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

Question No. 173
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada recognizes the value and contribution of proactive mitigation measures taken before an emergency or disaster occurs to eliminate or reduce the impacts and risks of hazards in order to protect lives, property, the environment, and reduce economic disruption. Not only does mitigation serve to reduce the impact of disasters on the lives of Canadians, but it is also a cost-effective approach for reducing the economic burden of disaster response and recovery costs on all levels of government, businesses, communities, families and individuals.

On June 6, 2011, while visiting the Quebec region of Montérégie to see first-hand the impact of the 2011 spring floods, the Prime Minister announced that the Government of Canada will share on a 50-50 basis the costs of any permanent flood mitigation measures taken specifically for this year’s flooding that are not otherwise eligible under the federal disaster financial assistance arrangements.

Public Safety, the lead federal department for meeting this commitment, has been working with other government departments and the Province of Quebec to establish a one-time mitigation contribution program to cost share eligible permanent flood mitigation measures. Input is being sought from the Province of Quebec on the types of measures put in place and their costs to inform the development of the program terms and conditions, including the specific eligibility criteria for cost sharing.

The principles enshrined in “An Emergency Management Framework for Canada”, the national framework, second edition, approved by federal-provincial-territorial, FPT, ministers responsible for emergency management in January 2011, and in the national disaster mitigation strategy, endorsed by FPT ministers in January 2008, are being used to inform the development of this one-time mitigation contribution program.

As outlined in these key FPT documents, mitigation is an important part of a robust emergency management framework. Disaster prevention and mitigation measures are those that eliminate or reduce the impacts and risks of hazards through proactive measures taken before an emergency or disaster occurs. Measures may be structural, for example, flood dikes, or non-structural, for example, land use zoning and building codes.

Public Safety is seeking detailed estimates from the Province of Quebec on the costs of the permanent mitigation measures put in place for this year’s flooding in order to recommend a funding amount to establish a one-time mitigation contribution program, which would allow reimbursement of eligible incurred costs.

Once the program is established, the Government of Canada will share on a 50-50 basis the costs of eligible permanent flood mitigation measures put in place by the Province of Quebec. The exact amount that the Government of Canada will reimburse will depend on the costs of the eligible provincial measures put in place. Until a formal claim has been submitted by the Province under the program, it is not possible to estimate how much the Government of Canada will spend.

Public Safety is working closely with the Ministère de la Sécurité publique of Quebec as the program is being developed and will continue to do so as we move forward. The goal is to have the program established in early 2012. Once in place, Public Safety will share the detailed eligibility criteria with the province and work with it to facilitate the processing of its cost-sharing claim so that funds can flow in as timely a manner as possible.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, if Question No. 165 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 165
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

With respect to the opening of the Department of National Defence (DND) offices at 3500 Carling Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, also known as the Nortel Campus: (a) what was the total cost to open the facility for use by DND, broken down by (i) the initial cost to purchase the land and facilities, (ii) the cost to renovate the facilities to make it operational for DND purposes; (b) how many staff are currently operating from the Nortel Campus and is this the full complement that the facility will accommodate, or, if not, how many more is it expected to accommodate; (c) what are the functions that these personnel are engaged in, i.e, human resources, accounting, military command, etc.; (d) what is the time frame to transfer all of the services from the National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ) to the new location; (e) what, if any, services or functions will remain at the current NDHQ location; (f) will DND services at facilities other than NDHQ be moved to the Nortel Campus, and, if so, what services and from which locations, specifying the complete addresses of the buildings and the services, will be moved; and (g) what will be the total annual operational cost to operate the Nortel facility?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed 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, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to these amendments.

Thus far, in this discussion at report stage, the government has, in its way, tried to smear the board in the eyes of the public. I would think Canadians would expect that the minister and his parliamentary secretary, who both took an oath of office to uphold their responsibilities, would think ill of that.

