House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.

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The House resumed from April 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act, chapter 22 of the Statutes of Canada, 1998 and chapter 25 of the Statutes of Canada, 2004, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

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3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in support of Bill C-13, an act to amend the Canada Grain Act. However, I am upset that the opposition has moved to hoist this amendment. It is hijacking this bill which is essential to the grain farmers in western Canada, and I cannot support this hoist amendment because I support changes to the Canada Grain Act.

It is simple. Canadian farm families deserve to be treated equally across the country, but the current legislation forces western Canadian producers to pay costs that are not imposed in other regions. Bill C-13 would contribute to building a lower cost, more effective and innovative grain sector. The legislation is based on the agriculture committee report the opposition parties helped write.

Conservative MPs are ready and willing to roll up our sleeves and work on Bill C-13 at the agriculture committee. It is too bad the opposition parties are not willing to do that work and treat all regions fairly. This bill illustrates the government's ongoing commitment to putting farmers first, by eliminating costly regulations and unnecessary mandatory programming in Canada's grain sector.

For some years now, the western Canadian grain sector has been undergoing significant transformations. Indeed, the marketplace for grains has evolved, with increased emphasis on niche markets, livestock feed and biofuels, as well as other value-added marketing opportunities.

Despite this ever-changing environment, the Canada Grain Act has not been substantially amended for close to 40 years. As such, the operations of the Canadian Grain Commission, the agency that maintains the standards of quality for grain and regulates grain handling in our country, do not reflect the needs of today's farmers or the industry.

Before I provide additional explanation regarding the proposed changes to the Canada Grain Act, I will provide some brief background.

In 2005 an amendment to the Canada Grain Act was passed that required an independent review of the act and the Canadian Grain Commission. COMPAS Inc. was hired by the Department of Agriculture to conduct this independent review in 2005. Let me point out it was the Liberal government that hired COMPAS to do this.

Its recommendations were presented to Parliament in 2006. The COMPAS report was referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, which consulted stakeholders and recognized the need for changes to the Canada Grain Act and the Canadian Grain Commission. The amendments are based on recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in its report to the government in 2006.

Throughout these reviews, stakeholders were consulted extensively, including eight public meetings held across the country by COMPAS Inc. Hence, these proposed changes reflect the needs and the will of grain producers and of the industry.

This government is proposing to clarify the mandate of the Canadian Grain Commission in the Canada Grain Act. The clarification will stress that the Canadian Grain Commission protects the interests of producers with respect to deliveries to licensees, determinations of grade and dockage and allocation of producer cars.

That said, there have been extensive changes within the Canadian grain industry over the years and the Canadian Grain Commission must reflect that evolution. The number of primary elevators in western Canada has dwindled. Grain companies have consolidated their operations and now much of our grain is shipped from primary elevators to port terminals owned by the same company.

Currently, the Canadian Grain Commission must inspect and weigh all grain received by terminal and transfer elevators. To keep up with the changing environment, the government strongly believes that producer interests are best served by limiting costs and fostering a competitive, efficient grain handling system. Consequently, the government proposes to eliminate mandatory inward inspections and weighing requirements.

The bill would reduce unnecessary mandatory costs from the grain handling system and would work to build a lower-cost, more effective and innovative grain sector. We are reducing the regulatory burden as all costs in the system eventually work their way down to the farmers. This will again result in a less costly system for farmers' benefit.

Nevertheless, inward inspection and weighing do provide value to some producers in some circumstances. The government has proposed amendments to the Canada Grain Act that will facilitate private sector delivery of inward services when they are requested. Thus, eliminating the inward inspection and weighing will create business opportunities for private sector providers. It is best left to the shippers themselves to determine when and at what level these services are provided.

As an important and ongoing check on this new arrangement, producers and industry will be able to apply to the Canadian Grain Commission for binding grade arbitration when they are not sure that the right grade has been assigned. The proposed changes will not reduce the capacity to ensure a dependable commodity to buyers of Canadian grain. What is more, international buyers of Canadian grain can rest assured that every overseas vessel will continue to receive the Canadian Grain Commission's certification of grade and weight.

