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 grain.

Topics

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I hear from farmers on this issue because we have spoken out on it. I hear from farmers who want to keep the Wheat Board and I hear from farmers who do not. I hear from farmers who voted Conservative and believed they would have a vote in a plebiscite before the Wheat Board would be dismantled as a single desk system.

We also know that farmers desperately need better rail transit and better transportation routes. We need to think holistically about what farmers need. I do not believe they need Bill C-18.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, it is great to be back to speak to the bill again.

I would like to inform the House and Canadians that farmers will have a choice. The opposition wants to give them a choice and we want to as well. They will have a choice between a voluntary wheat board, which the government is supporting, and their own decisions about marketing their own grain.

That is a good balance. That is the balance that the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands should be supporting. If the opposition were reasonable on this, it would support that as well.

I want to point out that the Conservative Party will not be supporting any of the amendments that have been moved by the opposition today. Unfortunately, as they did at committee, we believe opposition members are playing games with the future of the grain industry in western Canada, trying to delay this legislation and trying to create instability in western Canada.

I note that the member for Winnipeg Centre was complaining about committee and the times that were given to it. The reality is that he left early on two of the three nights and the third night we finished early because it was agreed that we had heard the witnesses and so could move on. It is interesting that he would complain about the committee process when he did not engage in a good part of it.

These amendments have been made to scuttle any--

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

I apologize for interrupting my hon. colleague's speech, but it is a parliamentary rule in the House not to comment on the absence of someone in the House. I wonder if that rule also applies to committee, because my hon. colleague just pointed out that someone was absent from committee. I may be mistaken, but I would like to raise that point and get your ruling, Madam Speaker.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I thank the hon. member. It is not permitted to mention the presence or the absence of members.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I hope I am not taking any time here, but I would not comment on the member's absence in the House. That is not what I was doing. I was talking about committee. I believe we are able to do that, but I stand to be corrected.

This argument probably will get stranger than even this morning when the Liberals speak. They have come up with some tinfoil hat conspiracy about the contingency fund, which is a very strange argument. The reality is the board asked us to increase the contingency fund.

The second reality is that the fund now needs to be protected from the present board of directors. It has already spent somewhere between $60 million and $100 million on ships that it did not tell farmers it was buying. It appears it is spending several million dollars on an advertising campaign in eastern Canada for which I and other western Canadian farmers have to pay. Certainly anything to do with a contingency fund with regard to the government's action would be to protect that for farmers, for taxpayers and for the future of the Canadian Wheat Board.

At committee, unlike the opposition, the Conservative Party, led by the member for Prince Albert, put forward two constructive amendments which were passed. We believe the House of Commons committee has done its job and we are very happy to be here this morning to support marketing freedom for western Canadian farmers.

I want to talk one more time about my experiences with this system. It is a bit frustrating to only have 10 minutes because I do not know if I can do a good job on this in that time.

I have lived on a farm my whole life. In my teenage years I started farming. We had to deal with the Wheat Board. In the early 1990s, we had a crop that froze in the fields. When we came to market it, the board said that it was not willing to market that grain because it did not find it to be good quality.

We were able to go to the United States to find a buyer for it. At that time, if one had the permission of the board, one could export. However, when we went to export it, the grain company came back and said that it would not take our grain because it already had a supply of grain. It turned out that it had made a deal with the Wheat Board, at the time the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, for our grain. Therefore, we received about 65¢ a bushel less for it than we had arranged with the U.S. grain company. We did get to follow the trucks from our own local grain elevator to the U.S. grain elevator to get that 65¢ less a bushel for each bushel of grain that was hauled from there.

That is really when attitudes in our part of the world began to coalesce and people realize they can do a better job of marketing than the Canadian Wheat Board.

The board lives off farmers. The board does not make its own money. Any money that it makes and any money that it spends is farmers' income. As the expenses at the board have increased over the years, farmers have become more and more concerned about how their money has been spent.

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands said that this was not an issue of freedom versus oppression. However, for many farmers it is because they feel the board has bullied them for decades, and it has not stopped.

We can probably witness the bizarre scene, where apparently the board of directors now spends farmers' money to hand out muffins and CWB leaflets at Union Station in downtown Toronto to try to appeal to some folks in Toronto. It has been taking out full-page ads in eastern Ontario papers, on TV and on radio. I get to pay for that. It is a very strange situation. It is probably one more clear illustration as to why western Canadian farmers need freedom. If these folks want to spend money like this, they should spend their own money, not our money.

I grow my own wheat and pay the expenses when I grow it. Farmers harvest their own grain and store it. However, when it comes to selling it, we are not allowed to do that. I want to explain to Canadians what we need to do just to sell our own product.

