House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.

Topics

Canada Grain Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Almost.

Canada Grain Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the riding of the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley may be in second place.

The member has raised a very important and serious question. As I mentioned in the beginning and as everyone in the House would agree, we have a worldwide reputation for the highest quality grains. If these items are dumped into a shipload that is going around the world, that has at least two important aspects. It has a human security aspect. People around the world who make high quality foods from grain pick the high-quality and high-priced Canadian product because they know it is going to be high quality. Our farmers, grain companies and transporters all benefit. Why would we ever want to damage this by taking away inspectors?

Because of GATT and international trade rules, there are very few things we can do any more to help our farmers in their tremendous competition with Europe and the United States. It subsidizes so much. When we have something here that is not being challenged, why would we eliminate that particular advantage? Why would we put the health of people anywhere in the world at risk?

Finally, in the United States, which is so security conscious, removing that inward inspection of United States shipments may cut us right off if there was an incident. We would lose huge exports.

Canada Grain Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I think maybe the member has come here without really understanding the bill. Obviously, we have seen some strange activity on the other side today.

Is he aware that with the changes, farmers would still get their grain inspected at the elevators, as they do now? Does he know that the grain would be inspected at port, as it is now? Does he know that inward weighing is actually costing farmers money and if we made these changes, it would be saving the producers money? Does he know those things?

Canada Grain Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I already said it would be inspected at port at a time which, in some case, would be too late. It may still get inspected, but it may have to be privatized and it could cost them even more. What the hon. member is recommending could be done, but it would likely cost the farmers even more and it would not be mandatory. This bill makes it less mandatory. For some farmers, because of a problem with another ship load that was not determined for the reasons I mentioned, or the various contaminants, which the Conservatives know could occur in grains, or all the problems which I could go over again, it could cause those farmers unnecessary losses.

Canada Grain Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to listen to this debate. It shows the lack of understanding of the opposition parties in how things work in the grain system.

I get concerned because my constituents are farmers. They are my friends and neighbours. They do not want to be driving around in a 40-year-old half-ton. We are trying to modernize this half-ton; we are trying to modernize the grain act.

Why will the hon. member not allow this bill to go to committee and make the modifications there?

Canada Grain Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I would like to use a different comparison. The hon. member talked about a 40-year-old half-ton. Let us talk about airplanes and if we were to take away the inspection of airplanes. Of course, we want to get new airplanes, but it does not mean that we would stop inspecting them for safety periodically. Why, in modernizing, would that lead to not inspecting the airplanes? Why would modernization reduce the inspections on the food that we are eating?

Canada Grain Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am still amazed at the member's lack of understanding of this issue. Maybe it is because he is not from a grain growing area. I assume that is why. I have heard a number of statements from people who are completely ignorant about what they are talking about this morning.

It is time, as the member for Prince Albert just said, to modernize this system so that it begins to work far better for farmers and producers so they can get their grain to market, get paid a decent price for it and there are not all kinds of deductions and payments coming off of their grain. This bill will do that. Farmers will still get their grain inspected as they do when they deliver it, the grain will be inspected at port when it is being exported, as it is right now and the whole process will cost them less.

Why is the member against that?

Canada Grain Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it is too bad the member is saying that the National Farmers Union which drew attention to these problems does not know what it is talking about.

He will have to read the transcript of my speech to see what the problems are with the changes that remove the inspections. That could increase the chances of bad food going overseas in exports. It could ruin our reputation and the chances of those farmers who have a high-quality shipment of getting a better price for it. It could ruin the possibility of a security problem with the United States and that could devastate the revenues that our farmers get from exports to the United States.

Canada Grain Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to participate in this debate to add my voice as a member who comes from a city riding. I stood up earlier to express that. Some people might ask why a member from the city of Toronto, the former city of Scarborough, would stand up to show concern about farm issues. We consume just as much as the people who live in Alberta or anywhere else.

Mr. Speaker, before I go on, I want to point out that I will be sharing my time with my good friend and colleague, the member for Don Valley East, who is also a neighbour of my riding and an urbanite. It just goes to show the value members from urban ridings such as Don Valley East, Scarborough Centre and everywhere else place on farm issues.

