House of Commons Hansard #55 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was prairie.

Topics

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I do not like to interrupt the hon. parliamentary secretary.

Order. Order, please. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture has the floor. I would ask that all members respect the member who has the floor. There will be order, please.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, we believe that a voluntary wheat board can and will be a viable part of a reinvigorated western Canadian grain industry. As the president of the Grain Growers of Canada said recently, “a lot of farmers want to see the CWB as an active player in the open market, so let’s put the tools in their toolbox they need to be successful”.

Our government has introduced legislation which, when passed by Parliament, would give farmers in western Canada the freedom of choice that they both want and need. Marketing freedom has been a cornerstone of our Conservative platform since day one, and we ensured that it was included in the throne speech in June. We know farmers want to make their marketing choices based on what is best for their own farms and businesses.

The legislation we have introduced would allow western Canadian farmers to do just that, while removing government control from where it is not needed. Western Canadian grain farmers expect us to deliver on our promises and we are determined to do just that. In fact, that is what is happening tonight. We will be delivering on what we have long promised.

The British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan provincial governments support this change. In fact, I joined the agriculture ministers from both Alberta and Saskatchewan today, along with our own federal agriculture minister, for a press conference on the transition of a mandatory wheat board to a voluntary one.

We want the Wheat Board to work on a model of serving farmers in a post-monopoly environment and we want others to work with us for a smooth transition. We recognize that this is a complex process and I want to assure farmers that we will continue to put their best interests first.

There is a whole range of players to consider, from the farmers to the railways and many more. That is why we have been consulting extensively with stakeholders from across the supply chain, from the farm gate to the elevators to the sea ports. Over the summer, a working group comprised of experts in the field heard a broad range of advice on how the grain marketing and transportation system could transition from the current CWB run system to an open market that includes voluntary marketing pools. The working group is one of the many ways the government is seeking advice on how to move forward.

Our government must and will do all that is possible to ensure an orderly transition to a free market system. We would ask the existing Wheat Board to join us in this transition. We want to make sure the clarity and certainty are there as we work together to level the playing field for our western Canadian grain farmers. We need to ensure that our proposed legislation reflects the needs of farmers and industry for a smooth transition. We are prepared to engage with every level of the grain industry, especially with the Wheat Board itself.

We are turning a new page in our nation's great history and our nation and agricultural sector will be better for it. Over the past century, Canada's grain industry has grown into a powerhouse that brings $16 billion to the farm gate and drives close to half our agricultural exports. Those dollars create jobs and prosperity here at home, from the combine to the checkout counter. At the same time, our grain farmers have established a world-class reputation for quality that is the envy of the world.

This achievement is not the result of one single player. It is the result of a relentless commitment to excellence by the entire sector: the Canadian Grain Commission, the Canadian International Grains Institute, the Western Grains Research Foundation, the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre and, most importantly, the hard-working men and women who make sure we have a world-class product to sell in the first place.

Given our country's success in marketing wheat and barley, why change the system? Because we value marketing freedom and we need to do better. We only need look at the growth in the canola and pulse industry, which has been accomplished through marketing freedom with no single desk seller. As Canada positions itself for future growth, we need a strong, profitable grain sector more than ever.

Our government is proud to generate new opportunities for our grain growers. We are opening up new markets around the world for Canadian high quality products. We are hammering out new free trade agreements with key customers like India and the European Union.

Long term, the outlook for Canada's agriculture sector is bright. Farming is becoming increasingly complex and competitive on the world stage. We are seeing a growing demand for healthy, high quality food and we know Canadian farmers can deliver. Our natural advantages of land, water, a clean environment and a skilled workforce position us well for future growth and prosperity.

The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is meeting with industry and provincial and territorial governments to begin shaping a new agricultural framework, known as “Growing Forward 2”. This new framework for the future will help us move to a more modern, innovative, competitive, and sustainable sector that will define our success over the next decade.

Exciting new opportunities lie ahead for our farmers. We need to ensure that all farmers right across this great country can position their businesses to capture those opportunities. The marketing freedom for grain farmers act would help them do that. That is why it is so important for Parliament to pass the legislation.