We have to go to the Canadian Wheat Board and ask if it will sell our grain. It comes back and offers us a contract that we sign. Then the board tells me what percentage of that contract it will take. Typically it is 60% to 70% of the grain, but sometimes it is 100%. The board tells me that it will take that grain over the next 12 months, so I have to wait. It also tells me that it will pay me for part of it when I deliver and the rest will be paid in up to 18 months later.

I do not know if members have run a business, but it is impossible for people to make a living that way. Again, one of the opposition members mentioned that farmers have to go off-farm for income. This is one of the reasons why they have to do that. They do not even get paid for much of their own product until 18 months later.

There is a thing called a buy-back. I can go to the board and say that I would like to buy my own grain back, even though it is still sitting in my granary. The board will tell me what price I have to pay for my grain so I can try to make an arrangement for somebody else to sell it.

From personal experience, we have gone to them with a proposal. We had some durum a few years. The Wheat Board was only taking 60% of the durum. We found a buyer in the United States and the board had nothing to do with it. We went to the board and said that we wanted a buy back and it said that we would not get it at any price. It was contracting that percentage and we could not buy it back. That 40% of our product, our inventory, would sit in our bin until the Wheat Board was ready to take it and ready to say that we could sell it.

That is why western Canadian farmers know they need change and freedom. This is the freedom we want to bring for them. The freedom the Liberals and the NDP want for them is to keep them chained so they are dependent on other people and cannot make their own decisions. We are not prepared to go along with that.

There are a couple of illustrations of things that have worked in western Canadian where people have had freedom.

Let me talk a bit about canola. It is a fairly recent development in western Canada. It now brings in almost $5.6 billion to western Canada and is our largest value crop. One of the primary reasons for that is because farmers can go out and market their own grain. It has become the flagship product of our agricultural industry. I do not think we ever expected that. We have always been told that we are the heart of the grain world. Now another crop has passed grain in its value in western Canada.

Flax is a smaller crop and another Canadian success story. It is used in a whole host of products, from animal food to environmentally friendly flooring and those kinds of things. We are now one of the largest suppliers of flax in the world, producing almost half of the world's supply.

Mustard is grown in my area. It is another crop that has expanded in acres because farmers get out there and market their own crops.

I do not know if I need to talk about pulses and lentils, peas, lentils, chickpeas and what has happened with them over the last few years. There has been a multi-billion pulse and special crops industry that has developed in western Canada, primarily because people can grow it and they can market their own production.

The production of the eight major pulse and special crops have increased from a million tonnes in the early 1990s to 5.6 million tonnes in 2009, and that is at a time when grain has gone backward. When the acreage for grain has been diminishing each year, these other several crops have been increasing.

This is one of the reasons why we need freedom in western Canada, so we can free up the grain industry so it can begin to grow again. We have already heard there are at least two companies that want to build plants and begin processing in western Canada as soon as these changes are made.

I had to laugh when I heard the opposition say that it did not want processing plants in western Canada because that would mean they would pay less for their product. I have never heard such a strange argument in my life. If we really wanted to save money, I guess we should shut down every bit of processing and manufacturing in the country. That is just ridiculous.

We look forward to the $500 million per year of extra revenue that this will generate in western Canada. Freedom cannot come too soon for farmers. They need the stability from this legislation. We need the legislation passed as quickly as possible so they can begin planning for next year, so we can begin to see our grain production grow once again in western Canada and have western Canada remain the heart of agriculture around the world.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, much of the parliamentary secretary's speech is based on the same misinformation and propaganda that the Conservatives have been circulating across western Canada, taxpayer-funded misinformation and propaganda, while at the same time imposing a gag order on the directors of the Wheat Board so they cannot defend themselves and correct some of this misinformation.

One of those elements is this myth, this free market flight of fancy, that as soon as the government eliminates the Canadian Wheat Board, value-added mills will pop up out of the ground like mushrooms. In actual fact, for the last 10 years milling capacity has increased 50% under the current regime. Four new facilities have begun. The reason there is one hanging in the wings right now is because it is pretty sure it will be able to buy their grain for less, which means less money in the pockets of the prairie producer. The misinformation is reckless and irresponsible.

The $500 million figure that he used is the estimate from KPMG as to what it will cost to wrap up the Canadian Wheat Board. Will the parliamentary secretary verify its studies affirm that it will cost the government $500 million to realize this ideological—

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, once again we hear that overheated rhetoric for which the member opposite is so famous. There is a word we believe in that starts with the letter “f” and that is the word “freedom”.

