House of Commons Hansard #33 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was grain.

Topics

Second reading
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an interesting comparison. The fact is that prior to the markets opening up for other crops, there has not been a single desk entity negotiating good prices for, in this case, wheat farmers.

The market is already established. I hear the same argument on GMOs, which is that if a canola GMO is successful, why would we not introduce any more GMOs?

Those producers have done it. They have carved out their market. However, when they did that, the situation was different. It is a tougher time now. It is going to be a tougher time for wheat growers to carve out that market and to have the representation to get those markets on the international level.

It is now 2011. It is throwing people open to a ruthless market and to competitors who heavily subsidize their agriculture, such as the European Union, the United States and others. It is going to take a long time to stabilize that. In the meantime, wheat farmers are going to take a hit. It is as simple as that.

Second reading
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct the record. A while ago I mentioned Bill Gehl was the chair of the Canadian Wheat Board, but in my haste I had forgotten to indicate “Alliance” at the end. I am very well aware that Allen Oberg is the chair of the Canadian Wheat Board. Again, I want to mention that Mr. Gehl had indicated that the Port of Churchill is going to be toast, in contrast to what the minister explained a while ago.

The Conservatives have been arguing that the Ontario experience with removing the single desk can be applied to western farmers. Maybe my colleague could explain why we cannot compare apples to oranges when it comes to the Canadian Wheat Board and the Ontario experience.

Second reading
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, there are a number of points.

First, Ontario farmers decided on the marketing system themselves. They decided that experience. Western wheat production is 10 times that of eastern Canada. It has a different transportation system. It only costs $15 a tonne in Ontario to move wheat to the Great Lakes or just across the border, but there is a tremendous cost in western Canada.

The Ontario wheat business is completely different from what it is in western Canada. Ontario produces soft wheat used for pastry, cookies, doughnuts, et cetera. Most of Ontario's wheat is sold within Canada. U.S.-Canada trade in wheat is relatively low. Transportation, as I said, is a less important factor in Ontario.

Ontario farmers actually pay more handling fees now than they did under the single desk, which is quite interesting. If we transport this to the argument we have now, with transportation fees already high for western Canadian farmers, what are they going to pay when they lose the single desk?

As well, wheat is cleared from the Ontario system quickly, whereas it often takes a long time to store and move grain in western Canada.

Second reading
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to let you know I will be sharing my time with the member for Red Deer.

Our government has introduced legislation that aims to give western Canadian grain growers the freedom to choose to market their wheat, durum and barley independently or by voluntary pool.

I am proud to stand in support of our government's intention to bring marketing freedom to western Canadian grain farmers. With marketing freedom, farmers in British Columbia and across the Prairies will be able to make marketing decisions that are best for their own businesses. They will have the opportunity to take advantage of special markets.

As Virginia Labbie from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said, “The message from farmers is that the CWB is not currently meeting producers'...needs. It is evident growers need more consistent, timely, accessible and transparent marketing signals in order to make the best possible marketing decisions for their farm”.

When western Canadian farmers have the freedom of an open market, they will not have to wait for an outside agency to tell them, up to a year and a half after the sale of their grain, the final price of the sale. Western Canadian grain farmers want the same marketing freedom and opportunities as other farmers in Canada and around the world.

The creation and additional use of futures contracts will allow producers to manage their own individual risk. British Columbia ports are the main end of the pipeline for our grains prior to export. B.C. processors could see the opportunity to have direct, regular access prior to leaving our shores to pick and choose from the very best of the produce for the creation of high-end, high-value special products.

We know that an open market will attract investment, create jobs and help build a stronger economy for Canada and Canadians. We know farmers want to make their marketing decisions based on what is best for their own businesses. That is why we have brought this legislation to remove the single desk monopoly, and not the Wheat Board, as the opposition continues to say as it misleads the public.

The removal of a monopoly will allow farmers to sell their wheat and barley directly to a processor, whether it be a pasta manufacturer, a flour mill or another processing plant.

As Alberta farmer Paul Schoorlemmer said:

It will allow individual farmers to do secondary processing, mixed marketing and those types of things that were not really practical under the old system.

Grain farmers in western Canada and right across this country have a bright future, and we stand with them. Our government is committed to the continued success of Canadian agriculture. We are pulling out all the stops to help make sure Canadian farmers succeed and to build a strong future for the sector as a whole.

Farmers are the key economic driver in this country, and that is why we put farmers first in every decision we make on agriculture. Our formula is simple, and it works: we listen to our farmers, we work with farmers, and then we deliver the practical results farmers need.

Canadian farmers have proven time and time again that they can compete and succeed in the global marketplace if they have a level playing field. That is why the government has been working very hard to build new opportunities in global markets for our farmers. We have been on the road a lot in our efforts to build trade relations, and they are paying off.

The agriculture minister has led trade missions to key markets in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and the Middle East. Working closely with the industry, we have completed over 30 international trade missions and returned home with some real tangible results for our farmers, producers and processors. Everywhere we go, we are finding new customers who want to buy Canada's safe, high-quality foodstuffs. Together we have been moving a lot of product and have delivered some real results for our farmers and processors.