On another topic, the Canadian Grain Commission's producer payment security program has been the subject of debate in the grain sector. Currently, all licensed grain handlers must provide financial security to the Canadian Grain Commission. If licensed grain handlers fail to pay for the grain they have purchased, the Canadian Grain Commission steps in to compensate producers.

Unfortunately, this security program is flawed as it is not 100% effective and adds costs to Canadian grain handling system. These costs negatively affect the competitiveness of Canada's grain sector. We are reducing the regulatory burden. As all costs in the system eventually work their way to farmers, this will result in a less costly system for farmers too.

However, we do recognize that inward inspection provides transactional value in certain circumstances. That is why we are proposing provisions to facilitate private sector delivery of these services when the shipper believes they would add value. Furthermore, producers and industry would have the ability to apply to the Canadian Grain Commission for binding grade arbitration when requested.

To address issues of non-compliance, the Canadian Grain Commission needs additional, simpler means to enforce the Canada Grain Act. That is why this government proposes that the Canada Grain Act be brought under the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act. This proposed reform follows a recommendation by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food to use monetary penalties to help enforce a grain delivery declaration system.

The bill would provide these tools by allowing for the development of regulations to require grain delivery declarations and the ability to assess penalties against those who declare the content of grain deliveries falsely. These measures will ensure that wheat is properly identified as it moves through the grain handling system and, as such, uphold the grain quality assurance system.

In this environment of change, the Canada Grain Act and the Canadian Grain Commission must be modernized. With these proposed amendments, the Canadian Grain Commission will be better able to provide producers with a more cost effective grain quality assurance system. These amendments are essential to eliminating unnecessary costly regulations to Canada's grain sector.

The government is committed to putting farmers first. The integrity of the Canadian grain quality assurance system and the reliability of Canada brand will be maintained.

The proposed changes to the Canada Grain Act and the Canadian Grain Commission are part of an ongoing modernization of western Canadian grain sector. While historically Canadian grain has been exported as a commodity, it is now increasingly marketed to niche markets and domestic value-added enterprises such as biofuels.

The Canada Grain Act needs to evolve to reflect the changes taking place in the grain sector. The grain sector evolution was accelerated when subsidies for rail transportation, known as the Crow rate, were ended in the 1990s. Since then, prairie agriculture has diversified into a wider variety of crops and has expanded into livestock production. Also, the recent end to KVD has removed a regulatory barrier that prevented western Canadian farmers from accessing high yielding wheats that improve productivity.

In this innovative environment, changes to the Canada Grain Act and Canadian Grain Commission will provide producers with a more cost effective grain quality assurance system. These changes will also help the grain industry to meet the challenges of a more competitive market oriented 21st century.

This government is proposing to clarify the mandate of the Canadian Grain Commission in the Canada Grain Act. With a clarification in mandate, the Canada Grain Act will clearly show that the Canadian Grain Commission acts in the interest of grain producers in the specific areas of: delivery access to elevators and grain dealers; access to binding grain grading; and allocation of producer cars.

However, the proposed reforms do not end there.

Over time, there have been extensive changes within the Canadian grain industry. The number of primary elevators in western Canada has decreased significantly. We have seen company consolidations and now much of our grain is shipped from primary elevators to terminal or transfer elevators owned by the same company.

Currently, the Canadian Grain Commission must inspect and weigh all grain received by terminal and transfer elevators. These services are not essential to the grain quality assurance system and impose unnecessary costs.

Hence, the government proposes to remove mandatory requirements for inward inspection and weighing of grain shipments. In so doing, the bill will reduce unnecessary mandatory costs from the grain handling system and work to build a lower cost, more effective and innovative grain sector.

