An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act, chapter 22 of the Statutes of Canada, 1998 and chapter 25 of the Statutes of Canada, 2004

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

Sponsor

Gerry Ritz  Conservative

Status

Not active, as of Dec. 13, 2007
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Canada Grain Act by

(a) clarifying the Canadian Grain Commission’s objects;

(b) combining terminal elevators and transfer elevators into a single class of elevators called “terminal elevators”;

(c) eliminating mandatory inward inspection and weighing as well as some requirements for weigh-overs at elevators;

(d) extending the right to require the Commission to determine the grade and dockage of grain at process elevators and grain dealers’ premises;

(e) eliminating the Grain Appeal Tribunals;

(f) eliminating the Commission’s ability to require security as a condition for obtaining or maintaining a licence;

(g) creating additional regulatory powers for the Commission;

(h) modifying enforcement provisions and creating certain new offences; and

(i) ensuring that some of the requirements and procedures set out are clarified and modernized and that certain language is updated.

The enactment also amends An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act and the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act and to repeal the Grain Futures Act as well as another Act, and includes transitional provisions and coordinating amendments.

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.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2009 / 4:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague certainly has a valid point when it comes to the issue of bonding. There is no doubt about it. There are many mid-level and smaller producers in that particular situation. In my case, they are mostly harvesters in the fishing industry. Many of them become exposed to all of the losses at the upper levels. That is an unfortunate part about it.

In his speech, my hon. colleague for Malpeque said that it changes the mandate from being in the interests of producers to being in the interests of the industry. He talked about one other thing and this will add some credence to what my hon. colleague from the NDP is talking about. He did mention that the hoist amendment came in several months ago. In that period of time, the message was that we needed some fundamental changes, more so than what the government was considering. Nothing was done. It is a pattern that has been going on for three years now.

The reason why the opposition is taking such a strong stand against the bill is the government's failure when it comes to primary producers. Nowhere is that evidence of failure more clear than this particular bill, which is a rehash of the last one, going from Bill C-13 to Bill C-39.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

It is getting serious, as my hon. colleague across the way can attest to. This is a serious issue.

The problem with this and I commend the NDP, the fourth party in the House, as I have affectionately called it before, for doing this. We agree with it. During the talk about the new Fisheries Act, the NDP members too were with us so it was a re-run of Kill Bill volume one and Kill Bill volume two, I suppose.

I would implore the House to do the most responsible thing which is to take this piece of legislation, Bill C-13, not much change since Bill C-39, off the order paper. Bring it to the producers and the stakeholders involved. They will certainly give it a good vetting. In that way we will have the confidence when returning to the House that we do have the support of the vast majority of the producers and the industry. That way the amendments that the Conservatives so earnestly seek to achieve would be done with a broad consultation. They may complain it may take a little more time and it may cause a few headaches among the bureaucrats in Ottawa, but certainly at the end of the day we can hold it up as a gem, something that is going to be crystal clear, something that is going to be used for the benefit of all agricultural interests across this country.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Yes, he wins hopefully some day good governance.

The government had the opportunity to make the changes to the legislation a year ago when we called for it, and it has failed to do so. As a matter of fact, I think the term is miserably.

Remember that this is the same government that violated the law in its effort to undermine the Canadian Wheat Board. It has refused to allow western grain farmers to have a vote, a plebiscite, to determine the future of the CWB. Trust is not something that we have in the current government, especially on this specific issue.

The minister is already claiming he is about to amend his own legislation, although, if the bill is passed, this so-called commitment will not be contained in the legislation. On the issue of inward inspections, the government has indicated it is removing the role of the CGC.

The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, in a unanimous report, acknowledged that mandatory inward inspection is not a universal requirement, while outward inspection and weighing is. The committee stated in its report, again one supported unanimously, that:

...several strong factors seem to support optional inward inspection; the inward inspection requirement is already not universal; optional inspection would not affect producer rights of access to the terminal and [for emphasis] producers and the Canadian Wheat Board should not be unduly affected financially if a proper publicly supported infrastructure and pricing system are put into place in light of the public benefits of maintaining an inward inspection capability.

