An Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act (direct sale of grain)

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.

Sponsor

Gerry Ritz  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of May 17, 2006
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment provides that producers of grain may sell grain directly to certain specified associations or firms engaged in the processing of grain, and transport grain for the purposes of those sales, without having to pay a fee to the Canadian Wheat Board.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Oct. 25, 2006 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

October 24th, 2011 / 5:35 p.m.
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Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate today, even though I am sure that my Conservative colleagues will not be as pleased. Every time that a Quebecker rises—as I often have—to speak about the Canadian Wheat Board, they tell us that we have no business talking about this issue because it has nothing to do with us. But it is perfectly fine for them to interfere in Quebec's business. One thing is for sure: no one can deny that I have experience from my six years as vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food. It is no secret that the topic of dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board was often on this committee's agenda.

What the majority Conservative government wants to do with the Canadian Wheat Board comes as no surprise. In 2002, when he was a member of Parliament for the Canadian Alliance, the current Prime Minister moved a motion to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. The day that the current Prime Minister became leader of the Conservative Party, when there was a merger of the Canadian Alliance and the Reform Party, or that party and the Conservatives, the dismantling of the board became part of the new party's platform. The party tried all kinds of things, but fortunately it was a minority government at the time.

I remember that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, before being appointed minister, introduced Bill C-300 to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board, the collective marketing tool. A section of the act specifies that a plebiscite must be held. The Conservatives did that, but they excluded some voters. Not all farmers had the right to vote. They fiddled with democracy to obtain the desired result. People, mainly wheat producers, were excluded from the plebiscite in order to obtain the desired result. But the Canadian Wheat Board, not to be out-manoeuvred, recently conducted its own plebiscite: 62% of western producers want to keep this collective marketing tool—the Canadian Wheat Board. All of a sudden the Conservative government refused to acknowledge these results because it was not the one that organized the referendum to its liking.

I also remember what happened with the bulk mailings, the ten percenters, that members can send to their ridings. Members of the Conservative Party flooded their ridings and others—we were allowed to do so at the time—with ten percenters on the referendum. The use of these ten percenters to campaign against the Canadian What Board was rather questionable. Today, it is not surprising that the majority government is finally attaining its goal, that is deciding the fate of the Canadian Wheat Board as we know it today. That is what tonight's vote will prove unfortunately. The Conservatives have the right to do it. They are fixated on it; it is their ideology. They believe that there will be a mixed market, including the voluntary use of a new board.

I am pleased to be able to speak and give examples. Voluntary collective marketing was tested in Quebec in the 1990s. It did not work. Today, not all producers agree that collective marketing agencies are the best option for various sectors, particularly wheat and maple syrup in Quebec. However, they have decided to make use of collective marketing agencies. The majority of them are satisfied and feel that it is the best way for them to make a living from agriculture.

It is important that the House is aware of an important section of the Canadian Wheat Board Act. Section 47.1 clearly states that farmers, the western producers of wheat and barley, must decide their own future. And I believe they did so during the referendum organized by the Canadian Wheat Board. Sixty-two per cent said they want to keep the single desk. But the government is not listening to them. It is even saying that since the majority of people in western Canada voted for Conservative members, it shows their desire to see the Canadian Wheat Board dismantled. We all know that democracy goes further than that.

The member who spoke before me mentioned it: people did not vote on just that one issue. A real plebiscite must be held in order to ensure that it is the people who decide whether or not to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.

I rise as well today because members of the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec came to see us this week. They have been very clear about this from the outset. They continue to support western producers who want to keep the Canadian Wheat Board.

According to the UPA, the Canadian Wheat Board ensures that producers have a better and more equitable market return and that the supply of wheat to the agri-food industry is more predictable and stable. The UPA is also of the view that we cannot allow the Conservative government to destroy such an influential tool, one that creates more than 14,700 direct and indirect jobs, with spinoffs worth almost $1 billion.

I, the member for Richmond—Arthabaska, am not the one saying so, but rather the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec, which is in constant contact with producers in other provinces, especially wheat and barley producers in western Canada.

I have been told that this issue does not affect us. However, I must say that the Fédération des producteurs de cultures commerciales du Québec also supports the board. These people really do the same work. These grain producers support producers who want to keep the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk system.

In the past, perhaps this issue did not really affect Quebec producers. However, the planned dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board has become problematic for us with the implementation, by the Fédération des producteurs de cultures commerciales du Québec, of its own marketing agency for wheat for human consumption in Quebec. With this agency, the Fédération des producteurs de cultures commerciales du Québec is the only agent authorized to market all wheat for human consumption in Quebec. Its role is similar to that of the Canadian Wheat Board. This type of agency can exist because of the authority granted to producers' groups by the Quebec Act respecting the marketing of agricultural, food and fish products.

The Fédération des producteurs de cultures commerciales du Québec and the UPA are of course worried about what the Conservative government has in store for the Canadian Wheat Board, especially when other countries are constantly attacking our collective marketing tools such as the Canadian Wheat Board and supply management. I know the Conservative government does not like it when we draw a parallel between supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board, but they are both collective marketing tools that are constantly being attacked by other countries at the World Trade Organization. This is because those people want to negotiate their way into our market in order to sell their own products without any obstacles.

In light of what the Conservative government wants to do to the Canadian Wheat Board, there are also concerns in Quebec about the fate of supply management, which, I repeat, represents 40% of Quebec's farming economy. It is not insignificant.

Advisors to the current Prime Minister always said that if the Conservatives had a majority, they would attack the Canadian Wheat Board and supply management and implement a free market system.

In closing, we have to respect the true will of the farmers, wherever they are. I rise today on behalf of the farmers in Quebec who have told me they want western Canadian farmers to be respected and to be allowed to keep the Canadian Wheat Board.

June 5th, 2007 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I appreciate the opportunity to have the floor and I thank you for that chance.

I want to talk a little bit about this. I think once again Mr. Easter has gone over the line that he likes to cross to try to get a reaction.

I made it clear on Thursday that I thought that if Mr. Atamanenko was going to bring the motion forward and it was going to be appropriate, he should bring it forward in his name, call for the investigation, and take the third party out of that. He has done that. We're not going to support the motion, but I actually think the motion is written in a form that the committee can consider and vote on. Of course we've got a situation now in which someone has taken it to the nth degree and to a point where it's basically ridiculous. Probably the result will be that the Auditor General may say it is just not worth trying to cast this net, because it's gotten so broad and so wide that there's no point in even getting involved in this.

What's also important is that I brought up the consideration earlier of talking about what the provinces are doing and what their involvement is and what the Canadian Wheat Board's involvement is, because I think that if we're going to do an investigation, as Larry said, we need to take a look at what each of the players has done in this barley plebiscite. Actually, the committee has the authority to do some of that stuff themselves. If we were to choose to go looking for those kinds of answers, we can do that. Wayne actually challenged me and the minister to do it, and I think the truth is that we can do it. I don't know how much of that information can be considered confidential, but the reality is that it's important that the committee begin to do that as well.

The Canadian Wheat Board certainly has a vested interest in this. A number of the directors in particular have been very clear that they have an interest in what's going on here. I had a chance to attend a Liberal function in Saskatoon a couple of months ago and saw a number of the directors standing on the stage with Mr. Easter and the Liberal leader. I had to wonder what the political connection was, because they'd made a decision that they were going to take part in a particular political situation. At that level we need to talk about whether we should be investigating that Wheat Board's conduct and possible spending in the period of the plebiscite.

There's good reason for doing this, because we have a long history of the Wheat Board's being involved politically. I don't know if you're familiar with that, but it goes back to the fact that there were times when they were actually buying tickets to Liberal fundraisers in Winnipeg. They did that; they bought them, and I think they later were reimbursed, because they decided it was politically wrong for them to be doing that.

Certainly after the 2004 election, when Mr. Alcock was made minister, it was only a short time later that the Canadian Wheat Board made the decision that they were going to hire his campaign manager to do their government relations for them. They did that, and clearly they had an interest in being involved politically.

They made a number of other decisions that were political as well. They hired David Hurley to do polling for them. He's done polling for them over a number of years. He was the Liberal federal campaign manager working with Paul Martin, and he's working with the Canadian Wheat Board. There's a long history, and there's a reason we would certainly want to take a look at the Canadian Wheat Board's role in the plebiscite over the last few months.

I think it's also important that we take a look at what the two provincial governments on the Prairies are doing, if we can possibly find out what they've been up to. They were using Saskatchewan egg and food facilities for meetings and for sending information, so clearly the forces that did not want change in the Canadian Wheat Board had access and opportunity to use Government of Saskatchewan resources as well. When we challenged them on that, they said they hadn't done it and then later admitted that actually they had, but said they had only supplied the room. Somehow the fax machine, I think, or one of the computers was involved as well.

Clearly the Saskatchewan government has been interested in this issue, and it would be very interesting for us to find out what role they've played over the last year as well.

Even more than that, the Manitoba government and in particular the agriculture minister have been very clear on their position on this file and the fact that they would like to make sure no changes take place to the Canadian Wheat Board and the marketing system, in spite of what western Canadian farmers want.

Once again I would remind people, as I did the other day, that 68% of the farmers in western Canada had chosen in the plebiscite to support choice, and that those results were entirely consistent with the annual report we had from last year--which I have a copy of here--in terms of the choice farmers wanted for barley and for wheat.

I think we can certainly make an argument that we need to take a look at what the governments have done, and I would also argue that it would be interesting to know what they're going to do. Farmers have made a decision that they want change on August 1. We're going to bring that change about, I hope. It's clear now.

Mr. Easter, we heard today in question period that the Canadian Wheat Board forces are lining up with the big multinational companies and they're going to try to stop farmers from getting an improved return from the marketplace in the new crop year, it appears.