The government knows farmers want to make their living in the marketplace. That is why we have gotten out on the world stage, whether it is serving up Canadian steak at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver or canola oil in Mexico, to make sure our farmers can connect with new customers.

Canada has a lot to be proud of. Canada is rich in land and resources. We have the expertise in science and innovation. We export our high-quality, safe, delicious foods all over the world. We have dedicated farmers and processors to help us continue our long-standing proven tradition of delivering an abundance of top-quality food and food products to the world. These qualities are important assets as we look to the future.

Farmers appreciate the agriculture minister's hard work on their behalf. They understand that agricultural trade is critical to Canada's economy and prosperity.

Overall, Canada's agriculture, food and seafood exports surpassed $39 billion in 2010. That is the second-highest level in history, and it puts us in the top five global agrifood exporters.

That is huge. Those dollars mean jobs and livelihoods for Canadians. That is why, when we as a government take measures to support agricultural trade, we are not just helping farmers but all Canadians. Agriculture has proven time and time again its contribution to Canada's economic recovery and will continue to do so, especially as we succeed in breaking down barriers to trade.

Canada is working on all fronts to boost our agricultural business in the world. We know that buyers and consumers already think highly of Canadians and Canadian products. We want to raise awareness and boost the appetite for our great Canadian agriculture products. Opening and expanding markets around the world creates opportunities for our producers to drive the Canadian economy.

There are challenges facing the industry, but the long-term signs are positive. During this time of global economic uncertainty, we have to maximize trade opportunities on the world stage. We have to provide every opportunity for our farmers to succeed, which includes this geat step forward--and it is forward--to give western Canadian wheat farmers and barley farmers the freedom they have asked for and deserve.

Removing the single desk monopoly helps not only farmers: it helps all Canadians by creating jobs and prosperity. I urge members to support the bill and to understand that timely passage will help give farmers the certainty they need to plan their business for the coming year.

Second reading
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my hon. colleague's comments and I cannot help but wonder, if he has such confidence in the overall system, why the Conservatives did not have a full referendum vote on it, rather than playing the “we know better than everybody else”. This way there would not be this immense division, which continues to grow.

I have had more than a dozen phone calls this morning on this issue. It would have been helpful in the overall mission that the government is on if it had held a referendum and truly heard from 100% of the people who are going to be affected.

Why is the government afraid to do that?

Second reading
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I beg to differ. We did have a plebiscite on May 2, and it was called the national election. By the way, we have a majority.

Opposition members often quote a plebiscite that was supposedly an accurate collection of the farmers' thoughts. My uncle and cousin farm in Manitoba. They farm grain and they did not even get a ballot. They were not even able to vote in the plebiscite.

We know on this side of the House that the plebiscite has a lot of issues and is an inaccurate representation of the views of Canadian farmers.

Second reading
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, a plebiscite, an election, is not just about the Canadian Wheat Board.

Canadians need to be reminded that the Canadian Wheat Board was created in the 1920s and was formally implemented in 1935 by farmers, for farmers. This board is entirely run and funded by farmers. Taxpayers do not contribute any money to this organization, as they do to crown corporations. This board is not a crown corporation. What is the government doing?

Second reading
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned the inaccuracies of the plebiscites held in the past by the Canadian Wheat Board. They do not support the numbers of 62%. They just are not accurate. Again I will mention my uncle and cousin, who farm in Manitoba and were not allowed to vote because they had not been given a ballot. There are a lot of issues with that.

The B.C. grain growers group overwhelming said it supports our legislation to move the Wheat Board forward into the 21st century.

Second reading
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree with my colleague more when it comes to the Wheat Board.

At home we farm about 3,000 acres. I have a son who is looking after it at the present time. He is still combining and trying to get the crop off, but he asks me why he is getting a world price for canola outside the board but not getting a world price for wheat, which is in the board.

I would like to know what my colleague would say to my son and I would like to ask that question to the opposition. Obviously none of those members actually farms wheat or canola and understands exactly what is happening at the farm gate. The real question should be how much the Wheat Board is costing at the farm gate today, because it is very significant.

Could my colleague come up with an answer that would satisfy my son?

Second reading
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speake, that is an easy one. We talked about it. I asked the hon. member of the opposition sits on the agriculture committee. We have not seen the same issues with canola and other crops that are on the open market. They simply are making money. In my neck of the woods in northern B.C. canola and other crops are making money. Farmers have shifted away from grain because it is so difficult to operate within the Canadian Wheat Board structure.

I would like to tell the member a personal story. I would likely be a farmer today because I wanted to be a farmer as a kid, but it just simply was not doable in the grain market as my family has continued on with in Manitoba. Hopefully it is coming soon.

Second reading
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to stand in support of this important and timely legislation for western Canadian grain farmers.

I would also like to thank the member for Prince George—Peace River for sharing his time with me today.

