House of Commons Hansard #49 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-18, An Act to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board and to make consequential and related amendments to certain Acts, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's Ruling
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

There are 11 motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-18. The motions will be grouped for debate as follows: Group No. 1 will include Motions Nos. 1 to 6; Group No. 2 will include Motions Nos. 7 to 11.

The voting patterns for the motions within each group are available at the table. The Chair will remind the House of each pattern at the time of voting.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

moved:

That Bill C-18 be amended by deleting Clause 2.

That Bill C-18 be amended by deleting Clause 3.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

moved:

That Bill C-18 be amended by deleting Clause 6.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

moved:

That Bill C-18 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

That Bill C-18 be amended by deleting Clause 9.

That Bill C-18 be amended by deleting Clause 12.

Madam Speaker, I thank my seconder, the member for Sudbury, for reinforcing our opposition to this bill and helping us to move these amendments. I also want to recognize and extend my gratitude to the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for doing her part to try to correct what we believe is an extremely flawed and even, may I say, dangerous piece of legislation.

I will begin my remarks by saying that I believe the entire process and the federal government's treatment of this bill has been a sham and a travesty from the word go. We are of the view that the fast-tracking of this bill does a disservice and an injustice to the very prairie farm producers whose livelihoods would be dramatically affected and impacted by this bill.

The public should know, if they are not already aware, that the extreme fast-tracking of this bill resulted in only two committee hearings of four hours each where not a single farmer was heard. There was no consultation, no co-operation, no accommodation of the reasonable concerns that have been brought forward by producers, farm organizations and people in the rural areas who would be affected by the loss of their shortline railways, the producer cars, and all the thousands of things that are impacted by abolishing the Canadian Wheat Board. None of them have been given voice and none of them have had the opportunity to be heard in the context of this debate.

I would caution the government that, when it does this habitually, this chronic, habitual abuse of parliamentary procedure, it threatens to undermine the very integrity of our parliamentary democracy. I have been here 14 years and I have never seen anything like it in my life. The government has lowered the bar and I am concerned that it is doing irreversible damage to the integrity of our parliamentary institutions.

I would remind the government that good governance is a fundamental prerequisite for prosperity. The government thinks that its ideas have primacy over all other Canadians' ideas, that no other voices need to be heard as it implements its agenda. It has a legitimate right to put forward legislation but it does not have a right to undermine, sabotage, diminish and erode the fragile construct that is the Canadian Parliament.

That is the frustration that we have on the opposition benches. The Conservatives represent a majority in the House of Commons but they do not represent a majority of Canadians. How can they be so arrogant as to assume that the other 60% of Canadians who did not vote for them and who maybe do not support their agenda do not have a right to be heard?

No one has a monopoly on good ideas. Canada in itself is a fragile construct. The Parliament of Canada is a manifestation of that co-operation that keeps this fragile federation together. The government is chipping away and eroding, and I honestly do not even think it realizes the damage it is doing.

I will move to the motions that we have put forward today seeking to ameliorate and mitigate some of the impact of this bill. I will say from the beginning that I am sick and tired of the cutesy names that the government is inventing for all of its pieces of legislation. This bill is not about marketing freedom. It is about the freedom to sell grain for less.

With every one of its bills, the government makes up some editorialized comment and tries to put it off as the actual name of the bill. The real name of this bill is an act to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board, but I believe it is an act to abolish the Canadian Wheat Board. Step by step, incrementally, the government is on this ideological crusade to abolish what we believe is a great Canadian institution, and one of those manifestations of a unique Canadian co-operation that is acting in the best interests of the producer instead of in the best interests of the big agrifood giants that will be the beneficiaries of this huge transfer of wealth.

The one thing we know about this bill is that it would take hundreds of millions of dollars out of the pockets of prairie farmers and put it into the pockets of the shareholders of the big agricorp and agrifood conglomerate giants that have been salivating over this market share ever since the Wheat Board was first created.

It is no surprise that Brian Mulroney is on the board of directors of Archer Daniels Midland, one of the big three that will gobble up this market share. He billed $650,000 worth of billings in the last two years alone as a member of the board of directors. People do not get that kind of money just for attending board meetings. They get that kind of money for using their influence to push the government into something that is not in the best interests of farmers. It is in the best interests of a very special privileged few, and that is the Cargills, Viterra and the other agrifood giants.

An example of how the Conservatives are trampling on the democratic rights of prairie farmers and denying them the right to vote is that, by virtue of this bill, they will fire all 15 members of the board of directors, 10 of whom were elected by prairie farmers, and replace them with a board of four members appointed by the government. It is a $6 billion a year corporation, one of the largest and most successful grain marketing companies in the world, and the Conservatives will appoint four of their stooges. I presume they have picked them out already. They are probably some failed Conservative candidates or some bagmen who did yeoman's due service to the political party of their choice--

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. While I am sure that some will appreciate the theatrics of the hon. member's speech, referring to Canadians, who he does not even know, as “stooges”, I find most offensive and he should apologize for that.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I thank the member for his comment. I have not heard a personal attack directed to a specific person. It perhaps is not a very nice comment but I would not consider it unparliamentary in the context here that it is being raised.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, the first amendment that you read out today, seconded by my colleague from Sudbury, would delete clause 2, which proposes to reduce the board of directors from 15 down to 5, which would include a chairperson and a president. We think it is ridiculous. It is an appalling notion and we seek the support of all members of Parliament. If they have any kind of a commitment to good corporate governance, surely they would agree that the duly elected board members, elected by prairies farmers in the 10 districts, would be the better stewards of the Canadian Wheat Board in whatever manifestation is left after the bill undermines and guts it.