One could Imagine what would happen if we had the Minister of Health trying to destroy the health system in this country, or if we had the Minister of State for Science and Technology trying to do away with science and technology.

What we have, in this case, are two ministers who are doing the direct opposite and doing everything within their power to smear the Canadian Wheat Board. It is for that reason that I want to put a couple of things on the record so that the public understands just what we are talking about here.

What is the Canadian Wheat Board? The Canadian Wheat Board has been working for wheat and barley farmers for over 75 years. It ensures that all wheat and barley farmers get the best possible price for their crops. The Canadian Wheat Board is paid for and run by the farmers it benefits. The Canadian Wheat Board sells grain all around the world. It arranges for its transportation from thousands of farms to customers in some 70 countries. The critical component for the Canadian Wheat Board to be able to do its job is single desk selling. That is the essence of the board.

How does the Board help farmers? The Canadian Wheat Board's annual revenues are $5 billion to $8 billion, all of which are returned to farmers, less operating costs, as profit. The cost of that operation is 7¢ per bushel. It is unbelievably efficient. Those returns going back to farmers are not taken off as shares for some private grain company. The benefits actually go back to the primary producers.

Studies by leading agriculture economists, using the Canadian Wheat Board data, concluded that the Wheat Board earned prairie farmers hundreds of millions of dollars a year more than they would have achieved on the open market. In fact, it was around $500 million.

The Canadian Wheat Board manages a supply chain that extends from the farm gate to the end-use customer. It has an envied international reputation for consistent quality and supply, superior service and technical support. However, without the authority of single desk, it will be almost impossible for the Wheat Board to do its job.

The parliamentary secretary went on at length talking about the fact that farmers would still have a board. However, they would have a board without teeth and without the authority to do its job. He said that the farmers would have a choice, that they could go to the board or to the open market. However, when I asked him about whether the farmers would have the choice between single desk and the open market, the parliamentary secretary failed to answer. He claimed that they would have their board. However, this new board would not be like the old board. It would be a board in name only. It would not have single desk selling.

In fact, this would be a government takeover with, as somebody said earlier, five stooges appointed by the minister. It would really be the minister's wheat board. The government is expropriating the Wheat Board, which is run, controlled and was built by farmers in Canada, taking it over and running it as its own agency. I will go through a little bit of that because that becomes clear with Bill C-18.

Bill C-18 begins by eliminating the 10 elected board members and replacing them with 5 ministerial appointed directors. Just who will those hand-picked directors be? According to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food's own officials, they will answer to the minister, not to the farmers.

I will quote what the assistant deputy minister said to the committee. He said, ”It”, meaning the legislation, “enables the minister to provide direction to the board in the manner in which it operates”. It could not be more clear. There is nothing vague there. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, sitting in Ottawa, will now tell the board of directors what to do, how to do it and when.

We need to keep in mind that that is the minister who has never visited the Wheat Board, other than for 15 minutes, and has never walked into its war room to see how it operates. He has never walked into its transportation room to see how it collects all that grain, 900 miles from tidewater position, thousands of farmers spread over the Prairies, all different types and qualities of wheat and barley, and get that into a transportation system, delivered to a country elevator on a shortline maybe, down the main line and unloaded into the hole of a ship on time so there is no demurrage paid.

The minister has never visited the Wheat Board to understand that. All he is going on is an ideology. He has attacked the board. He has not allowed farmers, under this legislation, to even have a voice at hearings where they could have say.

There is not a single word in this legislation about farmer direction, farmer control or farmers having the right to choose the board of directors they want to run and manage this so-called voluntary Canadian wheat board. In fact, as I said, it is the minister's board.

What is interesting, as well, is that, while the minister picks his own directors, the minister has made sure there is nothing in the legislation concerning conflict of interest. What is to prevent those Conservative appointees from using their time as the minister's hand-picked directors to feather their own nests? Absolutely nothing. That comes from the legal counsel to the agriculture committee when he testified at the committee.

