House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was copyright.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Syria
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The chair has notice of an application for emergency debate from the hon. member for Scarborough—Agincourt.

Syria
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Karygiannis Scarborough—Agincourt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I seek to have an emergency debate. The people of Syria and Canadian Syrians are looking to this House to address what is happening in Syria, to make sure the perpetrators are called to justice, and to make sure that the regime completely falls and a democratic process takes place. There have been over 4,000 people killed in Syria over the last few months.

On behalf of the people of Syria and Canadian Syrians, I look to you, Mr. Speaker, to rule that this House should hold an emergency debate on this very important subject in order to fully discuss it.

Syria
Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. for bringing this matter to the attention of the chair. While I am sure it is an important issue to many, I do not think that it meets the test for granting an emergency debate at this time.

The hon. member for Malpeque has a question of privilege.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege.

The government has tabled Bill C-18 today and I have the legislation in my hands. This bill would terminate the single desk selling authority of the Canadian Wheat Board, in effect terminating the existing Canadian Wheat Board.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear! Hear!

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I do not know why members on the government side would applaud, because my whole question of privilege is based on the fact that the Conservative government is violating the very laws of this land in its action in terms of tabling Bill C-18 the way it is worded today.

The government has tried to use some fancy language in the bill, but in summary, the bill would change the governing structure of the Canadian Wheat Board. The Conservatives say that the new act continues the Canadian Wheat Board but changes it with the marketing of grain through voluntary pooling. Part III provides for the possible continuation of the board under other federal legislation. Part IV provides for its winding up if no such continuation occurs.

There is no question that the position of the Conservative Party and the government has been one of long standing, an initiative they have attempted through previous efforts, which is to do away with the Canadian Wheat Board. Some of those efforts have been determined to be illegal, but the Conservatives have attempted them even though they have been determined to be illegal. I submit that what the government is doing today is also illegal.

There is no ambiguity in what the government intends by this legislation as the government's intent has been stated by the Prime Minister, ministers and individual members of Parliament on any number of occasions. I would even go so far as to say that both the minister and his parliamentary secretary have violated their oaths of office in the way they have been attacking the Canadian Wheat Board over the years and through this legislation today. The words of the Minister of Agriculture in recent days have been very crude. He basically said that the Canadian Wheat Board would be toast by Christmas.

I would submit that western farmers have a right to be concerned about the integrity of the government as represented by the Minister of Agriculture on this issue.

On March 28, 2011, while attending an agricultural forum in Minnedosa, Manitoba, the minister stated with respect to the issue of whether he would respect the vote of farmers and that no attempt to undermine the board would occur until a vote were held:

Until farmers make that change, I'm not prepared to work arbitrarily.... They are absolutely right to believe in democracy. I do, too.

The legislation goes against what the minister said in that statement. There has been no vote under Section 47.1 of the act as the act demands, yet here we are today. So much for the minister and his so-called commitment to democracy for the farmers of western Canada.

The intention of the legislation to terminate the Canadian Wheat Board in favour of the creation of a “voluntary” Canadian Wheat Board as part of the private grain trade goes against the wishes of the board of directors of the Wheat Board itself.

It is my position that this legislation exceeds the authority of the government on the basis that it has neglected to fill an obligation currently in legislation. Section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act reads:

The Minister shall not cause to be introduced in Parliament a bill that would exclude any kind, type, class or grade of wheat or barley, or wheat or barley produced in any area in Canada, from the provisions of Part IV, either in whole or in part, or generally, or for any period, or that would extend the application of Part III or Part IV or both Parts III and IV to any other grains, unless

(a) the Minister has consulted with the board about the exclusion or extension; and

(b) the producers of the grain have voted in favour of the exclusion or extension, the voting process having been determined by the Minister.

The intent of section 47.1, as contained in the legislation brought forward by a Liberal government, was stated clearly to the House on October 7, 1997 at page 571 of Debates by the minister of agriculture at that time.

It states:

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 [1997] 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...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.

The 1997 bill was about giving farmers the right to control their own destinies and their own institution, that being the Canadian Wheat Board. Under section 47.1, Parliament gave them the clear authority to have a say by providing them the ability to vote prior to the government making any changes to that act.

Through this legislation, the government is denying farmers a legally constituted right that is currently provided for in legislation. All Canadians should be worried about this affront to democracy. Farmers were given protection under a law passed by Parliament which the minister is violating. If the government can violate that law, it can violate laws that protect other people as well.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. I have not yet heard anything that would indicate to the Chair that the House's privileges have been affected. It is not the normal practice of the Chair to comment on the legality of legislation. That is usually done by the courts.

If the Chief Government Whip is rising on the same point, I will recognize him briefly.

I will then return to the member for Malpeque. I would ask him to advise the Chair if he has anything of substance to add as to where the House's privileges have been affected and, if so, I would appreciate that he get to that point quickly.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, if this question of privilege continues I would like to reserve the right to have a more lengthy argument.

