he understand what the impact is on governments in terms of lost taxes?

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

This is garbage.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

How many farmers are we losing?

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Do not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Don't believe Wayne.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Trust me, I would rather believe my colleague than members opposite who do not speak out on behalf of their communities and the citizens of their communities. Trust me.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, now you see what farmers are supporting. They are the ones who have kept the Wheat Board over the years.

The members opposite say the Wheat Board is going to completely fail. We do not say that. We say we are going to offer it as an option. We think that it has a lot of potential. It has a lot of advantages right now over most of the other entities in the industry. If she is saying it is going to completely disappear, I hope that the farmers are not listening to her when she says that because they hope that the Wheat Board can be one of those options. They know there are going to be jobs still in Winnipeg, that there is going to be a payroll there.

Most of the jobs that are in Winnipeg are not volume dependent. If the board is at all competent at being part of this marketing choice option, those jobs are going to continue to exist. That money is going to continue to come into Winnipeg and farmers will have the opportunity to prosper as well.