When I talk to farmers in my riding about the Canadian Grain Commission and the Canada Grain Act, they always wonder why things are done in the manner they are done. They have always ask why we cannot change this or do that. There are a lot of the changes that farmers have asked for and require in the bill in order for them to be profitable in their operations.

What we see happening today is just deplorable. The hoisting of this bill just does not do it for western Canadian farmers. It creates an unfair reality for them. We have asked the opposition parties in good faith to work with the bill in committee. We would like to see the bill move forward into committee.

In conclusion, this bill is very important to western Canadian farmers. I expect this bill to go forward.

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3:25 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, this issue has been before the House for quite a while. When I was the chair of the agriculture committee in the last Parliament, we did this study and came forward with recommendations to make the changes to the Canada Grain Act.

There is no question that producers across the country spoke out loud and clear that the system was not working as well as it could. We have to be more productive. We have to be more competitive. We have to make sure that farmers are more profitable. This is essentially what this bill would accomplish.

The member talked about the issue of producer security. The commission has not been able to keep up with the rapidly evolving changes in the industry. In Manitoba, a major grain buyer just went bankrupt and left a number of producers out in the cold without proper compensation. The ones who did get compensation only got pennies on the dollar. The bonding process in place today cannot move fast enough when grain buyers are getting bigger and bigger all the time.

We have to move to a new producer security system, whether it is through an insurance fund or other forms of security such as a check-off or clearing house to be able to address the needs of the grain farmers across the country more effectively. We want to make sure that producers receive money for the goods that they deliver to grain buyers, especially those grain buyers which unfortunately get into difficulty from time to time.

I wonder if the member could comment on some of the things he has heard from producers in Saskatchewan and across this great country on what we need to do from the standpoint of producer security, as well as the things that we need to do to move forward on grading and the things that are so important to making sure that we are selling the best product in the world.

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3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, one thing about the bonding system that we presently have is it creates the false sense of security that farmers who deliver their grain will get paid no matter what. It has been shown in some of the previous failures of certain companies that that did not happen. Farmers found out too late that they did not receive their full payment and in fact they only received pennies on the dollar.

That is one thing in the Canada Grain Act that needs to be changed. Again, if the opposition members have ideas, they have the opportunity in committee to bring forward those suggestions to negotiate and work our way through what is best for the industry.

As far as the grading of grain is concerned, it shows the changes in the industry when grain companies are shipping to their own terminals. Right now, farmers pay to have that grain inspected both at the inland terminal and at the outward terminal. When the grain is loaded into the hopper car in Portage, Manitoba, it is inspected. When it is dumped in Thunder Bay by the same terminal, it is inspected again. Farmers are asking why.

Historically, there was a reason for doing that, but in the current environment it is no longer relevant. Those are the types of changes that are needed. They would definitely pull costs out of the system and also improve the effectiveness of the system to deliver the product that farmers need to get to port.

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3:25 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, what we are seeing here is the continued desire on the part of the Conservative government to try to continue its program of deregulation. It is the old philosophy of pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps. That can work in a good market, but there are cycles in business and farming. Eventually, the good market turns into a bad market. For that reason, we have to protect our farmers.

As a matter of fact, what the Canadian farmers have that works in their favour is the terrific quality of product that they produce. There is a concern that we might destabilize that quality by lowering the standards. We all saw what happened when lead was discovered in the toys coming in from China and what that did to the reputation of that country and that particular industry.

I do not think that we want to do anything here that would damage the very strong reputation we have in the world market for producing top quality grain. That is one advantage we have over the Americans and I would think we would want to keep it that way.

I also want to point out that what we are proposing is a hoist motion. It is a democratic process in this House. The government should have patience. It has already been waiting a long time. It has introduced this bill more than once. Hoisting the bill for six months is not going to do irreparable damage to the grain economy in Canada.

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3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to educate my colleague about some of the changes that have happened in the grain industry in the last 20 years that make the act no longer relevant.