The closing minutes of this debate are approaching. This is a historic moment for our government and for western Canadian grain farmers. I invite the opposition MPs to participate in this historic moment, but in a positive manner. I ask them to sympathize with western grain farmers. I ask them to do what is right. I ask them to vote for marketing freedom for western grain farmers tonight. This is their opportunity.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture talks about encouraging farmers and grain producers. However, there is a serious and fundamental problem because the latter are in fact the legitimate owners of the Canadian Wheat Board. According to the law, they should have been consulted. This would have been a very simple and easy exercise.

Had they agreed to abolish the board, no one would have protested. But there you have it, the government decided to ignore their rights and their choices. It is an even more serious problem because the government promised to conduct a plebiscite. Then there is the whole issue of what the Conservatives will do with agricultural co-operatives, which have buying and selling constraints. What will they do with milk quotas that limit producers to a given production? These are all important questions that will not be dealt with properly, if we go by the disastrous precedent set in the case of the Canadian Wheat Board, namely, that the government does not consult the people.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a bizarre question. An MP from Quebec, who does not represent one single western Canadian grain farmer, is telling the Conservative Party, which has 52 MPs from western Canada who do--

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order. Is the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin rising on a point of order?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, Quebec is still part of Canada, at least as far as I know.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

November 28th, 2011 / 6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

These are really matters of debate. It is not really a point of order. We will let the parliamentary secretary continue with his response.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, the false outrage definitely was not a point of order.

My point is that the MP does not represent a single western Canadian grain farmer, yet he is telling Conservative members of Parliament who represent western Canadian grain farmers, in fact 52 out of 57 seats are held by Conservatives, that somehow we are not representing western Canadian grain farmers.

We had a federal election in May 2011. Our members were elected out west. We understand the concerns of western Canadian grain farmers. We represent Canadian grain farmers. We are acting on their behalf by moving forward with marketing freedom.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity on four or five occasions to go out west and talk to hundreds of farms out west, who gathered in groups, who did vote Conservative. However, they told me, clearly, they did not vote Conservative for the purpose of dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board. The member needs to understand that.

When the Wheat Board is dismantled, it will lose its clout. The Economist has said that small farms will fail. The Economist has said that not only will small farms fail, but small town economies out west will forever change. The Wall Street Journal said that profits will be found in the hands of Viterra and Cargill, from whose pockets? From the farmers' pockets.

I ask the member opposite, if he is so convinced that a majority of farmers want this to happen, why did they not hold a vote under section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act? Those same farmers said they would live by whatever that vote determined.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, the question I have to ask my colleague is, what has he got against marketing freedom for western Canadian grain farmers? Why does he not have confidence in their ability to market their own product?

I am assuming that dire fearmongering does not apply to canola, to pulse crops, to beef, to pork, to all of these other commodities that our farmers are quite capable of marketing.

The member expresses absolutely no confidence in western Canadian grain farmers. Shame on him. However, he has an opportunity to redeem himself. Tonight he can vote for marketing freedom for our western grain farmers.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, the members opposite talk about a referendum. To me, this is an issue of rights, a property rights issue, a basic fundamental right. If the opposition members would choose to vote to remove this right, what other rights might they vote to remove?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague understands the issue that is at the heart of this legislation, and that is offering marketing freedom to our western Canadian grain farmers.

When I listen to the opposition MPs, they are against that marketing freedom for grain farmers only. It makes no sense. In their own territory, if they happen to represent any farmers, they would want marketing freedom for their farmers, but for some reason, they have carved out western Canadian grain farmers. There would be no marketing freedom for them, not if they had their way.

Once again, I invite the opposition MPs to stand tonight and vote for western Canadian grain farmers, and vote for marketing freedom.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to point out that, to add insult to injury, we have heard the members complaining loudly about opposition members. They are telling us that we lack respect for Canadians when, in fact, they are not even taking the current debate seriously.

What happened in Australia when the Australian wheat board was dismantled? The price of wheat dropped and farmers, who previously received $99 a tonne for their wheat, were getting only $27 a tonne. We are thus well aware that small-scale farmers cannot compete against big business, so—

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was very hard to follow that question as the hon. member spun herself out of control.

The important thing to understand is that there is a vote tonight for marketing freedom for our western Canadian grain farmers. The opposition MPs should stand up in defence of our western Canadian grain farmers. They should vote for marketing freedom to give our grain farmers every opportunity that other grain farmers across the country enjoy.