That is a real concern for me, because the board and these companies have been signing these contracts for years. It's been impossible for farmers to find out what the contracts are or their conditions, even what the prices on the contracts are. Now we're finally in a situation where farmers will be able to see clearly what the marketplace has to offer, and it looks as if a group of people is going to be lining up to try to keep farmers from being able to see that. So I hope that doesn't happen.

It's important to farmers, who are eagerly anticipating the change in price at the new crop year. They're looking forward. It could be up to $2 a bushel difference just on barley. I'm reading some of the material that's being put out by the maltsters; they claim there's a loss of $50 million to them in the system if we go ahead with this, and I don't know if it's to them and to the board. That indicates to me that somebody has been signing contracts at far below the present market value of the grain. It'll be very intriguing to find out what that amount is after the new year when farmers are able to sign their new contracts and have a price that is market-related. For years, we haven't had that.

Particularly this last year, as we've gone through this whole debate about the Canadian Wheat Board, we've been in a situation where the PROs, the Canadian Wheat Board pool return outlooks, as I understand it, have been below the spot price; they had been below it for 11 months, and I think they've continued to be below that mark. So if you say that the Wheat Board gets average prices, how can they be below the average market price for at least 11 months in a row? That's one of the reasons farmers want the choice they're demanding for the new crop year.

There's certainly some vested interest in this thing. If we're going to begin to look at them, I think we need to take as wide a look as we possibly can, ask some questions of the two provincial governments that have the resources, certainly, to use against farmers. I hope they will not be combining with the big companies and the Canadian Wheat Board to squash western Canadian farmers. I would hope that if they do that, members on the opposite side would reconsider their position on this and say they need to stand up for farmers and not just go with what they've always gone with, which is that the system needs to be maintained as it is. Clearly there are opportunities for farmers to benefit in the next year, and we need to be able to provide them with that.

This committee also has a bit of a history on this issue as well. I don't think I need to remind some of the members of the committee that the committee itself took a strong position in...what year was that? Was it 2002 when we made the report? In 2001-02, we came with the report from the Standing Committee on Agriculture, and it was a good report, a strong report. It was one that, as far as I remember, was unanimous.

Recommendation 14 was in that, which read--and I'm going to read it in here because it was supported by all the parties here today--and that is, “Whereas additional on-farm activities...”.

I may be wrong, because I think our NDP agriculture critic at the time wrote a minority report to that, but the rest of the parties here supported it. This is how the recommendation reads:

Whereas additional on-farm activities and local value-added processing are an excellent way to give farmers more influence in pricing, the Committee recommends that the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board authorize, on a trial basis, a free market for the sale of wheat and barley, and that it report to this Committee on the subject.

So in 2002, this committee made a recommendation that we set up, on a trial basis, a dual market at least, or it says a “free market”, for the sale of wheat and barley. That was agreed to by the Bloc, the Liberals, and us at the time.

So we thought that was important. There were four parties then, because at the time we sat, I think Mr. Borotsik was on the committee as a PC, and those of us who were Alliance agreed with it, the Liberals agreed with it, as did the Bloc. There was a consensus at that time that we needed to do something different.

I find this intriguing. Mr. Easter constantly refers to his report, but this deals with this issue prior to his ever writing that report: that whereas we need additional on-farm activities and opportunities, we need local value-added processing, which is an excellent way to give farmers more influence on prices. So even at that time we realized that farmers needed other opportunities and that we were not giving them a chance to take advantage of those.

I want to talk a bit about some of those opportunities. Come August 1, there are going to be opportunities for western Canadian farmers.

One of those opportunities was the Prairie Pasta project, which was put together in my part of the world, southwest Saskatchewan, where folks wanted to be able to bring their own grain to their own processing plant. They were going to be able to deliver their own grain without having to go through the Canadian Wheat Board, and they would realize, as our motion said, the additional local “value-added processing” opportunities from that.

The project went ahead. It went in fits and starts, and then the Wheat Board said no, we're not going to let you do that. Those growers actually thought they had an agreement from the board that they would be allowed to deliver their own grain to their own processing plant. It was moving along well. It looked as though the plant would be profitable, and it was the Canadian Wheat Board that said they were not interested in doing that.

At that point the farmers said, if we can't have that opportunity of delivering our own grain, then there's no point in going ahead with this project. If we do go ahead, we would lose control of it. We don't have control over deliveries. We have no way of knowing if we're going to have the proper supply for the project. And so the Prairie Pasta plant in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, was not able to go ahead.

There was another group that said, well, how about trying to deal with the Americans? There's a pasta plant in North Dakota, and how about making a deal with them? We'll basically have an identity-preserved type of situation. There will be a certain amount of grain committed to that plant, and you give us the opportunity to deal with them. The project was moving ahead. I can tell you a bit about it so you understand more clearly.

The Prairie Pasta Producers were formed in 1999. They wanted to form a large-scale pasta plant, as I mentioned before. There was lots of farmer interest in this project, and there still is.

If you talk to prairie farmers about the possibility of marketing their durum at a processing plant, they will get excited about that. That's one of the reasons we had such strong support for Mr. Ritz's bill last fall. I think it was Bill C-300, the private member's bill that would have allowed farmers to deliver grain to the processing plant that the producers themselves owned. It was a great initiative--a great bill. Unfortunately it was one that the opposition voted down, for political reasons. Once again, farmers in western Canada were denied the same opportunities extended to farmers in Ontario, and farmers in Quebec, the Maritimes, and British Columbia. We can begin to see why farmers in western Canada are a bit frustrated by this.

Anyhow, when the Prairie Pasta plant project was announced there was a lot of interest in it. Farmers saw it as an opportunity for them. They began to raise money for that plant, and they were able to do that. But as I said, the Wheat Board was not going to allow them to do farmer direct delivery to their own plant.

In 2001, they came back as a new generation co-op. I think people had told them, we like co-ops, and let's see if we can't set it up as a new generation co-op. They were trying to set up a direct working relationship between themselves and the Dakota Growers Pasta company in Carrington, North Dakota. It seemed to be a logical fit for everyone, and negotiations began. Actually, the Canadian producers were going to buy shares in the Dakota company as well.

There were a couple of direct trial shipments. I assume that people on the board went along with this and let people deliver these trial shipments of bin-run durum to members in Dakota. They were using the Canadian Wheat Board buyback. The durum was good, as western Canadian durum always is, and the plant wanted to buy more. They felt it was important that they have the opportunity to access western Canadian wheats. Trucking costs were expensive there, so they set up a rail project to move the grains.

These farmers are innovative. They are moving ahead. They're trying to find a project that will work. They're making the adjustments that need to be made in order to make this work. The rail project and the whole concept was actually agreed to by the Canadian Wheat Board. The frustrating part was that once it was set up and appeared to be feasible and appeared to be going ahead, the Canadian Wheat Board then started to change the price. If you understand the buyback, you know a little bit of the frustration that farmers have, because when, for example, as a producer, I have my grain in the bin and I want to market it to somebody else, I have to go to the Canadian Wheat Board and say that I'd like to buy my grain back from them. It is sitting in my bin. It never leaves my bin, but I have to deal with them. I have to say that I am going to sell it to them at the price they say, and I'm going to buy it back from them at the price that they tell me I have to pay. That price varies. It just moves back and forth depending on their decision.

At that point, for the Prairie Pasta plant, the Canadian Wheat Board started moving the buyback up, and all of a sudden it began to be non-feasible for the producers.

I should note that this Dakota Growers Pasta plant is the third largest miller of durum in the United States, so these guys weren't just dealing with somebody who was working off their farm. Prior to this whole operation, they had never before purchased Canadian durum. They thought it was good. They wanted to set it up.

This was frustrating for the farmers. They never got access to the United States through this even though they thought they had this project going ahead. They've gone ahead in the future. They've changed the structure of their company to try to make it more palatable, to make it work. They've gone to the Canadian Wheat Board in the past. They've asked them to give indication that they would allow deliveries under the arrangements that they've made, and the Wheat Board basically finally told them, “Sorry, we're not going to allow that”, and so that deal was cancelled.

That deal was worth up to three million bushels of durum annually out of western Canada. It is a deal that was cancelled because there was a political decision made that western Canadian farmers could not have that choice.

Mr. Chair, that obviously ties into the opportunity that people want to have with barley come August 1.

In 2005 and 2006, the Dakota Growers actually came back with another suggested strategy. They said, “Why don't we set up a strict IP program so that you provide us with one type of grain? We'll hire you to grow it, and you deliver it right to us.” It would really be a closed loop system. The seed would come from the Dakota Growers, and it would go back or be grown under contract, and returned to the mill. Once again, negotiations just dragged on and on, and the opportunity was lost, so there is a real frustration. That's the area of durum. There is the real frustration among producers that they never had the opportunities they thought they should have had and would have had if our recommendation had been followed.

The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food at that time had a lot of wisdom in making that recommendation. Hopefully we'll have enough to actually reject this motion that's been put before us today.

It's important that we do something with barley, Mr. Chair. I have had a number of letters from people over the last few months about the differences they have found between the barley pricing in the United States and that in Canada. They point that out to me as a reason we need to do something in western Canada in order for us to be able to access the same opportunities as U.S. producers have had.

Brian Otto is a farmer from Warner, Alberta, which is right by the Montana border. He grows barley as well. He's actually a sharp producer. He keeps track of what the prices are doing on both sides of the border, and that's brought some real concerns to him.

I just want to talk a little bit about what's happened over the last year and the necessity of our moving.

I see Charlie is holding up his beer-tasting card, and I hope he's not getting too dry just yet.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 12th, 2006 / 11:15 a.m.
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Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Malpeque for raising this issue in the House today. There is no doubt that the Canadian Wheat Board is currently in jeopardy as a result of certain actions taken by the Conservative government for some time now.

Regardless of their party colours and whether they are federal or provincial, governments are often accused of acting off the cuff. I heard the parliamentary secretary say earlier that this government was being accused of acting hastily in this file. I agree with him. This was not done in haste. This was not off-the-cuff. It has been a long-time goal of the Conservatives to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. This was not off-the-cuff.