Our government has always promised western Canadian wheat and barley growers that they would be given market freedom. With this legislation, we are delivering on that promise. We live in a democratic country and we believe that western Canadian grain farmers deserve the same freedom as farmers in other parts of Canada and around the world.

I will outline what this new legislation will mean for western grain farmers.

In the June 2011 Speech from the Throne, our government reiterated its commitment to ensure that western farmers have the freedom to sell wheat and barley on the open market. With this proposed legislation, we aim to provide marketing choice to western wheat and barley farmers. To avoid market disruptions, the goal is for farmers and grain marketers to be able to start forward contracting for the 2012-13 crop year well in advance of August 1, 2012.

This bill would remove the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board and allow for the Canadian Wheat Board to continue as a voluntary marketing organization for up to five years as it makes the transition to full private ownership.

The Canadian Wheat Board will finally have the opportunity to become owned and operated by farmers. The Canadian Wheat Board will continue to offer farmers the option of pooling their crops. It will continue to benefit from a borrowing guarantee backed by the federal government. It will develop a business plan for privatization, which will be reviewed by the Minister of Agriculture no later than 2016.

During our extensive consultations, industry raised a number of valid issues around transition. We are taking these concerns seriously.

First, on the issue of the voluntary Canadian Wheat Board's access to elevators, ports and terminals, we expect grain handlers will be competing vigorously for grain volume in an open market, so they will want to handle the grain that is marketed by the Canadian Wheat Board.

Curt Vossen, president of Richardson International Limited, said that the end of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly is “going to open up 20 to 25 million new tonnes of marketing opportunities for companies inside and outside Canada”. This will mean more companies competing for farmers' grain, which is the good news for farmers. Our staged approach will provide the necessary checks and balances to help ensure a smooth transition, taking corrective action if needed.

Second, on the issue of producers' continued access to producer cars, the right to producer cars is protected in the Canada Grain Act. The Canadian Grain Commission allocates these cars to producers, and this will not change with marketing freedom.

Currently, the Canadian Wheat Board manages the marketing of grain shipped in producer cars so that shipments are related to a sale. Under the new rules, producers and short lines will be able to make commercial agreements and arrangements with grain companies or the voluntary Canadian Wheat Board to market their grain.

Stephen Vandervalk, president of the Grain Growers of Canada, believes “You'll see more and more producer cars because it's like a specialty crop as far as quality and contracting directly with the farmer. It has very little to do with the Canadian Wheat Board”.

Short line railways are expecting some adjustments as they will have more options of marketing partners for the grain volumes they can attract from producers. However, Sheldon Affleck, president of Big Sky Rail , believes that “The flexibility of a short line should provide improved service that will attract grain”.

Third, these changes will not change the Canadian Grain Commission's role in assuring the world-renowned quality of Canada's grain.

Second reading
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. Excuse me for interrupting the hon. member for Red Deer. He will have six minutes remaining when the House returns to this matter.

Canadian Wheat Board
Statements By Members

October 20th, 2011 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, local grain farmers in my riding, such as the BC Grain Producers Association, have made it clear that they want the same marketing freedom and opportunities as other Canadian farmers. Our nation's grain farmers feed the world, and they deserve the opportunity to decide when, where and how they sell their product.

With the introduction of Bill C-18, we no longer would see those same western Canadian grain farmers go to jail for selling their grain across our borders. Our Canadian government believes in marketing freedom for all Canadian grain farmers. I, for one, am in full support of our legislation to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board. I hope all of us in the House will support the bill. It all can be summed up into one word: “freedom”.

Pensions
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, right now, there are too many seniors with inadequate pensions in my riding and in other ridings across Canada.

For these people, a strong pension plan would mean the difference between living well and merely surviving. For retirees, financial planning is key. To have one's pension plan cut by up to 40% after 30 years of service is unacceptable. It is unfair.

Under the existing Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, creditors are paid before employee pensions. This does not make any sense. I hope that this Parliament will be able to keep future retirees out of poverty by revitalizing the Canada pension plan. Only the CPP can save people from poverty when they retire.

An amendment to the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, as the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek proposed earlier this week, would truly put money in the wallets of those in need across the country and help keep them out of poverty. These people deserve to live well, not just survive.

Business Excellence Award
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of our Canadian economy. Nowhere is that more true than in Newmarket—Aurora. Entrepreneurs there are creating jobs and are a vital part of our community's fabric.

Today, I would like to recognize the 2011 Business Excellence Award winners from my riding.

From the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce, I congratulate the following: Roadhouse and Rose Funeral Home, Mr. Janitorial Supplies, Neptune Innovations, Keller Williams Realty, Tim Hortons; Warden Restoration, Rose of Sharon Services for Young Mothers, and Stephen Kearley of Benson, Kearley Insurance Brokers.

From the Aurora Chamber of Commerce, I congratulate the following, Rent Source Tools Etc. Mini Bins; Simply Yummy Bakery, Commport Aerospace Services; Robinson's Karate Schools, Park Place Manor; Longo's Aurora, Carcone's Auto Recycling, and Peter van Schaik of Van-Rob.

Congratulations to all on a job well done.