I do not think he was listening. The $500 million are $500 million every year that western Canadian farmers will gain from finally being able to market their own grain, do their own production and conduct their own business.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I have a short question for the parliamentary secretary and I would like a direct and honest answer.

He said in the beginning of his speech that farmers would be offered choice between the Canadian Wheat Board and other companies in the open market. What he did not say was that there was no longer the choice of single desk selling, and that is the key point. It is not about the Wheat Board, it is about the issue of single desk selling.

Will farmers have a choice between single desk selling and the open market, yes or no?

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, the problem with the member opposite is he does not know that we cannot give people freedom and imprison them at the same time. We certainly will bring them freedom and we will give them the choice to deal with a voluntary Canadian Wheat Board or to market their own grain.

I should point out that when farmers wanted freedom, his party locked farmers up in jail. I do not think Liberals will even admit this, but one of the farmers was put in jail with a convicted murderer and stripped searched 58 times because of the ideological bent those folks had toward keeping farmers imprisoned.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I want talk about choice in my constituency since the member from P.E.I. brought it up. My constituents who grow wheat do not have a choice. They have to sell to the Wheat Board. The farmers in northern British Columbia have to sell to the Wheat Board. Wheat farmers in the riding of the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands are in luck because they can sell it to whomever they want. If there are wheat farmers in the riding of the member from P.E.I., they can sell to whomever they want.

What do the constituents of the parliamentary secretary have to say? My constituents are clearly saying they want choice. They want freedom. In this case, all the constituents of the members who support the Wheat Board monopoly have a choice.

Motions in Amendment
Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, my colleague makes a great point. He has done great work on this issue.

As I pointed out earlier, for canola, flax, peas and specialty crops, we all have choice. Those markets are growing and expanding every day. What we really need is for this legislation to pass as quickly as possible because western Canadian wheat farmers need stability and they need to begin planning for next year. The opposition cannot be allowed to destabilize the farmers throughout the next growing season. We need the legislation passed immediately.

Medal of Bravery
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize and honour two outstanding police officers in my riding, Sergeant Delkie Curtis and Sergeant Roger Thomas of the Cobourg Police Service.

On October 28, 2011, sergeants Curtis and Thomas both received the Governor General's Medal of Bravery award. On October 6, 2007, sergeants Curtis and Thomas rushed into a smoke-filled building in Cobourg, Ontario and rescued an incapacitated woman from the burning building. Sergeants Curtis and Thomas acted swiftly and with complete disregard for their own safety. Their willingness to risk their own lives in order to save another's is an exceptional act of bravery in keeping with the highest standards of all Canadian police officers.

On behalf of the good people of Northumberland—Quinte West, I wish to thank sergeants Curtis and Thomas for their bravery and dedication to duty. These two men are truly deserving of the honour that was bestowed upon them for their courageous and selfless act.

Battle of the Blades
Statements By Members

November 18th, 2011 / 11 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today, along with my colleague from Nickel Belt, to commemorate another great achievement by Sudbury native and Olympic gold medallist, Tessa Bonhomme.

On Monday night Tessa and skating partner David Pelletier were crowned the champions of the third season of CBC's Battle of the Blades.

The Battle of the Blades partners professional hockey players with professional figure skaters. Each week the pairs present a routine to the judges. Viewers then vote for their favourite performance.

Bonhomme, who won a gold medal as part of the Canadian women's hockey team at the 2010 Olympics, was the first female hockey player to take part in the show.

As the champions, Bonhomme and Pelletier won $100,000 for the charity of their choice.

Since the show's inaugural season in 2009, Battle of the Blades has made nearly $1 million in charitable donations to organizations in Canada, a truly remarkable figure. This year, Bonhomme has dedicated her prize to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure in my great riding of Sudbury.

Congratulations to Tessa Bonhomme.

Public Safety
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Jeff Watson Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, with our Tackling Violent Crime Act, measures to strengthen parole, pardons and sentences for violent criminals, funds for more front-line police and to prevent at-risk youth from a life of crime, only this Conservative government is making our communities and streets safer.

According to StatsCan's just released 2010 crime severity index, Windsor--Essex is the safest region in Canada. Among the safest Canadian communities over 10,000 people, the town of LaSalle ranks second, Tecumseh fourth, Kingsville seventh, Lakeshore eighth, and Essex twelfth. Windsor is the seventh safest big city of 32. Topping the list of 238 safest towns and cities is my hometown, Amherstburg.

Thanks to our dedicated police, strong community involvement, our government's investments to prevent crime and tough laws to crack down on criminals, Windsor--Essex is the safest region in Canada.