The elimination of an elected board of directors and replacing it with hand-picked appointees is based on what kind of model? I asked that question to Agriculture Canada officials. I asked, “Is there any marketing institution or marketing agency in this country based on this model?”. The answer from officials was, “We will get back to you.” The answer, quite simply, is that there is not a model like this.

Given that the effect of the government's illegitimate action to destroy a $5.8 billion institution, one would assume that there is evidence the government can produce to justify itself. The government has stated that the destruction of the Wheat Board will ensure predictability for western grain farmers. Really? What a fallacy.

I will look at just one issue, access for farmers in moving their grain. On page 6 of the working group report, it states:

...there are questions about whether all of the current market participants, particularly the smaller players...will have effective, competitive access to the entire grain logistics chain from farm to vessel. Similar issues were raised with...respect to short lines and access to producer cars....

Given that fact, the minister announced on November 8 that he would be setting up a logistics working group to examine these issues. Just where is the predictability? Clearly, right now there is not any.

The Government of Canada is putting at risk the farmers who deliver that grain to the tune of $5 billion to $8 billion a year. I can tell members who gains. Who is the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food working for? I think he is working for U.S. farmers. The U.S. has challenged the system 14 times stating that it was an unfair trader and we won every time. In fact, Senator Kent Conrad had a report prepared for him that stated that if the Canadian Wheat Board single desk authority were eliminated, the United States may become more competitive in offshore markets as the advantages enjoyed by the Wheat Board disappear.

So, who is the minister working for? However, the worst is that now the minister has, by executive order, put his hands in farmers' pockets to pickpocket them. He is taking the contingency fund of up to $200 million, which is farmers' money, the money they earned from the sale of their grain, to provide a cushion for this proposed new board of his hand-picked directors.

It is unbelievable that this could happen without farmers even having a vote or a say through hearings on how this could or should not be done.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, one of the things I have always found rather peculiar about the position of our friends in the Liberal Party on the question of the Canadian Wheat Board is that they believe that only western Canadian farmers should be compelled to sell their property to the government but not Ontario farmers, not Quebec grain farmers, and not Atlantic Canadian grain farmers.

I wonder if the member really believes in compelling farmers to sell their property to the government on pain of imprisonment because farmers have been put in prison. The Liberals are against increased prison sentences for violent criminals, but apparently they are for a system that imprisons grain farmers for selling their own property.

If they think it is so great, why do they not propose an amendment to make it a national wheat board and compel Atlantic, Quebec and Ontario farmers to sell their wheat to the government?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, there is one thing about Liberals. We believe laws should be abided by and we do not pick and choose which laws should be abided by. If a law was broken, it was broken. The Conservatives claim to support supply management, but if five or ten producers decide to ship milk outside of the supply management system, are they going to allow that to happen? A system has to work with rules and regulations.

I will say this to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. I will stack up my time on western farmers against him on farms any day of the week because I have been on farm after farm in western Canada, so allow farmers a vote, for Pete's sake.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote here from an email I received. It quotes the minister who said:

There wouldn't be any attempt to impose dual marketing on the CWB unless a majority of producers voted for it.

The minister went on to say:

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

Could the member comment on that, please?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, we had quite a little discussion on that same quote earlier this morning where strong language was used in this House. In fact, I had to apologize to the Speaker.

However, these are the facts. If the minister made the statement in Minnedosa on March 27, as the member just quoted, and he did not hold a vote, it is up to Canadians to judge. It is on the record what I said earlier.

The minister obviously was not being truthful. He said he would provide farmers a vote. He said he believed in democracy, but he did not provide a vote. In fact, as the Wheat Board itself said, the Conservatives steamrolled over section 47.1 of the act.

However, the parliamentary secretary went on at great length to talk about what the Wheat Board is doing in terms of its advertising. It is living by its oath of office, but I have here a document which is paid for by the taxpayers of Canada, which is clear misinformation and a smear campaign by the Minister of Agriculture against the Wheat Board. That is wrong.