We need only look back to 2002. On an opposition day, the current Prime Minister—at the time, a Canadian Alliance member of Parliament—moved a motion that already referred to freedom of choice. It must be understood that it is pure rhetoric to talk about freedom of choice, when what it really means is to impede the collective marketing system chosen by western farmers.

I will compare this to something happening in Quebec, even though I have been criticized many times for drawing this comparison. However, you will see that people are finding parallels between what is happening with the Canadian Wheat Board and with the supply management system in Quebec.

The last Conservative election platform included their plans to end the single desk model of the Canadian Wheat Board. This really is the culmination. As I said, quite a process has been established to put an end to the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk model.

Since the election, it has continued. They have established a committee whose membership comprises only those who oppose the Canadian Wheat Board. This way, when people from the board were invited to sit on the committee, they discovered that the committee intended to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk model.

In addition, there was the famous ministerial order preventing Wheat Board management from defending the Wheat Board. That is rather ironic. The last time a government used a similar order in connection with wheat was when the Russians invaded Afghanistan, in the 1980s. Since the Canadian Wheat Board traded regularly with Russia, the government ordered an end to wheat shipments to Russia because of the activities in Afghanistan. It was obviously for a valid reason. Today, however, there is no justification for such an order.

Representatives of the board are in fact taking the government to court over the matter. I will not discuss this further, even though we have parliamentary privilege here. One thing is sure: the Conservatives intended to eliminate this single desk. When a member represents farmers, and his minister tells him that he can no longer do so, there is a serious problem.

Bill C-300 was introduced in the House of Commons by the chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food—a Conservative member, of course. The aim of that bill was also, ultimately, to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.

Just recently, there was the famous letter to Mr. Measner, the president and CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board, which was discussed at length earlier. In the letter, he was told he had to honour the government's position or see his head roll on December 14. He was threatened with dismissal if he failed to follow the line of the Conservative Party. I understand and I am not denying that the Conservatives and even this government are entitled to have objectives and to want to change things. Because it is democracy that decides. However, I have a problem when people are intimidated and democracy is abused.

Furthermore, according to section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, it is clear that the farmers, the western producers of wheat and barley, must decide their own future. If we really put in place, as suggested by the motion of the member for Malpeque, a democratic process enabling people to vote and recognizing the result of that vote, democracy will prevail.

However, that is not at all what the government is doing in this case. As I said, I have no issue with the fact that the Conservatives, in their election platform, in their election promises, in their way of doing things—in certain cases—say that they want freedom of choice, that they want to offer this or that to farm producers. So be it.

However, there is a way of going about things. At present, in the case of the Canadian Wheat Board, democracy is being denied.

Furthermore, this denial of democracy will continue because a large number of farm producers will be excluded from voting if there is a plebiscite. We know that the minister announced that there would be a plebiscite or referendum for barley producers, who do not represent the majority of producers in the west; wheat producers are in the majority. We do not yet know why wheat producers will not have the right to a plebiscite. However, one thing is certain—a number of farm producers will be excluded from the vote, according to the government. They are lining up their ducks to ensure, or at least attempt to ensure, that they take the vote. I find that this government's way of doing things is absolutely unacceptable.

On December 5, the president of the Canadian Wheat Board, Mr. Measner, held a press conference to denounce the Conservative government's position on the Wheat Board's future. Earlier, I said that Mr. Measner was the CEO, but he is the president. He maintains, and rightly so, that the government should hold consultations on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board as soon as possible. That is why we are discussing this issue today.

In fact, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food has passed a motion introduced by the member for Malpeque, calling for a plebiscite on this issue and demanding that producers themselves determine the future of the Canadian Wheat Board, their collective marketing tool. That is what we are discussing today in this House.

Mr. Measner says that he has to defend the interests of producers over those of the government, and that is his job. He could also lose that job because he is doing it well. That is what is happening. He said, “I find it quite ironic that I have been asked to pledge support for the government's policy of marketing choice, which is not the law. In other words, if I continue to obey the law, I will be fired”.

For its part, the government is maintaining that all government appointees are expected to go along with the government's position. If the approach to this issue is not tantamount to dictatorship, then I do not know what is.

The majority of members of the CWB's board of directors, who are elected by producers, want to keep the single desk model set out in the Canadian Wheat Board Act. Moreover, on Sunday, four out of five board members were elected. They are in favour of maintaining the Canadian Wheat Board as is. I think that the message to the Conservatives is clear.

In previous discussions in committee and in the House, it was said that the Conservatives were doing what they pleased, that they should not flout section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act and that they should not ignore the opinion of producers. To that, the Conservatives replied that, on January 23, they had been given a mandate that entitled them to do what they were doing.

Imagine, Mr. Speaker, according to the Conservatives, everyone who voted for them on January 23, was in favour of later dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board, when we know that people choose to vote one way or another for a number of reasons. You, yourself, are an MP, Mr. Speaker. I believe that in your own riding—and you have been there for some time—people surely have voted for you in one election and not in another for their own reasons because a party promised something that, in their work or family life, was very important.

In my opinion, we have to look at a party's entire platform and not just one topic, in order to say that since people elected us it is entirely acceptable to act a certain way because it was their choice. Well, wait just a minute. We are talking about the Canadian Wheat Board here and wheat producers. I do not think that all these people voted for the Conservatives. And even if they did, they voted for a government. This was not a plebiscite, like we would have on a specific issue. There is a difference between voting in an election and voting in a referendum on a very specific issue.

I do not think it is correct to say that we can do whatever we want because people voted for us in the last election. I could do the same. I too was democratically elected on January 23 and in 2004. In my riding, I am not about to say that I can do whatever I want or whatever I think because the people have spoken and that is the end of it.

I still have to go meet people, talk to them and discuss things with them—as I do every weekend—to get a feel for what the population wants. I know my region well and I have to represent what the majority of people in my region want. That makes perfect sense, and the government should do the same.

Bloc Québécois members have no desire to endanger a collective marketing tool used by 85,000 wheat and barley producers in the west. I talked earlier about comparing them to Quebec producers. We were also accused of knowing nothing about this because we are from Quebec. Earlier, I heard people tell folks from Prince Edward Island and Ontario to leave them alone. I am sorry, but as the NDP member said just now during questions and comments, I get hundreds and hundreds of letters from western producers asking me not to forget about them.

Obviously, I do not represent people from the west. As my party's agriculture critic, I think I have a responsibility—as do all members of this House—for all of the issues that come before us. If we do not take a stand, or if we do not pay attention to all of the issues that come up, how can we look in the mirror every morning and tell ourselves we are doing our jobs and accomplishing the work for which we are being paid?

Like Quebec producers, I—as agriculture critic and defender of the interests of Quebec agricultural producers—fear that the Conservative government will go after another one of Canada's very important collective marketing tools: supply management. We know that 40% of Quebec's agricultural economy depends on supply management. I am talking about dairy, egg—for eating and for hatching—poultry and turkey producers.

So, these people are very concerned about what is happening at the moment. We know exactly why the other countries criticize us during WTO negotiations. They are critical of these two collective marketing tools, which are not, however, subsidies. We in the Bloc Québécois even invited the ambassadors of various countries to come here in order to explain to them just what supply management means. Increasingly, people understand and are interested in what is happening in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada where supply management is used.

Despite all that, during negotiations, these two tools are always blamed for all the ills. They are tools that countries wanting to take over our markets would like to see destroyed. If the Conservative government approved or arranged the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board, other countries would be delighted and would want to know about the state of supply management. This is why this matter is of such concern to us.

Let us consider the comments by the minister, who told us in committee that, no matter what happens, if there is an agreement at the WTO, the government will have to sign it. It is the “no matter what happens” that sets off an alarm bell for me. I tell myself that, if we have to make concessions on supply management, the government will simply dismantle it and thus throw the entire farm economy in Quebec into disarray.

We can certainly not allow such a message to go out . When the minister says this in committee, his remarks are public and heard by people throughout the world following the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. We are in the age of globalization, with the Internet and so on. With such technology, people are well aware of what goes on, of what the minister and members are saying, and we must weigh our words carefully when we say that Canada will sign an agreement in the end, regardless.

Furthermore, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, said that concessions will have to be made sooner or later by both the Canadian Wheat Board and the supply management system, because that is what other countries are demanding.

I am sorry, but we were elected and we are here to defend our gains, especially when it is entirely reasonable to do so. As I said, there is no government subsidy, at least, none concerning supply management. As for market access, perhaps we could begin discussing that once the other countries are on a level playing field with us. In fact, the average Canadian market access for other imported products is approximately 5%, while in other countries, average market access is 2.5%

Once these individuals from the United States, Europe and elsewhere achieve the levels we have reached here, perhaps then we can begin discussing or looking at what we can do.

For now, I think our market is open enough that we can maintain the system as it is.

Of course, there is the attitude taken by Canada's chief negotiator at the WTO, which is why the Bloc Québécois moved a very important motion before this House, to ensure that no concessions would be made concerning supply management during these negotiations. The negotiator himself said that his hands were tied. Personally, I think that is very good news. Indeed, farm groups thank me every time I meet them. The Bloc Québécois and every member of this House all deserve their thanks, since the motion was passed unanimously.

I receive expressions of thanks from all over, whether from New Brunswick, where I recently met with farmers, or from Ontario, or from a woman farmer in Calgary. I point this out because, of course I receive thanks from Quebec, but I would like to emphasize just how important it was to farmers everywhere that we unanimously passed here in this House the motion to protect supply management. This must be recognized.

Collective marketing is very important in Quebec. As I mentioned, we have supply management, joint plans and cooperatives. All of this serves to protect farmers’ income. Farmers have an absolute right to organize the marketing of their products, and that includes organizing to join forces to obtain the fairest possible market. That is what western producers did. They decided, all together, that they would put in place a marketing tool known as the Canadian Wheat Board.