Clause 3, the second amendment we have put forward, is in a similar vein. It would delete clause 3 because it is undemocratic to change this. It would leave no direct input and say from prairie farmers into the operations of what remains as the shell of the Canadian Wheat Board.

I appreciate my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands participating in this debate today and moving meaningful, reasoned amendments. We encourage the Conservatives to at least entertain the fact that these are coming from a representative group that is larger than the group that they claim to represent. There are 60% of Canadians represented by the opposition members here. They did not vote for the Conservative Party. For the Conservatives to claim that the May 2, 2011, election gave them a mandate to run roughshod over democratic process and parliamentary procedure by fast-tracking the bill and denying the right of legitimate voices to be heard is, in and of itself, a travesty.

There is a reason that corrupt nations are poor. We should take a moment and reflect on some of the consequences of allowing our institutions to be eroded. I recently read a book by a former Liberal member of Parliament, Roy Cullen, called The Poverty of Corrupt Nations. It is hard to say which came first, if they are poor because they are corrupt or if they are corrupt because they are poor, but the two are inexorably linked. The Conservatives are taking us down a road where we are undermining not only our democratic institutions but the integrity of our Canadian democracy.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I did enjoy the member's remarks because I believe they are right on the money. He said in his earlier remarks that the government is threatening, with this action, the integrity of parliamentary institutions. The government has not threatened. It has hurt the integrity of this parliamentary institution because it went with a steamroller over section 47.1 of the current act and taken away farmers' right to vote in a legitimate plebiscite as it suggests in the act. The government has not only taken away farmers' votes, by the way it has handled committee as the member very well explained, but it has taken away farmers' voices.

Now we are finding out that the government, through executive order, and it has come out in the Gazette, is not only taking away farmers' votes and voices but it is now picking farmers' pockets by using their money in the contingency fund to offer a cushion for the new board. What does the member have to say about that?

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Malpeque for his long-standing advocacy to stand up for the Canadian Wheat Board. It is time for all friends of the Canadian Wheat Board to stand up and make their views known because with a majority in the House of Commons and a majority in the Senate, it is going to fall to civil society to put some constraints on the government, from the absolute power it seems to be revelling in as we speak.

However, I agree with my colleague that it is offensive to the sensibilities of any person who calls himself or herself a democrat to observe what is taking place here, in denying farmers the direction and control over their own institution, and the pot of money now that the government seems to be grabbing and clawing back.

This institution was set up as essentially a big co-op, a co-operative to act in the best interests of prairie producers, to protect itself from the historic gouging of the robber barons, the rail barons and the great grain barons—

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. There are many members standing up, so I would like to give the opportunity for a couple of other questions.

The hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to ask this member a question. I did notice he talked about robber barons and I know he is doing the movember thing. I have to tell him that his moustache looks quite the part as far as robber barons go. I do like the member. When we have the opportunity to speak, it is quite interesting.

However, I know he spends a lot of time on Salt Spring Island and I know there are not a lot of wheat farmers there. I know there are not a lot of wheat farmers in downtown Winnipeg. I do know there are a lot of wheat farmers in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and across the country who are represented by Conservatives. Most rural ridings that actually do grow wheat and actually have constituents in them that are farmers are represented by Conservatives. I know that and most people in Canada know that.

A survey was done of the younger generation of farmers. Because they are the future, 76% of that younger generation said they wanted something other than a monopoly. I want the member to answer this question. Why are the younger farmers saying, “Let's have something other than a monopoly”? Yet, the NDP and the Liberals are saying, “No, we want to violate what young farmers want”. How does the member respond to that?

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to raise a point that I meant to get to. I have heard from hundreds of prairie farmers from Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba, many of whom said that they voted for the Conservative Party, but they did so with the knowledge that they were promised they would have a vote before anything happened to their Canadian Wheat Board.

Whether they voted for the Conservatives because of the gun registry or any number of other virtues and merits that were offered them by the Conservatives, they thought they were going to get to vote on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. The government lied to prairie farmers to their face. We have it on record. We have the minister on record stating clearly that farmers would get to vote, that he believes in democracy. The Conservatives ignored all that and they are steamrolling this bill.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe that it is unparliamentary in this place to accuse anyone, any individual, or any party of lying. That is what the member just did. I demand he withdraw that.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. What the member for Winnipeg Centre said is in fact true. The minister did, and I can find the quote if we have to find it, promise farmers a vote. He said that he believes in democracy.

Then, when it comes to introducing this bill, he is claiming that the vote was the election. That is not what he told farmers. I met with quite a number of young farmers in this town yesterday. They believed the minister. What the member for Winnipeg Centre is saying is the truth. The minister lied to those farmers.