The member talked about the lowering of standards. There is nothing in this bill or the changes that would have any impact on lowering the standards of the good quality grain we grow in western Canada. In fact, it is just modernizing the system to reflect today's modern technology. It would probably provide a better analysis of how that grain is going to be shipped and what is actually shipped. Nothing is changing in that area.

As far as deregulation is concerned, I find that kind of amusing. When we look at the grain trade, we need to be efficient and lean. We need to figure out ways to do that.

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3:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Tell that to Maple Leaf.

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3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about the grain trade and not the beef trade or something else.

We are looking at ways to pull costs out of the system for farmers and still provide the safe product shipped around the world.

Everything that is proposed in this bill has been worked on together with the opposition members to do that, so, why they would hoist the bill is beyond me.

He also said it was only for six months, but for farmers six months is a long time. They have been waiting for 30 years to see this change. Why would we wait another six months? The member should tell me what will change in six months that would make the hon. member more comfortable with this bill.

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3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is a very important conversation that we are having. We are talking about a hoist motion. Essentially, the opposition members, led by the NDP, have said that they do not even want to discuss this bill. They do not want the bill in committee. They do not want to work toward streamlining and making a better process for our grain farmers.

The member is a member of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. Is this something that is habitual with the opposition when it comes to this committee? Why would they not want to work in committee to make some real changes and work out the process?

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3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is one thing that puzzles me. It seemed as though we had such a good working relationship in committee, and now it seems to have been poisoned through the actions of certain members.

This is something the committee worked on jointly. We sat down and we came out with a report that everybody voted in favour of.

Why would they now say they want to hoist the bill? What has changed? The only thing that has changed is politics. For a party whose leader goes on television and says to quit playing politics, I wish those members would listen to their own leader and quit playing politics.

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3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, of course New Democrats are here to make Parliament work, but we also have a responsibility to our constituents to ensure that legislation that is brought before the House is good legislation.

I would challenge the government. What we have actually heard from members opposite is that there was an agriculture committee report. Many of those recommendations were supported by all parties. Yet the piece of legislation that came forward blatantly disregards some of the critical elements of that report. I want to reference a couple of them.

The committee recommended clearly that protecting the interests of grain producers should continue to be the job of the Canadian Grain Commission. It also recommended that the committee look at increased funding for the Canadian Grain Commission to ensure long-term sustainability. This proposal is silent on that. There are a number of other recommendations that this piece of legislation disregards.

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3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, again, members can address those questions in committee. I would be happy to work with them in committee on some of the issues they have brought up.

I have to represent my constituents. I represent western Canadian farmers. They need changes to the act. They cannot afford a delay. Let us get the bill to committee and then make the changes as we see fit. What the members are proposing will not even get it to committee. The losers in this will be the farmers.

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3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, before I start the formal part of my remarks, I would like to acknowledge the comments by the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan and the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. It is nice to have these well thought out agriculture minds looking at this. Maybe they would like to come to committee and start talking about some of these issues, and perhaps the loyal opposition as well, which has only asked three questions in this entire session on agriculture. I can see that this is going to be a lively debate.

It is my pleasure to support the proposed amendments to the Canada Grain Act; however, the same cannot be said with regard to the NDP hoist amendment. Clearly this amendment is a transparent attempt by the NDP to continue its attack on western Canadian farmers. The opposition has nothing positive to offer on this bill. So, what does it do? It attacks the very essence of the legislation. Members should work to make constructive changes to this legislation in committee, not hoist a bill so that we cannot even work with it.

This is a piece of legislation which the Canadian Grain Commission is asking for, and which shippers, producers and farmers in my area are asking for. All they are asking is for us to at least bring this to committee so that we can talk about it and have some freedom to make some changes to streamline an act that is 30 years old. Unlike the opposition, our government puts a high priority on this proposed legislation because farmers have asked for it and we agree it is high time this act was brought into the 21st century.