As I already stated in a previous speech, I do not believe that we should say that is the way it is and nothing should ever change. However, there is a way of making changes and that should be with the agreement of the producers themselves. It is up to them to decide.

That is also what the members of the Fédération des producteurs de cultures commerciales du Québec did. One of the few times that the minister was angry with me was when I spoke about the Canadian Wheat Board. I imagine that he was quite irritated that someone from Quebec talked about this issue. The minister wondered what we would say if that were imposed in Quebec. There is no need to do so because the Fédération des producteurs de cultures commerciales du Québec decided to set up a collective marketing board. Granted it is not the Canadian Wheat Board, but it is nonetheless a marketing tool. If people want to sell their grain for human consumption, they must belong to the board. That also goes for milk producers.

I have been told I am comparing apples and oranges. Not at all. A Conservative member told me that if he wanted to produce milk, he would. Careful, it does not work that way. First, one has to be a member of the Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec, which is a collective marketing system since it is all part of supply management. A producer has no choice but to comply. He has to buy quota and follow those rules as well. It is all a collective. No one can just do what they want. We cannot take our milk and go sell it in New Brunswick, the United States or something like that. Not at all. Someone comes to collect the milk that has been produced. The producer has a quota, which has to be respected, but at least the producer is sure to have a stable income. The consumers will be assured of stable pricing. These are the advantages, or some of the advantages, of supply management.

As I was saying, last year, these cash crop producers created the Agence de vente du blé de consommation humaine in Quebec. This new agency ensures that the Fédération is the only agent authorized to market wheat for human consumption in Quebec. It was inspired by what is already happening in other types of farming in Quebec, whether it be with milk, maple syrup, pork, beef, etc. It is through a democratic process that such sales agencies come to be. Producers are called on to vote on their creations. That is how we do things in Quebec.

The same is true when one decides no longer to participate. It is also up to the producers to decide on ending these sales agencies. Contrary to the Canadian Wheat Board, the Fédération des producteurs de cultures commerciales du Québec does not own the production and has no tie to the government. That is the difference.

Quebec has also expressed support for the Canadian Wheat Board. We have only to think of the testimony by the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec before the committee. UPA representatives came to tell us that a comparison could be drawn between supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board. When I was the first to raise this possibility or this concern in certain English-Canadian media, I was described as some sort of hothead and accused of mixing apples and oranges. It is funny, though, that since then, many stakeholders, such as the UPA, have told the committee that this is indeed a danger.

Saskatchewan's Minister of Agriculture and Food told the committee that and wrote to me to say that I was right. Manitoba's Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives also made the same assertion before the committee.

I applaud what they are doing in Manitoba. They are going to hold a plebiscite on the Canadian Wheat Board.

I think that the Conservative federal government should take note of what is being done elsewhere and take a democratic approach. With a plebiscite, people could choose and decide what they want to do. The government should hold a plebiscite of all wheat and barley producers in western Canada.

October 31st, 2006 / 12:15 p.m.
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Jim Smolick President, Grain Growers of Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

On behalf of the Grain Growers of Canada, I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you here today. My name is Jim Smolick, and I'm the current president of our association. I'm a third generation grains and oilseeds farmer from Dawson Creek, British Columbia, and I grow a variety of crops, including common and proprietor varieties of fine seeds. I farm in somewhat of a unique area, where only the Peace River district of B.C. is included in the Canadian Wheat Board jurisdiction. This, in marketing terms, puts my farm at a competitive disadvantage to a producer growing the same crops in other parts of B.C.

Formed in 2000, the Grain Growers of Canada is a national organization representing the interests of grains and oilseeds producers in Canada. The Grain Growers of Canada do not want to see an end to the Canadian Wheat Board; however, we feel the board should not be the only marketing option available to western wheat and barley producers.

Based on Ontario's model, we feel that all grains and oilseeds producers in all regions of Canada require a flexible system, one that allows them to take advantage of marketing opportunities, which would include but not be limited to local farmer-owned value-added processing, niche markets, and identity-preserved marketing programs.

Based on historical data, one can look at the differences in the level of processing between commodities controlled by the Canadian Wheat Board and those that are independently marketed. As an illustration of the impact that these marketing restrictions are having on Canadian value-added processing, only 2% of Canadian barley goes into food and industrial use, 7% of Canadian durum production goes into food and industrial use, and 22% of wheat goes into food and industrial use. Now, compared to the Canadian oilseeds sector from the same database, 76% of Canadian soybeans go into food and industrial use and 53% of Canadian canola production goes into food and industrial use. My final comparison is that 55% of Ontario's wheat production is processed domestically, which is over twice the national average of 22%.

I guess the question must be asked, why is value-added processing in other sectors of the Canadian grains and oilseeds industry so much further advanced than the grains under the Canadian Wheat Board's jurisdiction? We saw the proposed Bill C-300 as an important step in building the value-added industry in Canada, and we need only look at the beef sector and the once untapped value-added potential if it had not been for BSE. Clearly, the BSE issue was extremely devastating to the cattle industry, but it did point out and prove that there are other ways to market their product.

New opportunities are developing in high-value niche markets as well. The potential for increased revenue from value-added processing is growing. Both of these key areas will only become more important in the future as the benefits of the life science industry begin to be realized to a greater degree. As producers, we must be able to move into new and high-valued areas of production if we are expected to compete, especially if we're to consider the growing world production of bulk grains and oilseeds. All Canadian producers need maximum marketing flexibility to accomplish this goal, a flexibility that currently does not exist in western Canada.

A voluntary Wheat Board would quite simply allow the flexibility to producers to choose the appropriate marketing tool. It would allow producers the opportunity to stay with the price pooling methodology if they choose, but it would also allow them the opportunity to enhance returns through their marketing skills. To be clear, as a producer you would choose an appropriate tool each and every year and possibly utilize both methodologies in any given year. This decision by the producers is based on his or her understanding of market forces that will eventually determine price.

I think it's also important that we understand how technology and the transfer of information has changed the way we make management decisions and predict pricing. Now, when my grandfather first started farming, he didn't carry a cellphone or run a computerized horse. His ability to understand crop conditions in the rest of the world was limited at best, so price pooling was an appropriate risk mitigation tool. When I first started farming many years ago, I also did not have a cellphone, or a computer for that matter. The explosion of information that I can obtain now on current crop conditions around the world can help me determine price direction. A case in point was the severe drought in parts of Australia and the United States this summer.

There's a very real concern that in western Canada we will not capture this once-in-a-decade run-up on wheat prices. The Canadian Wheat Board's estimate on pool returns for the 2006-07 crop year is barely above levels a year ago, while U.S. wheat prices are at an average of 47% higher than a year ago. In this unprecedented era of low market returns, it would be unimaginable not to capture the spike in prices to its fullest extent.

I know in the past you've been presented with many comparisons of wheat values between Canada and the United States, but whether that difference is 50¢ a bushel on hard red springs or $1 on winter wheats, it represents a lost opportunity. As producers we struggle to continually become more efficient to survive, and yet at the very end of the selling stage, our property is sold at less than fair market value at times by an entity that has no vested interest in our farms.

As a producer of wheat, I am in control of every decision that controls my crop for sale. As I look around the room today, I see that many of you have been, or are, directly involved in grains or oilseeds production. You understand the management requirements in growing a crop. For me, it starts right after harvest when I decide which fields will grow not only the crop but the variety as well. I decide if the soil nutrient analysis should be done; the blend and quantity of fertilizer to be applied next spring; and when to purchase the fertilizer and other inputs as a price protection measure. I determine when to seed, the type of seeding tool, when to spray, and with what product. Finally, I decide when to harvest. Once I have the wheat in a marketable position, I am then bound by law to market my quality or grading wheat through the Canadian Wheat Board. The overarching question is, why at this point do farmers lose control over their private property?

As you can see, all of the decisions I've just talked about, as well as other factors, will determine my cost to produce that crop. I'm the only one who knows what value I need to achieve from the sale of that crop to cover my costs. Yet the only guarantee I have through the Canadian Wheat Board is for the initial payment, which at present for wheat is less than 50% of the world wheat price.

While I acknowledge that there are other pricing and payment options for a fee, producers still must accept a certain level of risk. It is clearly unacceptable to remove the producers' right to market his property. It is also clear that producers may or may not achieve a better price though their own marketing, but the same can be said about yields, where management decisions will determine the crop. Regardless, they will still be in control of their own destiny.

In closing, there has been a lot of discussion about a producer plebiscite. We would caution that a move to this type of vote will not resolve the issue. Regardless of the outcome, there will always be fault attributed to either the question, the voters' list, or numerous other concerns. The archaic idea of “one person, one vote” methodology gives a disproportionate voice to the majority of producers who produce only a small percentage of the crops, or, in other words, the 80-20 rule. I can only imagine where Microsoft would be today under that system.

I'd like to thank you again for the opportunity to speak to you here today on this issue and would be happy to address any questions you may have later.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

October 25th, 2006 / 6:20 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-300 under private members' business.

The question is on the motion.

The House resumed from October 24 consideration of the motion that Bill C-300, An Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act (direct sale of grain), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

October 24th, 2006 / 7:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise again today and speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-300.

The purpose of the bill is producer empowerment. “Who gets the final say with my product?”

There has been a lot of talk about the vote. The member from Mississauga talked about how the Canadian Wheat Board was a co-op. It is the only mandatory co-op I have ever heard of in the history of the globe. He talked at great length about how producers should be assured of that.

The member for Sault Ste. Marie said that grain farmers in western Canada had told him in Saskatoon that they were not in trouble because they had the Canadian Wheat Board as a safety net for them. That safety net is full of holes. A lot of farmers are slipping through it. We have a tremendous problem in the grains and oilseeds sector. They are hurting a lot.