In saying so, I want to put on the record that it was Dennis Mills, a former member of Parliament from Toronto, who initiated the recognition of the family farm. With that initiative he wanted to make all Canadians no matter where they lived aware of the importance of the family farm, primarily because we value the good work and participation that different parts of the country contribute not just to the food supply here in Canada, but in terms of exports which create revenue for our country, job opportunities and so on.

I sit on the international trade committee. Today in our committee we had representatives from another sector of the food supply, the Canadian Pork Council, the Canadian Beef Export Federation, and the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. We listened with great interest to what they had to say. They were not talking about grain, but they were talking about essentially the same thing, what we consume as Canadians and what we sell abroad.

On this specific bill, I sought the counsel of my hon. colleague, a former minister of agriculture, the member for Malpeque, who, I would say, is an individual who knows this file very well. As a member from a city riding, I usually go to the source and he briefed me on the bill. He summarized the bill for me. I would like to put it on the record.

The purpose of the initiative is to eliminate inspections and weighing of grain shipments and bonding, which is a type of insurance for farmers in case of bankruptcy by shippers of grains. The changes in this legislation look to reduce costs in the sale and transportation of grain but may add risks to the farmer.

I think everyone agrees that no system is perfect, so what we try to do is make changes. In the last Parliament the former minister of agriculture had a plebiscite. That plebiscite was put into question. It went before the courts and it was thrown out. The farmers wanted their input and they should have their input democratically, and they did.

I do not know why the government is trying to shove this legislation down people's throats. In asking a question of the member for Malpeque, I mentioned that I was concerned because he talked about it not just being about money. Right away, it prompted my concern on behalf of my constituents, on behalf of residents of the province I come from, Ontario. It reminded me right away of Walkerton which occurred under a Conservative government, the Mike Harris government specifically. We all know what happened. Inspections were cut back and inspectors were not available. People lost their lives. During the last election, there was an outbreak of listeriosis. Unfortunately, again some Canadians lost their lives. That had to do with changes to how inspections took place. As we all know, funding was reduced.

How much is a life worth? Is it worth saving the salary of an inspector or two? I do not think so.

We have built a society here in Canada which is often described as second to none, and our contributions are part of this civil society, through taxation or levies, which we then put back into the system to make sure that proper inspection, for example, is being done, monitoring is being done, and the right kinds of professionals are being hired, so that we feel comfortable when we go out to the grocery store.

Earlier today I spoke to the representatives I mentioned earlier. I said that my concern is that I can go to the local store and buy my steak, minced meat or bacon to feed myself and my family, and I am at ease. Similarly, all other products that come from our farming community should be put in that category as well.

My concern here with this legislation, as the member for Malpeque said, is that there are some glitches in it, some bugs that need to be addressed. If anybody has come forth with recommendations, it is the member for Malpeque. I was hoping that the Conservative Party would open up and listen.

Today, for example, we are trying to address the various concerns that the Canadian Pork Council is having, the beef producers are having, the cattlemen are having in sending their products primarily to one of our biggest markets, the United States of America, in terms of the type of inspections that are going on.

What we are going to be undertaking is to go down there, at some point in time, talk to our counterparts and make the Americans aware of what we are doing here in Canada. For example, members will recall when we had the BSE issue. We were basing our argument on science and the Americans unfortunately were basing theirs on vested interest, which was unfair.

It was similar to the softwood lumber issue where we knew we had a good product. We invested in our mills. We modernized them and were able to put out cost effective products, yet again, we got these appeals that took place through the NAFTA or the WTO, and X amount of money was being put forward to challenge or respond to the challenges. The next thing we know, farmers, for example, end up picking up the burden. It is similar to what our witnesses were saying today before our committee.

What was also disappointing with respect to our witnesses today at the international trade committee was that they felt that the government was not adequately supporting them financially so that they could be better equipped to market Canadian products internationally. When they referred to the types of numbers that they were given, they were so minute compared to other areas in other countries. It is no wonder that even though we have the best beef, for example, in the world, we are not able to get out and get our fair share of the market.