The Canadian grain sector stands out as a huge success story among the considerable accomplishments of the Canadian agriculture and food industry over the last 100 years. This is especially true in the area of Westlock—St. Paul.

Canadian wheat, barley and other grains are known by our customers all over the world for their unequalled consistency, cleanliness and quality. On a yearly basis Canadian grain farmers generate about $10 billion. That money helps to keep the economies of both rural and urban Canada growing. It sustains employment throughout the grain production chain from farm input suppliers to elevators, to transporters and processors. Those dollars support our rural communities which contribute so much to Canada's economy.

To put it in more concrete terms, Canada's grain growers sustain our health and well-being as Canadians by putting the very bread we eat every day on our tables. This government has taken concrete action in support of this vital sector for our economy, not just in this particular legislation, but in other legislation in regard to transportation and food safety. We are putting farmers and Canadians first.

Three years ago our first act as a new government was in the interests of grain producers when we accelerated the grains and oilseeds payment program. We are investing $2.2 billion in the development of biofuels to open up new markets for our grains and oilseeds producers, to create new jobs for our rural communities and to create a better environment for Canadians. Those dollars have helped with the planning of new biofuel projects across Canada and will help build biofuels and biodiesel plants.

We have improved cash advance programming by doubling the interest-free portion for producers. We are helping the transfer of family farms to young farmers by boosting the capital gains exemption and doubling the amount of government-backed credit available to young farmers.

While this is something that can be captured in one paragraph of a speech, it is important that each one of these changes have critical effects on our producers and farmers not only in western Canada, but across the country. These are changes that farmers have been asking for, for 20 years. Finally, in the first three years our government has not only moved forward but has accomplished many of these.

The new agriculture loans act would guarantee an additional $1 billion in loans over the next five years to Canadian farm families and cooperatives. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is working hard to open new markets for our grain and pulse farmers around the world. The minister is also delivering real action for our farmers so that they can continue to fuel our economy and remain competitive both at home and abroad.

At the WTO agriculture negotiations, we remain committed to pursuing an ambitious outcome that benefits Canada's entire agriculture sector, not pitting one aspect of our Canadian agricultural economy against another as has happened in the past.

New marketing opportunities will help Canada get through the current economic uncertainty and come out stronger than ever. Stable, bankable farm programs will also help farmers weather the storm and continue to drive the Canadian economy. That is what the growing forward framework is all about, making Canadian agriculture stable in the present day and building a strong agriculture future not only for current farmers but for our future farmers.

Business risk management programs are a key part of growing forward. We have replaced CAIS with programs that are more predictable, more responsive and more bankable. I can assure members that this was a major platform plank in my first election to Parliament. The producers in the areas that I represent, whether they be grains and oilseeds producers, whether they be cattle producers, whether they be supply management producers, wanted a more bankable, more stable, and more predictable system.

We promised to eliminate the CAIS program. We did that. We replaced it with growing forward. We went across this country to hold round-table consultations, not just myself and members on this side of the House but also the Minister of Agriculture. We made unprecedented stops all across this country. Unlike former governments, he did not just get off the plane and stop at the nearby airport to host a meeting. He went out into farm communities, held those consultations and listened to farmers. We came forward to separate agriculture stability from disaster relief, putting in the top tier of our growing forward program. These are programs that our producers have been asking for, and we are delivering.

Business risk management programs are a key part of growing forward. We have replaced CAIS with programs that are more predictable, more responsible and, as I said, more bankable. Those programs have delivered $1.5 billion to our livestock producers in their time of need.

We have worked with pork producers to deliver a $75 million transition program, government-backed loans and international market development. Producers want to make their living in the marketplace. We have delivered $17 million for pork marketing to get more buyers bidding on our products.

Canada's economic action plan is making sure the agricultural industry emerges stronger than ever from the current economic crisis.

We announced a $500 million agricultural flexibility plan aimed at helping farmers with regional market challenges and opportunities. These funds are helping farmers cope with cost of production pressures, promote innovation and ensure environmental sustainability. This money is already supporting action on traceability for our livestock sector.