I listened to all of this today. I was frustrated and angry. Then I started to think this was the best thing that could possibly happened on the bill. I know the opposition will kill the bill before we get a chance to talk about it in committee, and that is their right to do that. This is a democracy, but I grit my teeth. However, I then started to think.

I am going to get a tape of this sucker and I am going to send it out to every farmer on my database, and there are some 5,000 or 6,000 of them in my riding. They are going to get the biggest laugh of their lives out of this. It shows them who is controlling their livelihoods and how much they understand the pressure that they are putting them under and keeping them under with the Wheat Board, which will not flex like it should.

There is a lot of talk out there that farmers cannot go head to head with the big multinationals. Nobody is expecting them to do that. Nobody is saying the Wheat Board is even doing that.

We look at other examples in the grain sector such as canola, pulse growers, flax and rye. Oats is a great example. When oats were under the board, 50,000 tonnes was our export in a year. Now it is up to 1.3 million tonnes, plus a burgeoning processing sector in western Canada for oats. That is a success story. Cattle, pork and all these issues go head to head with the multinationals and do very well. They are not clamouring for some release from out underneath the marketing system they are held within.

There was some mention of transportation, that we were landlocked so we should not do anything but ship out the raw material. That is the absolute wrong way to go.

The report that the member for Malpeque put forward had a couple of points in it. It talked about producer empowerment to get higher up the food chain. This bill would do that. It would allow them to have the transportation costs become part of the purchase, not part of them. Since the Crow rate was taken away, it is killing us.

The Bloc always tries to tie supply management in this. The member who spoke about this used to sit on the agriculture committee. He should know better than that. I have been talking to people in the supply managed sector, the dairy side, and they say the comparison is apples and walnuts, not just apples and oranges.

This is the biggest difference. The supply managed sector is voluntary. If I decide I want to get into the sector, I buy some quota and I am in business. If I want to grow grain in western Canada, I am under the Wheat Board. I have no choice, none whatsoever. If I decide I want to take some quota in a supply managed sector and start a cheese factory, I can do that. I can do that with the quota I have or I can buy more quota, I can start a cheese factory and I can do what I want with it.

In the west, I cannot do that without going through the punitive buyback. That buyback entails me selling my wheat to the Wheat Board on paper. It charges me a buyback at whatever it says the world price is that day. Then it charges me freight and elevation to tidewater, those ports that I, as a western Canadian farmer, am supposed to subsidize and keep alive all on my own. I cannot stand that burden any more.

That is the big difference between them. One is voluntary and I can value add. The other one is mandatory and I cannot value add with my product without adding on about 30% to 40% to the input costs of that product, which makes it prohibitive. I cannot get a good bottom line. There is no way they are the same type of thing. We can support one and not the other simply because one is not open to any kind of change, or allowing the in or out. Therefore, that argument flies apart.

The member also quoted section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act. What the party left out was the minister can put wheat, barley or whatever is produced in any area in Canada. That means Quebec producers could be under the Canadian Wheat Board, the same as I am. I wish him well with that.

The Ontario wheat producers could be under that same single desk selling. If single desk is the answer and the ultimate control, then why do we have three separate marketing boards for grain products across the county? Why is there not one? Why do we not amalgamate them and everybody can roll around in the same bed. That is probably the answer.

The collectivism ideology of the NDP members will not let them grasp the idea that this is a private property right. I own that product, I will deal with it and market it as I want.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

October 24th, 2006 / 6:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have been looking forward to speaking to this bill for some time. I would like to thank the members who have just spoken to the bill tonight in the House.

The member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River asked how much Wheat Board grain is grown and shipped in Thunder Bay. The answer is none. It is not even covered under the Wheat Board monopoly.

The Bloc member for Québec asked how much Wheat Board grain is produced in the area where he is from. The answer is zero. The Wheat Board monopoly for some strange reason does not cover that area either.

What about the NDP member for Winnipeg Centre and the member for Sault Ste. Marie? The city of Winnipeg to my knowledge does not produce an awful lot of Wheat Board grain and Sault Ste. Marie is not even covered. It is not even in the Wheat Board area. It is interesting that not one member from the other three political parties represents an area that is covered by this particular legislation we are talking about today.

I want to thank my colleague, the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, for bringing this bill forward. It is an important bill. I would like to thank him as well for the work he has done as chair of the House of Commons agriculture committee. He has done a lot of good work in that position.

I would also like to thank the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands who has done an awful lot of good work on the Wheat Board for the Conservative Party and on behalf of farmers. Those two members are trying to help improve the role of western Canadian farmers, and those are the farmers who are actually covered and limited by the Wheat Board monopoly right now.

This bill actually has nothing to do with the Wheat Board monopoly. It has nothing to do with it, yet what have we heard all of the speakers talk about tonight? They say that somehow this is going to kill the Wheat Board and end the monopoly, when in fact it has nothing to do with that. It is important to clarify that.

I want to point out exactly what this bill is intended to do. I would like to remind the hon. members that the intent of Bill C-300 is to allow prairie farmers to market their wheat and barley directly to processing facilities owned by prairie producers. It sounds like a terrible thing to allow. People must think to themselves, “What is he talking about in this bill? I had better reconsider. He is talking about allowing prairie farmers to ship their wheat directly to processing facilities which are owned by prairie farmers themselves. That is a terrible thing”. It is amazing that we are standing here talking about this at all.

In other words, they would not have to go through the Canadian Wheat Board to sell their wheat back to farmer owned processing facilities. That is what this legislation is about. It seems obvious and logical that it should be supported by every member of the House. I would assume that if members were to listen to what it is actually about, they would in fact change their positions and support the bill.

To speak to the intent of the bill, it widens the marketing choices for farmers and encourages more producers to get into the value added side of the business. We all know that right now farmers could use the boost and really need the boost that would be provided by allowing them easier access to the board grains, wheat and barley, which would be used in processing facilities.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

October 24th, 2006 / 6:35 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, thank you for that generous permission, I appreciate it.

The NDP opposes Bill C-300, although I appreciate the right of my colleague from Battlefords—Lloydminster to bring this idea forward. We oppose this with every thread of our being and I am critical that the Conservative Party seems to be obsessed with dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board. It is not even a healthy thing because there is no business case to make as to why we should dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.

I have said before that I believe it is pure ideological madness to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board and I cannot say how critical I am of it.

Those of us who grew up on the Prairies remember the bad old days of the robber barons who would exploit farmers. Most of the mansions in Winnipeg were built by these very grain robber barons. We should also remember, if we read our history, the voluntary wheat board that was introduced in 1935 failed in a catastrophic bankruptcy, one of the largest bankruptcies in Canadian history, because it is simple.

If the initial offering price is higher than the market, the entity would get all the deliveries but the grain would have to be sold at a loss. If the initial offering is lower than the market, there will be no deliveries. It simply cannot work and Bill C-300 stripped down to its most fundamental basics means an end to the single desk marketing mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board and without the prerequisite vote. The legislation guarantees a plebiscite of Canadian farmers before any such fundamental changes are made. This bill seeks to undermine and usurp that democratic right.

The Conservative government is trying to do an end run on democratic process by first denying farmers the right to vote, as is their statutory right, and second, by this gag order prohibiting the Wheat Board from even defending itself.

I would like to read parts of a press release from the National Citizens' Coalition of 1998 on this very issue because at that time the Liberal government tried to impose a gag order on the National Citizens' Coalition over the Canadian Wheat Board.

After stating it was going to run the ads anyway, here is what the current Prime Minister, then the chair of the National Citizens' Coalition, had to say:

The NCC position is that such gag laws are unconstitutional and unenforceable. We intend to freely express our political opinions using our own resources--

In other words, he was advocating civil disobedience. He also said:

--our ads will point out that the agriculture minister--

--the current member for Wascana--

--seems to get his definition of democracy from Suharto and Castro.

I would argue that the current Prime Minister gets his ideas from Mussolini and Franco because it is absolutely fascist to deny the democratic right of farmers to vote and it is Fascist to use statutory strength and ability to silence opponents, and not even allow them to represent their own point of view.

The minister of agriculture from Manitoba will be coming before the agriculture committee tomorrow to announce that if the Government of Canada denies farmers the right to vote, Manitoba will conduct its own vote of prairie farmers on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. That is democracy in action.

We will not take this lying down. We will not accept these draconian measures that would deny prairie farmers the right to their own self-determination as to how they market their grain, whether it is by a private member's bill or by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and his heavy-handed jackboot approach to this issue.

We say without any fear of contradiction whatsoever that we will defend the Canadian Wheat Board, this great prairie institution, because all the empirical evidence shows that prairie farmers are better off by marketing their products through the Canadian Wheat Board and its strength is in its universality.

In unity there is strength. It is a popular saying where I come from and that is why prairie farmers banded together as a grassroots movement to build the Canadian Wheat Board to market their grain internationally, effectively, and at a higher rate of return than they could individually.

I am opposed to Bill C-300. It will not get our vote. I can speak for the NDP caucus. We will vote against Bill C-300 and we will stand up for the Canadian Wheat Board.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

October 24th, 2006 / 6:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, it also gives me pleasure to rise and speak to Bill C-300, which I think is one of the elements of an effort to demolish the Canadian Wheat Board. The other elements are the leader’s statements, the ministers’ positions and the government’s position within the committees. They all clearly show that this government, without consulting farmers, has put in place a diabolical machine so that the Canadian Wheat Board will disappear or become so unimportant that, for all practical purposes, it will disappear of its own accord.

It seems to me that attacking the Canadian Wheat Board is a first, extremely dangerous step. The Canadian Wheat Board has existed since 1940 in its form of monopoly. When it is attacked, it is a first step towards further attack, no doubt, on supply management, which serves very well the interests of Quebec and also many parts of the western provinces and Ontario.

This dismantling of everything that is government intervention is part of a sort of ideology, of a doctrine that is obvious at all levels, in all departments, and particularly in agriculture. Those people, however, got elected by saying they were going to be the big defenders of agriculture.