My fundamental argument is that this is the House of Commons where we can pass laws subject to the Supreme Court. We can pass laws as long as they do not affect the Constitution or involve other legislatures. We can bring in laws that amend previous laws that can go back to 1867. We have that right. We have been elected by the people.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I would remind the members that when this bill is brought before the House there will be ample opportunity for them to make their cases about how they might feel about the bill. However, at this point in the day, the Chair needs to hear where the House's privileges or existing Standing Orders have been affected. Therefore, I will allow the member for Malpeque to come to that point in his argument before we move on.

The hon. member for Malpeque.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the privileges of the House are being affected. We are elected here to represent Canadians in our democracy and to ensure that laws are upheld.

The House leader for the governing party is right that laws can be amended. However, in this instance we are dealing with a law of the land that we are to uphold, which the minister took an oath of office to uphold, which under section 47.1 of legislation of this House provides producers the right to have a vote prior to doing that. That violates my privileges as well as yours, Mr. Speaker, and certainly those of your constituents.

I feel that everyone's privileges, mine, those of my colleagues and those of the members on the government side, are being abused because in this chamber, which is supposed to be the essence of democracy, we have a minister who is violating his oath of office, and a government that is bringing in legislation which does not allow us to uphold a law that was passed in this place.That is how my privileges as a member are being affected.

Imagine how farmers' privileges are being affected after believing that their right to have a say in their destinies was enshrined in legislation under section 47.1 before the government brought in this legislation, which is in violation of that.

I believe that my privileges as well as those of everyone in the House and, indeed through us, those of Canadians, are being affected. This is an affront to democracy.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I too rise in support of the question of privilege brought forward by the hon. member for Malpeque.

I stood yesterday in the House and argued in defence of the rights of western Canadian grain farmers and all Canadians that the insistence of the Conservative government to move ahead with this legislation, despite its refusal to respect section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, was an issue that, in abrogating the rights of farmers, was a matter demanding urgent attention by the Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board and by this House.

Section 47.1 of the act is clear. I will not repeat the entire portion of the section as the member for Malpeque did that quite adequately.

We know that the minister must comply with the law. The government is missing a key element in its ideological pursuit of the death of the single desk sales and marketing system, the will of western Canadian grain farmers. Consequently, the legislation before us exceeds the authority of the government based on its neglect in fulfilling all of its obligations.

The institution of the Canadian Wheat Board is considered so sacrosanct that codified in the statute is a mechanism designed to protect farmers from a government arbitrarily removing the strength and clout of an agency that markets and sells wheat and barley at the best possible price on behalf of all western Canadian grain farmers.

Section 47.1 was enshrined in the Canadian Wheat Board Act to prevent the very abuse that is being perpetrated by the minister and the government this morning. It is not up to me or the minister to determine the fate of the single desk marketing and sales system. It is up to farmers.

The government insists it is motivated by choice. However, it is forcing its will on farmers, not asking them. Meanwhile our party's position has been consistent from the beginning: let farmers decide.

This is an issue about the right of self-determination by farmers, a right so important it was enshrined in legislation. The only conclusion to be drawn from this is that the Conservative government has not only ignored the consequences of its actions but has acted in deliberate contravention of the legislation it is seeking to modify.

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you find a prima facie case of a violation of this House's privilege.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I believe you dealt with this adequately in your earlier intervention. Just to underscore exactly what you said, because you were quite correct, there is no privilege here. The members opposite are talking about a matter of law. The Speaker does not rule on matters of law; he rules on matters of procedure.

Mr. Speaker, there can be no privilege in this case. I believe you were about to make a ruling on that during your original intervention of the question of privilege by the member for Malpeque. I ask you to consider doing that now.

I do not believe the government need make any further interventions because quite clearly privilege has not been affected here. Members' rights have not been impugned.

Mr. Speaker, the members opposite are asking you to make a ruling on a matter of law, which is outside of your purview. You know that as well as I do, as should every member of this House.

Mr. Speaker, if you would not mind, I would ask for an immediate ruling.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will get right to the point. I would submit that to place this legislation before the House and seek its support would require members of the House to endorse legislation which begins from a premise that contravenes an existing law and thus places members of the House in an untenable and unacceptable position. The bottom line is we need to recognize the legislation the government is proposing and the chamber will vote on. When we talk about the privileges of the chamber, we are talking about procedures and enabling a fair process of debate.

The legislation the government is asking us to debate is in violation of a law. The government should do the right thing by withdrawing the legislation and bringing forward a motion or the honourable thing by allowing the prairie grain farmers a plebiscite. Bringing forward legislation or a piece of law that would ultimately break an existing law is wrong. We should not accept the Prime Minister's attitude that the vote of the prairie grain or wheat farmer is trash. That was a legitimate vote.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Privilege
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

Why wasn't I given a ballot?