We also set aside $50 million to strengthen our slaughter and meat processing capacity.

The amendments the government is proposing to the Canada Grain Act and the Canadian Grain Commission are evidence of our commitment to grain producers.

Canada's quality assurance system for grain provides a key competitive advantage for our farmers. The amendments we are proposing build on that competitive advantage.

When our global customers choose Canadian grain for processing, they count on consistent quality and cleanliness with every delivery. This world-class reputation that our Canadian grains enjoy around the globe has been hard-earned. First and foremost, it has been earned through the hard work of our farmers. Grain handling companies, research scientists and the Canadian Grain Commission have also played a key role in building that golden reputation that truly enhances the amount of financial recovery that our producers receive at the end of the day.

Our edge in the marketplace is all about quality, and much of the responsibility for the quality of Canadian grain resides with the Canadian Grain Commission and the quality assurance system it administers under the Canada Grain Act.

The grain industry is changing and the legislative tools required to keep the industry competitive need to change along with it. The current Canada Grain Act has not changed substantially in almost 40 years, but the marketplace has evolved.

We have a major new customer for grains in the form of the biofuels industry, supported by initiatives put in place by this government.

We have quality management systems to allow parcels of grain with specific qualities wanted by buyers to be kept separate through the handling system.

We have niche marketing and processing of grains in Canada, and we have a broader range of crops in western Canada than ever seen before.

In the mid-1990s, the reform of the Western Grain Transportation Act triggered a wholesale diversification as producers opted to market their grain through livestock or switch to other crops: oilseeds, pulse crops or horticultural crops. Today, wheat accounts for only one-third of the crop land. In the 1950s, three-quarters of that land was wheat. I know many of my opposition colleagues have never actually seen many of the crop lands in western Canada and they may be surprised to hear that wheat now actually only accounts for one-third, but that is actually a fact.

We are proposing these amendments to the Canada Grain Act to help keep our grain producers competitive by improving the regulatory environment for Canada's grain sector.

The proposed changes to the Canada Grain Act and the Canadian Grain Commission will help the grain sector to meet the challenges of a more competitive and more oriented sector for the 21st century. By removing unnecessary mandatory costs from the grain handling system, the bill works to build a lower cost, more effective and innovative grain sector. We are modernizing the regulatory environment. As all costs in the system eventually work their way to farmers, this will result in a less costly and more effective system for our farmers.

This is an important point. All excess costs in the system are always downloaded on to the backs of our farmers. These amendments will help streamline this act and make our system better for western Canadian farmers. These amendments are amendments that were asked for by our farmers.

The amendments reflect the direction of both the Compas report and the good work done by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food of which I am proud to be a member. Both reports reflect extensive consultations held with the sector in preparing those reports.

The fact is that this package is built on the standing committee's recommendations. I have these recommendations if any of my opposition colleagues would like to take the time to actually read them. In short, these amendments speak to the will and needs of the Canadian grain industry.

Let me talk a little about the amendments that are actually being proposed. First, inward inspection and weighing of grains will no longer be mandatory. There is no reason to require something that is not necessary, particularly when the cost comes out of the bottom line of farmers in the grain industry.

Currently the Grain Commission is required to inspect and weigh each railcar or truck lot of western grain that is received by licensed terminal elevators. The industry has been calling for change in this area for some years now because mandatory inspections impose costs and are not essential to grain quality.

Therefore, inward inspection and weighing will no longer be mandatory. Instead, shippers of grain will be able to request an inspection at their discretion when they feel the benefit justifies the cost.

Elevators will also be required to allow access to private inspectors when an inspection is requested. The Canadian Grain Commission would be authorized to provide grade arbitration if the parties to a transaction request it. This means if there is a dispute about the grade, the Canadian Grain Commission will be available to impartially determine the grade.