We know that all this got started a few years ago when the Conservatives, here in the House, took a stance in favour of 13 people who had sold their wheat directly in the west. They were prosecuted for this. They had not followed the rule that says that everyone has to go through the Canadian Wheat Board. From that time on, the ideological intention to demolish the Canadian Wheat Board was very clear.

The Canadian Wheat Board, however, has three very clear mandates: providing a sole marketing agency, pooling accounts and guarantees by government when needed. It seems to me that that is why this board is indispensable for ensuring income and service for farmers and making sure their wheat is disposed of in the best possible way. Furthermore this is what the government should be checking with farmers since no vote has been held. It should at least have a democratic consultation. No. Instead, the Conservatives even had the audacity and the nerve to appoint to the Canadian Wheat Board Mr. Motiuk, who is recognized as a passionate defender of choice in marketing.

This again shows where the government is headed. We can see from the introduction of this private member's bill and this appointment that the government is determined to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board. The government has also set up round tables, but with the very neutral objective of laying the groundwork for a dual marketing system. So consultation is not on the agenda, but the government's new direction is, with the result that the Canadian Wheat Board has refused to take part. In other words, board managers were going to take part in a round table where they would be a party to the abolition of their own agency. It was unthinkable.

These actions by the Conservatives, which are becoming more numerous, are unacceptable in a democracy. A vote absolutely must be held for producers, especially since this bill seems to contravene section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, which reads as follows:

The Minister shall not cause to be introduced in Parliament a bill that would exclude any kind, type, class or grade of wheat or barley, or wheat or barley produced in any area in Canada, from the provisions of Part IV, either in whole or in part, or generally, or for any period, or that would extend the application of Part III or Part IV or both Parts III and IV to any other grain, unless

(a) the Minister has consulted with the board about the exclusion or extension; and

(b) the producers of the grain have voted in favour of the exclusion or extension, the voting process having been determined by the Minister.

That is what must happen in order for change to occur. However, this bill, without consultation, is saying exactly the opposite of section 47.1.

We are bordering on the unlawful.

I would also like to remind the members of the statements made by the Conservative leader when in opposition. He even tabled a motion on November 6, 2002, stating:

That, in the opinion of this House, all Canadians are to be treated equally and fairly, and since Prairie wheat and barley producers are discriminated against solely because of their location and occupation, this House call on the government to take immediate action to end this discrimination and give Prairie farmers the same marketing choices that are available in the rest of Canada.

On November 6, 2002, the Conservative Party, by means of a motion tabled by the current Prime Minister, was staking out its position against the Canadian Wheat Board, favouring those who cheated or who wished to sell their wheat directly to the United States.

That was the first step. Subsequently, there was the Conservative Party's election platform which spoke of the appointment of a pro-choice director—just one more component; the round table, which stated in advance that we must go with a task force and end up with dual marketing; letter and e-mail campaigns, also orchestrated by the IWC; and, to top it all off, the ministerial order muzzling the Canadian Wheat Board directors as they would no longer have the right to say anything.

In other words, they no longer have the right to participate in a forum or to use, in any manner, their money to publicize action, report on the successes of the Canadian Wheat Board, organize conferences and consultations. No money must be spent.

Thus, the Canadian Wheat Board is muzzled and in the meantime money is spent on establishing a biased consultative panel, which must absolutely lead to dual marketing as the outcome. In fact, the conclusion is given prior to consultation. That makes no sense. Farmers must be consulted.

I do not have a lot of time, so I would also like to quote the Bloc Québécois agriculture and agri-food critic, the member for Richmond—Arthabaska, who described the Bloc Québécois' position very well. He said, and I quote:

Therefore, our position is to defend at all costs the existence of publicly-owned corporations as discussed at the WTO negotiations, for if the government abandons the Canadian Wheat Board, the entire collective marketing system may be weakened. I spoke earlier about the domino effect.

In other words, we will start with the Canadian Wheat Board, then, hypocritically, move on to attack supply management, which is indispensable to dairy producers and other collective marketing organizations. Our critic added:

This bill opens the door to attacks on all fronts, on all sides, against our collective marketing system.

With this bill, as with all of its policies concerning the Canadian Wheat Board, the Conservative government's intention is to offer farmers the freedom of choice. This might appear entirely democratic. In fact, we are talking about varied opportunities to sell their grain. In 2002, the current Prime Minister proposed a motion to eliminate the Canadian Wheat Board. Voluntary marketing is being proposed. However, that does not work, which is unfortunate for the member who is presenting the bill. A few people have tried this and experience has shown that the balance of power between sellers and buyers does not exist if the selling agency is not compulsory.

I urge all members present here today to keep the Canadian Wheat Board. In conclusion, I would like to express how disappointed I am that Conservative members from Quebec—who claimed to seek election in order to defend the interests of Quebec and said that the Bloc Québécois was all talk and no action—are not taking action themselves, are not speaking up, and are allowing such a bill to pass, although they know that this is the first step towards the destruction of supply management in Quebec. Yet, they remain silent.

This collaboration among Conservative members from Quebec and this government is unacceptable.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

October 24th, 2006 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, pulling on the thread of stability means the seam of prosperity the Wheat Board provides will be destroyed.

Bill C-300 has, as its hidden intent, the goal of dividing and conquering, which would lead farmers to go head to head against the multinational corporations. Can anyone Imagine individual farmers competing directly with international cartels for rail cars?

It has been said that the bill would do in 12 weeks what the Americans have been trying to do for 12 years: destroy the Wheat Board.

The farmers of Canada have questioned, what? First, the CWB and then supply management. It is not far-fetched to assume that this is the logical progression. There is definitely a hidden agenda at play.

Ken Larsen writes:

Two American firms (Cargill and Tyson) slaughter and package 90% of Canada's beef. A handful of millers process wheat into flour. Three grocery chains control over 70% of the retail grocery market. These giant companies are the customers that thousands of individual farmers must deal with to sell their product.

The now chronic farm income crisis is largely a manifestation of this imbalance between the thousands of farmers and the handful of giants they have to deal with. Compared to these giants, there is no such thing as a large farm. Due to the limitations of technology and biology, it is essentially impossible to create a sustainable farm that can bargain on an equal footing with these giant corporations.

This arrangement gives farmers bargaining power to negotiate freight and handling with the railways on the 350,000 or so grain cars which go to the west coast each year. A customer like the CWB has more negotiating power with the railways than a farmer shipping six or even 50 cars of grain to port.

The latest attempt to weaken this marketing power of farmers is Bill C-300. It is another attempt by the agri-business sector and its lackeys to take a greater share of the economic pie from those whose powers are the weakest, the farm producers.

Independent economic studies have demonstrated that the Canadian Wheat Board is worth an extra $2 million per day to western farmers. As one prominent farm writer said of Bill C-300, “Apparently innocuous to the uninformed, Bill C-300 will deliver up the CWB's head on a platter to the concentrated American wheat lobby, led by multinational grain interests”

Ken Ritter, a farmer and chair of the CWB, said it best:

...the ability to attract premiums and the strength to go toe-to-toe with the world class heavyweights in the grain industry - are predicated on the single desk. So the notion that you can have a "dual market" with a strong, effective CWB alongside the lack of restrictions that come with the open market is quite simply misguided. It can't work. The second the CWB is voluntary, the single desk disappears and with it, the benefits I have just outlined.

Recently we talked about the flexibility of the Canadian Wheat Board and the fact that the board can adapt as necessary is indicative. One of the three newest initiatives, the delivery exchange contract, will provide farmers with increased flexibility in how they manage their deliveries and their cashflow needs throughout the crop year. The second initiative is a pilot program for marketing organic grain in partnership with the Canadian Organic Certification Co-operative Ltd. The third initiative is a series of enhancements to farmers to contract their durum wheat for delivery throughout the CWB.

The overriding message with respect to Bill C-300 is that without discussing the merits or de-merits of the bill we believe any major changes to the manner in which western grain is marketed or processed must be a decision by the farmers affected and that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food should take those proposals to the board and seek the endorsement of producers through a fair plebiscite.

We oppose the bill not for what it does, but because of the means used to change the relationship of western grain farmers to the Canadian Wheat Board. Normally we consider private members' bills as free votes in the House but it is my contention, along with many others on this side of the House and other parties, that this is nothing more than a stalking horse for the Conservative government in an ideological vendetta. This would undermine and ultimately dismantle the Wheat Board.

In effect, it attempts to circumvent the process by which the board of directors of the Wheat Board, the majority of whom are producers and are elected by producers, is consulted and required to vote on these proposed changes. The problem is that farmers, through a plebiscite on a straightforward and honest question, will decide their own future. The question must be simple and unambiguous: Do you or do you not support the single desk selling feature of the board? It is a straightforward yes or no.

Bill C-300, although short in length, could have a very serious and long term negative impact upon our western grain producers. This is absolutely high-handed, anti-democratic and truly a railroad of the lowest order. Never before in the history of the Canadian farmer has any government deliberately attempted to destroy the farmer's ability to profit and succeed.

This will also prove disastrous for ports such as Thunder Bay, the one I represent in Thunder Bay—Rainy River, as it will for Churchill, Montreal and even Vancouver, because when it is decided to send the wheat south, what else will go south? Not only will the marine industry, the headquarters and the research capabilities go south, but will the Vancouver grain industry move to Seattle? Likely. Will Winnipeg and all its research and development capabilities move to Minneapolis or St. Paul? Highly likely.

What we are doing here is unravelling the thread, essentially condemning western Canada to a demise. We are putting its farmers essentially at the whim of a market where they have to compete against people and corporations international in scope with all the effective marketing skills they have.

When we talked about the dilution of this, it not only affects those ports, but it also affects the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway system and indeed, the internal marine economy of North America. It will certainly have detrimental effects on Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Windsor and Toronto. We can name them as we go down the St. Lawrence Seaway; they will all be affected detrimentally.