I would like to tell members about an incident that took place some years ago when we were going through the difficulties with respect to our beef products. Producers were invited into my riding and we had a barbecue. We invited constituents who really wanted to know what this issue was all about.

As my good friend, the member for Don Valley East said, we are urbanites but we care. We care first, and yes, we consume, so we invited the residents of our urban ridings, and they came out and spoke to the producers and the farmers. They were updated. They were educated. They were informed and they had a sympathetic ear. What happened? All of a sudden they were on board to send letters and provide their input and suggestions.

At the same time, we went to our schools and talked to young students, who hopefully will be tomorrow's representatives sitting here in my seat talking about important issues to Canada.

No riding or area, I said before and I will say it again, has a monopoly on it. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food I see is sitting in his chair and he is paying very close attention to what I am saying. He knows this very well that he does not have a monopoly on agriculture.

Canada Grain Act
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order. When the debate resumes, the hon. member will have five minutes for questions and comments consequent on his speech.

Statements by members.

Acts of Bravery
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize a remarkable constituent in my riding of South Shore—St. Margaret's. Captain Carl Vernon Atkinson of West Head, Cape Sable Island, has worked 50 years as a fishing captain.

During this time, Mr. Atkinson's bravery saved the lives of fellow fishermen on four separate occasions. During rough seas in the spring of 1953, he risked his own boat and crew to save a three-man crew and the boat that had foundered.

In 1955 he steered his boat between two breakers during rough seas to save the captain of an overturned boat in one of the most daring rescues every seen on the South Shore.

In 1960, while other boats remained in port due to gale force winds, Mr. Atkinson left Clark's Harbour to rescue two men in medical distress.

Finally, during a massive storm in 1968, he rescued two men whose boat had been shipwrecked.

It is an honour to recognize Mr. Atkinson's bravery as well as his 50 years as a fishing captain on the South Shore.

World Autism Awareness Day
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is World Autism Awareness Day, one of only three official disease-specific United Nations days. On this day, autism advocacy groups around the world are calling on their governments to take measures to raise awareness about autism, and to encourage early diagnosis and intervention.

As many of us are, I am proudly wearing the blue puzzle piece, the signature mark of Autism Speaks Canada, which symbolizes the three messages central to the autism community: compassion, inclusion and hope.

One in every 150 children is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, which makes it more prevalent than childhood cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined.

Canadian researchers are playing lead roles in many global research initiatives to help find the missing pieces of the autism puzzle. In the absence of a cure, early detection, diagnosis and interventions are key to successful outcomes.

I am proud that our Liberal leader has committed to Autism Speaks Canada in a letter, and I quote:

The Liberal Party strongly supports the initiative to develop a national strategy for autism to help provide better coordination of federal assistance and for continued research.

I encourage every--

World Autism Awareness Day
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi.

The Gurit Company, Magog
Statements By Members

April 2nd, 2009 / 2 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Gurit company located in Magog, which is in my riding of Brome—Missisquoi, manufactures structural foam for the wind energy industry and announced this week that it is laying off about half its employees, some 210 skilled workers. These job losses come on the heels of thousands of others in Magog's manufacturing sector since 2006.

President Obama has introduced assistance for the automotive industry on condition that they manufacture green cars. The federal government should follow suit and support green companies. I would like to point out that Gurit is the largest manufacturer in Magog and supplies clean energy companies in the wind sector.

Once again, our companies are hindered by this government's inaction and lack of appropriate and green measures in support of the manufacturing sector. It has been dragging its feet for three years while we lose jobs.

Renewable Energy
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a statement on the ecoEnergy wind program.

The Canadian Wind Energy Association has been working to extend its very successful ecoEnergy program for renewable power. This program was to run until 2011, but it is clear that its huge success has meant that it has run out of money. This has created uncertainty for the wind energy industry here in Canada.

We need leadership here in Canada on wind energy. The government must commit to new funding for this power program. It will cost $600 million to extend it for five years, but it would leverage over $6 billion in new investments in Canadian wind energy and create 8,000 new jobs.

Other countries are now leading the way on renewable power and wind energy. An investment in the ecoEnergy program today will enable Canada to effectively--