However, as my colleagues in the NDP like to point out, and let us be clear, this does not mean grain would go through the system without inspection. This means that our government will stand up and put safeguards in place for Canadian farmers when they request it. Outward inspection would still be required when grain is loaded into vessels for export. Export vessel shipments would continue to require certification by the Canadian Grain Commission based on the inspection and weighing by CGC personnel.

With this bill in place, our customers will be assured that they can continue to have confidence in Canada's grain quality assurance system.

The Canadian Grain Commission would continue to regulate the grain handling system for the benefit of producers. It would continue to license grain handlers and dealers. It would continue to require them to have proper grading and weighing equipment, and to properly document purchases and continue to ensure that producers have access to arbitration by CGC.

In fact, the bill would actually enhance farmer protection by extending the Canadian Grain Commission grade and dockage arbitration to farmers delivering to process elevators and grain dealers. Currently, if a producer disagrees with the grade or dockage received for a grain delivery at a licensed primary elevator, the producer can ask the CGC to determine the grade and dockage and make a binding decision.

The grain producer is paid according to this decision. This bill proposes to extend this service to deliveries to all licensed grain handlers, including process elevators and grain dealers. Farmers have never had this protection before. Canadians have never had this protection before.

More broadly speaking, these amendments would improve the clarity, application and enforcement of existing provisions; reflect current practices; enhance producer protection; and eliminate some provisions that are no longer used.

The proposed amendments to the Canada Grain Act would help the grain sector continue to evolve in a direction of greater competitiveness, greater freedom for farmers to manage risks, and effective regulatory oversight where it is needed.

While in committee, there were ample opportunities to work on this bill. However, the opposition has now decided to collude together to hoist this bill, which will kill the bill to the detriment of not only Canadians but our Canadian grain farmers. With the amendments this government has made, it is clear that we have put farmers first.

With the strong work ethic and the strong desire that our government has shown in committee to work with the opposition on a number of bills to ensure that we craft legislation that is more effective and more responsible for Canadians and Canadian producers, I find it astonishing that some of the opposition members would not want to bring this to committee, where they still have the majority of the votes, to talk about some of these amendments.

At the end of the day, they have clearly shown time and again that they truly do not care about Canadian farmers.

I believe that the amendments proposed in this bill would help build a competitive and innovative grain sector by reducing costs, improving competitiveness, improving regulation, and providing choice for our producers and others in the grain sector.

I know I only have a few minutes left, but I would be remiss if I did not talk a bit about one of the major aspects of the grain economy in my riding, in my area of Alberta and Saskatchewan, where we were hit by a terrible year this year. We had a late spring. We had frost through almost every month of the year. It has been a tough year for our hay farmers. It has been a tough year for our grains and oilseeds producers. They are not asking for bills. What they are asking for is for the government to get off its back, stand out of their way and give them access to the tools that they need, and to make the changes on their behalf that they are asking for.

One of those examples that I am proud to have worked on with the Minister of Agriculture and the Prime Minister was the tax deferrals that were given earlier than ever this year to our Canadian farmers. In my area, this was a major issue. In the months of July and August they needed to know that they had access and certainty of these tax deferrals. To my dismay, I came back to the House of Commons and watched the opposition vote against tax deferrals for my farmers.

I hope we can continue to work together and work for the betterment of Canadian producers. However, at the end of the day, the opposition needs to do more than talk about it; it needs to actually get to work and help us make the system better and more effective.

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3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I must admit that I was just so shocked while I was in my office, watching and listening to the member for Westlock—St. Paul's remarks, that I had to come over.

He talked about the minister's hog plan. Instead of blowing about it, he should hang his head in shame because of the Minister of Agriculture's record of failure. He should hang his head in shame over that program instead of talking about it.

I submit to the President of the Treasury Board that the hog crisis proposal by the minister is probably one of the best disguised Ponzi schemes that this country has ever--

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3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. The hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake is rising on a point of order.