It is easy to say we can do one thing with the bill, that this is only to affect one part of it, but when it destroys the railway system, when it destroys the producer network, when it destroys the grain elevator system, that will all have a horrendous impact on the Canadian economy. It is interesting to see that some people just do not care what those impacts will be because of their ideological perseverance, but it will hurt and it will hurt big time.

When we talk about the people we represent, in my riding truly the port and the railways are most affected, but so are the grain elevators, the grain companies and the hundreds of people who work there. Western Canada will also be extremely detrimentally affected. I have actual proof from farmers. I have no idea who they are or what their political background is, but it is highly likely that they did not vote for my party in the last election, but they will the next time because of this highly undemocratic way--

The House resumed from June 19 consideration of the motion that Bill C-300, An Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act (direct sale of grain), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

October 18th, 2006 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this important debate this evening. The member for Malpeque has done excellent work in committee presenting the ins and outs of this issue. That is why we supported the second report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food. I would like to read it to you.

It seems to me that any talk of a referendum, of free choice, is a very important democratic issue. It is important to allow western producers to make that free choice, and the best way to do so is through a referendum. That way, we will know exactly what they want with respect to the future of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Here is the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food:

That the government prior to any legislative or regulatory action affecting the mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board as it is currently constituted under the Canada Wheat Board Act, submit through plebiscite to all those eligible to vote in Canadian Wheat Board elections, a clear and direct question asking whether those eligible to vote support or oppose the single desk selling provisions of the Canadian Wheat Board.

That is the subject of today's debate. I think it is very important for us to give that choice to the producers who want it. As you know, the Canadian Wheat Board is one of two very important collective marketing tools in Canada, the other being supply management, which I could obviously discuss in more detail.

Currently, we are under attack from WTO member states—especially the United States and the European Union—because of the Canadian Wheat Board and supply management. Now we are also under attack from our own government, the Canadian government. It has been in constant attack mode since it made its famous promise in the last election campaign and even before then, in 2002, when the Prime Minister himself introduced a motion in this House to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.

The Conservatives' free market ideology is not news here. However, for some time now, they have been implementing a process to undermine and even destroy the Canadian Wheat Board.

As I was saying, the attacks are not only coming from other countries, but also from within our own country. If this tendency persists, we, in Quebec, are very much afraid that, after the Canadian Wheat Board, the next attack will be on our supply management system.

And I know what I am talking about since I, along with the leader of the Bloc Québécois and people from the Union des producteurs agricoles in Quebec, took part in a meeting, here in Ottawa, with ambassadors from around the world. Representatives from the European Union were present and, for them, it was clear that there was a serious problem at the WTO with regard to marketing, and the culprits were the Canadian Wheat Board and our supply management system.

Pressures targeted at these two marketing tools still exist and we want to eliminate them. We have been doing a lot of explaining and have been able to convince more and more countries, particularly African countries, that were also present at that meeting, and some European countries, that these are not subsidies to our farmers but tools that allow them to get the best possible price at no cost to the government. I am mostly talking about supply management because in the case of the Canadian Wheat Board, there were irritants that were eliminated to comply with other countries' requirements at the WTO.

This election promise about free choice and a dual market was made by the Conservatives. In my view, free choice means letting producers decide for themselves what is good for them. That is the attitude one must always have in politics. Forcing one's ideology or anything else on others is not the way to go, but it is necessary to go out there to get a better understanding of what people want and what they need. As legislators, we will then be able to propose bills or amendments or plans that will really meet their needs.

In the past few hours we have seen another example of that on the part of this government. The Bloc Québécois introduced a motion concerning an adjustment program for older workers. It consisted of measures to help older workers who have lost their jobs because of mass layoffs. The response of the government was something of their own ideology, something that, in their opinion, was the best solution, a kind of program that pleases neither the workers nor the Government of Quebec because it does not take account of the real needs and demands of those workers.

They are proceeding in somewhat the same way in the case of the Canadian Wheat Board. In the committee, I have even heard government members say something along the lines of “We are not going to let the majority decide for the minority”.

It seems to me that in a real democracy it should be the exact opposite. In fact that is the way we conduct our elections. When a majority wants to retain an organization such as the Canadian Wheat Board, we should make certain that it is not dismantled or knocked down.

Earlier, the parliamentary secretary referred to a survey by the Canadian Wheat Board. He provided some numbers that suited his argument. There are other numbers. This is a quite recent survey from March and April 2006. The figures in the survey are quite significant.

For example, 90% of producers believe that any decision concerning the future of the Canadian Wheat Board should be made by the producers themselves. That is exactly what the member for Malpeque proposed during the committee meetings we are discussing today as part of this motion, to let the producers themselves decide the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. Nothing could be more democratic than that. It is the best way to find out exactly what the producers want.

Moreover, 66% of producers are against any weakening of the Canadian Wheat Board; 63% want the marketing of their produce to be under the exclusive responsibility of the Canadian Wheat Board, and 75%—this is important because this is what we are talking about today—75% want a referendum or plebiscite on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. In my opinion, those figures speak for themselves.

I have other surveys, if that would please the Conservatives, who do not seem to give much credibility to the surveys done by the Canadian Wheat Board. There is the survey of the National Farmers Union, which says that 76% of farm producers in the west, who are subject to the Canadian Wheat Board, support that organization. We are looking here at rather significant evidence.

So this begs the question: Who is calling for the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board at all costs? In fact, some of our own producers are calling for such a measure. I, myself, am a producer. I respect their views but I am certain that other producers have other ideas. Just look at the survey; it is not 100% everywhere.

I have received hundreds and hundreds of letters at my office from wheat and barley producers in western Canada, but mainly wheat producers, despite the fact that I am a Bloc Québécois member of Parliament from Quebec. They are asking me to stand up for the Canadian Wheat Board. In fact I am sure that all of my colleagues have received letters written by those producers. These are not form letters, many of them are written by hand, and I have read them all, regardless of where they came from. None of those letters was written by someone from an organization or a communications firm. They are genuine letters written by producers to tell me that in their opinion, the Canadian Wheat Board is very important and that it must not be dismantled.

The unfortunate thing about what is happening now is that since this election promise was made in the last campaign, every effort has been made to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. Bill C-300 was introduced in this House. We in the Bloc Québécois opposed it because, in our opinion, it was the beginning of the end.

Things got even worse for the Canadian Wheat Board with the gag order imposed on it by the ministerial order made on October 5. If you will forgive the expression, I swear that this knocked me on my backside. I did not even think that a minister could make that kind of ministerial order, a gag order that appalling, and imposing censure on the Canadian Wheat Board. But I can read an excerpt from it:

—directs the Canadian Wheat Board to conduct its operations under that Act in the following manner:

It shall not expend funds, directly or indirectly, on advocating the retention of its monopoly powers, including the expenditure of funds for advertising, publishing or market research.

It shall not provide funds to any other person or entity to enable them to advocate the retention of the monopoly powers of the CWB.

The Canadian Wheat Board has quite simply been gagged, and this is a completely undemocratic procedure. The board cannot even defend itself anymore, while the government continues to attack it. In my view, this way of doing things amounts to unfairness and inequality, and it is not even subtle, because the intention is to prohibit it from speaking and defending itself, to gag it. I have never seen anything like this. In fact, we looked a little into what has gone on in the past. We wondered whether ministers had ever done this. We had to go back to 1979 when Russia invaded Afghanistan.

At the time, all Canadian government organizations, including the Canadian Wheat Board, had been ordered not to have any dealings with Russia because of its cowardly attack on Afghanistan.

This was a highly unusual if totally understandable reason, which required that there not be any trade with a country that had just committed such an act.

It was the government’s decision, and that was to be expected. It simply forbade them to have any dealings with this country for a certain amount of time. Obviously, things have changed now. It was understandable at the time that the government would take the action it did.

I would like a Conservative member, a minister or the Prime Minister to tell me that there was a real emergency and it was essential to prevent the Canadian Wheat Board from speaking, that it was necessary to censure it, to gag it and tie its hands. I am not aware of any such reason. There is no precedent proving that this was essential and that this kind of ministerial order absolutely had to be instituted.

There have been partisan appointments to the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board. The steering panel was led by opponents of the wheat board. I spoke earlier about the letters we have received from farmers.

We also received an e-mail from a communications firm. It was obviously not intended for us. The firm was offering its services to the government to send out chain letters directed against the Canadian Wheat Board. At the same time, farmers were sending out letters in support of the wheat board. This communications firm, on the other hand, said that it could send a certain number of letters a week. Lovely form letters would have been sent out saying that the Canadian Wheat Board was not effective and was not any good. Fortunately, this was exposed and a stop was put to it.

The fact that I have not received a single letter goes to prove that there is no real farmers’ revolt against the Canadian Wheat Board. I am sure that I would have received a great many if this communications firm had secretly been able to do what it wanted and if the government had gone along. I have not received a single letter saying that the writer agreed with Bill C-300 or agreed with what the Conservative government wanted to do with the Canadian Wheat Board. When we found out what this communications firm wanted to do, we hoped to hear the person responsible for this e-mail in committee. We have not succeeded yet in getting this person to appear, but I hope we will soon do so because we have some interesting questions for him or her.

The Conservatives’ determination has not let up and what comes next is worrying, as I said in the introduction to my speech. I said that for us in Quebec the other extremely important collective marketing tool in Canada is supply management. That is not just me talking. I have met with the main stakeholders, including the people from the UPA. We talked about this with the president of the UPA. We talked to him about the Canadian Wheat Board. They too are worried. This government has a free-trade ideology and nothing will stop it.

For example, I could quote the discussions that took place in parliamentary committee with the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada before the latest negotiations of the World Trade Organization in Geneva. Whenever we asked him whether he planned to protect supply management, he always said yes. We were very happy with this answer. However, we found ourselves alone, against 148 in Geneva, during the negotiations on supply management. The Minister did not feel very comfortable in that situation.

But he represents a population. Some voted for him while others did not. Regardless, once he is in government, he represents the entire population. He should pull up his pants and defend a system as effective as supply management, even if he is alone. There is nothing to feel uncomfortable about here. What worried me more was the minister’s speech. He said that if there was an agreement in the WTO, Canada would not remain outside that agreement. Canada would not remain alone in its corner and would sign the agreement. To my mind that meant that, if there had been an agreement to begin removing areas of supply management or dismantling it, Canada would have signed.

We have good reason to be concerned considering the Conservative government's attitude.

To give you an idea of how important supply management is in Quebec, I remind members that it represents 40% of the Quebec farm economy. It is the apple of our eye and we are going to defend it tooth and nail. That is what we have been doing since we came to the House of Commons. That is what I, personally, have been doing for over a year, since my leader named me as agriculture critic for the Bloc.

The latest WTO negotiations in Geneva did not produce an agreement. That is almost fortunate. The Doha round was supposed to deal with developing nations. However nothing is being done for them. We hope to succeed in obtaining an agreement that will give those countries a greater access to markets. That is what everyone wants. However, in the case of supply management, every time negotiations reach an impasse we have to heave a sigh of relief. The fact is that successive governments have always said—in promises—that they support us and they are going to defend supply management. When that support is rather lukewarm we have reason to be concerned.

The important thing for the Conservatives is to follow up on their commitment to allow western producers a free choice concerning the marketing of their grain in the export market. What we are seeing, in fact, is the dismantling of single desk selling and, at the end of the day, the extinction of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Yet section 47(1) of the Canadian Wheat Board Act is clear. Any decision seeking to change single desk selling must be made by the producers. I do not understand why the government is opposed to the motion presented by the member for Malpeque since a very clear section of the Canadian Wheat Board Act provides for consultation of farm producers. It is up to them to decide; it is not up to the government.

I mentioned the UPA, the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec, earlier. We met with them, with our leader, to discuss the Canadian Wheat board, even though it does not apply to Quebec. Those people explained to us very clearly that in Quebec there were quite a few voluntary marketing agencies that failed not long after they were created, whether they were set up to market grain, potatoes, apples or greenhouse vegetables. All of those experiments, which date from the 1990s, could not be sustained. The marketing branch of the UPA did a thorough study of this subject. They examined cases where these models had failed, and what they found was that they lacked a critical mass of the product to be marketed, and the corollary to that, participation by producers—

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

October 18th, 2006 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Plus freight and elevation, exactly. It just did not make sense. It did not make it profitable. That project has sat for years waiting for an opportunity. I talked to people at home and they still wish that they had the opportunity to participate in that. Bill C-300 deals a little bit with that opportunity that we think we need to have for western Canadian producers.

The surprise to me was that members of the opposition decided that they would oppose this. The opposition is led by an agriculture critic who says that farmers need some strength in the marketplace, but when we came forward with a bill that would actually give them some, that would not have changed the marketing system, he opposed it. His colleagues opposed it because they do not know any better and they get their direction from him.

We would think the NDP would be on side with a proposal such as this, small community projects and people could get together and work with their neighbours and set up a processing facility to process their own grain. One would think the NDP would take that up in a minute, but the NDP decided that ideology was more important than farmers. For some of us this is not much of a surprise any more.

We see it in the debate that is going on right now. We simply want to offer western Canadian farmers the choice to do their own business. Let me as a western Canadian producer when I get up in the morning decide that I am going to sell some grain. I am going to take a look at what the price of grain is. I am going to make what I think is good deal and I am going to move my grain.

The opposition members do not want that to happen. They want me to have to go to the Canadian Wheat Board and I have to sell it to the Canadian Wheat Board. I have to buy it back and then I have to try to find someone to buy it from me.

Someone called me last night and said that right now he has a barley sale, organic barley into the United States. He made the sale. He went to the board for the buy back and the board told him that he could have the buy back if he wanted to pay $122 a tonne for a buy back, which is unbelievable. That is almost $3 a bushel extra just to buy his own grain back. His grain is sitting in the bin. He has made a sale into the United States for his organic grain which the board does not market. Then the board tells him, “You have to give us over $3 a bushel just to get your own grain back”. That is a true story.

It is interesting that the member for Malpeque will not believe me when I say that. He does not understand how the system works. That is very unfortunate. He is the one on the other side who is in charge of telling the opposition members what their agriculture decisions and policies are. He does not understand what farmers have to go through.

The member for Malpeque wonders why people become angry. The reason is that he does not have a clue what is going on in western Canada. He does not seem to care. He has an ideological position that he thinks he is going to stay with no matter what. Meanwhile our farmers are going broke.

The Liberals have a history of doing this to our farmers. I do not think they should stand up in the House and try to pretend that they are protecting farmers on the Canadian Wheat Board issue. A few years ago when we had grain farmers who wanted a choice, who wanted to do something different with their wheat, what happened? Did the Liberals offer to have a plebiscite? Absolutely not. The Liberals locked the farmers in jail.

People went to jail and people were being strip searched for weeks at a time. That was as a consequence of that member, the member for Wascana and the Liberal caucus at the time making a decision that that was the way farmers in western Canada should be treated.

Western farmers are tired of it. They want the opportunities that farmers in the rest of Canada have. They want an opportunity to get out there and market their grain. Western farmers are not afraid of the opportunities that face them.

When I say that the George Morris Centre says that there are between 8,000 and 15,000 jobs that would be available in western Canada if we had these value added opportunities, farmers say, “Let me at it. Let me have the chance to do that kind of a thing”.

The government will continue to move ahead. We want to bring choice to western Canadian farmers, the same choices that farmers across this country have. We want to give them the same opportunities that other farmers have. The farmers are very supportive of what we are doing here. It is unfortunate that some of the special interest groups funded by NDP governments and by Liberal caucuses are standing in the way of the opportunities for western Canadian farmers.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

October 18th, 2006 / 4 p.m.
See context

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Absolutely, cash advances. The member is absolutely right. It would stop the board's ability to offer or to administer cash advances. I do not think the member for Malpeque probably understood that when he wrote the motion but that certainly is the impact that it would have. Actually, my colleague makes a very good point. One of the reasons he probably does not understand the impact is because he does not live anywhere near the region where the board applies.

Western Canadian farmers have told me time and again that they are capable of making their own decisions. They do not need people coming from outside and telling them what is good for them. The member for Malpeque has been doing that to western Canadian farmers for many years and they are getting mighty tired of it.

One of the things that the motion would affect is the ability to administer cash advances. If our farmers do not have that ability, they have nothing. We just extended and improved the cash advance program. We are working through the final regulations to give farmers the opportunity to borrow up to $100,000 cash free and then they can turn around and borrow up to $400,000 against their inventory. We do not want to interfere with that and we are wondering why the member for Malpeque would be.

The motion would also interfere with the ability to manage the contingency fund that is so important to the board's operations. It interferes with its ability to establish and to manage any of the separate funds that it sets up. I am sure that the board itself does not want restrictions put on that. It restricts any opportunity to provide for enhanced employee benefits. I do not think the member for Malpequeprobably understood that either when he brought this forward.

It actually interferes as well with the ability to change the election process and improve the election process even as the board requests. The board actually agreed with us on the idea that these permit books that were not active be removed from the active mailing list. The board was with us on that in spite of what the NDP and the Liberals have said. If they were to come to use with a suggested change for an election process, this motion that the member for Malpeque has brought forward would stop us from being able to do that.

It also would stop the government from being able to appoint directors or a president. I am sure the member did not mean to interfere in that way either. It would interfere with the board's ability to invest in outside projects and, of course, it is involved in a number of things at universities, at research centres and there are partnerships around the world. It would also interfere with the ability to do the board's final audit for the year.

It actually goes further than that. It would interfere with any ability to change regulations that have anything to do with the board's operations. That would render the board's operation impossible because there have been 525 orders in council over the last 14 years and they deal with most of the issues that I have just mentioned. Orders in council concerning the board regularly go out. The member for Malpeque apparently wants all of that stopped until we have a plebiscite.

I do not think he understood what he was doing when he wrote this. However, I am sure that will not change his mind in terms of insisting that his party would support it. The motion would actually cripple the board and bring total chaos. He has brought 100 unintended consequences that he did not realize because of the poor wording of his motion. Hopefully he will take a bit more time the next time and maybe talk to some of us who understand the board and how it operates. A number of people, including some of my colleagues, have spent many years dealing with this issue. They certainly have the capability and the capacity to direct the member for Malpeque and to give him some clear understanding of what the board is all about.

I want to take a minute to talk about one of the other options or opportunities that we have offered western Canadian farmers. The member for Malpeque said that he has been a farmer advocate for many years and that he wrote a report last year that supposedly said that farmers needed more access to opportunities and to capital, and that they needed more ability and power in the marketplace.

My colleague, the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, brought forward Bill C-300. It is not a big bill but it is a good bill. It basically says that under Bill C-300 prairie producers could market their own wheat and barley directly to processing facilities owned by prairie producers. It seems pretty straightforward does it not? Prairie producers can market their own grain to a processing facility that is owned by their friends and neighbours.

Finally, we have a small thing here that would give farmers an opportunity. In the past of course this has not been allowed. Swift Current is in the centre of my riding where a few years ago people wanted to set up a pasta plant. They had support from the area and they had a great project going. It was going to be very successful and we thought we could compete with anyone in the world. We decided that there was no sense in sending our grain to another country so someone else could make it into pasta and get the benefit from that. We decided we should keep it at home and make pasta in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, and ship it out to the world. Since we grow the best durum in the world we wanted to see what we could do with pasta.

The project never got off the ground. The main reason the project did not get off the ground is that the Canadian Wheat Board said, “We are not going to let producers deliver their own grain to this facility and then process it. They have to go through the buy back”. They have to take their grain which is in their bins and they have to sell it to the board and then they have to buy it back at a higher price. Then they can try to sell it to the pasta plant.