The fact is that while the government is removing the inward inspection provision, the work called for by the committee has never been done, despite what has been happening.

A recent study of the Canadian Grain Commission found the following issues with respect to the loss of the inward inspection. I would point out to my hon. colleagues that this is a very important point.

Inward weighing and inspection that would still be required would be less trustworthy and more expensive.

The grain system would lose an important early detection system for contaminated grain. Eliminating inward inspection by public officials would increase the likelihood of contaminated grain being co-mingled with larger quantities of clean grain. Shipments to Canadian and U.S. markets would lose an important level of protection against contamination. Grain shipped to these markets could bypass official inspection.

Inward inspection provides quality assurance information that makes outward inspection more efficient and certainly more cost effective, in this particular case.

Replacing public sector inspectors with private contractors--which is quite prevalent nowadays, some to the positive and certainly some to the negative, but at this point I will stick to the negative--many of whom would be reliant upon private grain companies for business, would undermine the perceived reliability of the information derived from inward inspection.

With respect to the diminished role of the CGC, the study prepared by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found, for example, with respect to the port of Vancouver, the following problem, bearing in mind Vancouver and Prince Rupert, as of December 2007, moved almost 1.2 million tonnes of grain through its facilities.

At a typical Vancouver elevator, CGC weighers routinely process the unloading of 5 to 100 rail cars during a shift. Documentation on these cars, the parcels, weights and anomalies, and other relevant information, is provided by the weigher to the elevator at the end of each day. Such information is very important, not just in the event of disagreements, but in the routine operations of the elevators. It is unclear how this data would be gathered, and by whom, if public inward inspection were eliminated.

The government has to explain why it has decided, prior to the legislation to downgrade, as expressed in the estimates for the commission under the section which describes the activity as providing “consistent and reliable grain quality”, as we talked about before, “and grain safety assurance to meet the needs of domestic and international markets”, the forecast spending for 2011-12 will be $23.4 million. In 2007, the planned spending was $50.2 million. By the CGC's own records, the government will reduce the ability of the CGC to do its job by a whopping $26.8 million.

The staffing at CGC will be reduced from 664 in 2007-08 to 421 in 2009-10.

Bill C-13 would remove the ability of producers who appeal through the grain appeal tribunal. According to a recent Library of Parliament study, under the provisions of the Canada Grain Act, a person dissatisfied with the initial grading may have up to three appeals under the act. Under the scheme which is proposed now in Bill C-13, a person dissatisfied with the grade, an inspector assigned, would have just one appeal and that, of course, would be to the chief grain inspector or his or her delegate.

These are the fundamental reasons the Liberals agree in principle with what is happening with the hoist amendment.

Indeed, under the provisions of the bill, the chief commissioner or any person delegated by the chief commissioner, which is an indication of the ability to possibly contract out that particular responsibility, will have the authority on any appeal. At the same time, Bill C-13 would remove the ability of farmers to have recourse to the courts.

However, according to a Library of Parliament analysis of the use of provisions such as those we talked about that are contained in Bill C-13 which attempt to remove the ability of farmers to have recourse to the courts, the issue is not that clear cut.

According to the Library of Parliament report, the wording of the privative clause in Bill C-13 appears on its face to preclude any appeal or review of a decision of the chief grain inspector. However, that is not the effect the clause would have.

The Library of Parliament states, based upon its research that Parliament and the provinces may not, through legislation, preclude the superior courts from exercising their supervisory jurisdiction. At a minimum, the government must carefully reconsider its attempt to restrict the ability of Canadians, the courts in the face of clear evidence that it might not be able to legitimately do so.

The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food called for a comprehensive cost benefit report from the government on the proposed changes the government was suggesting, and that was in 2006, with respect to the changes in service for grain inspection. To date, no such report has been produced by the government as to the real impacts of their changes on the primary producers specifically.

The government has indeed failed to produce that report. Yet again this is more evidence why more information and consultation is needed, which belies the true spirit of what we normally call a hoist amendment or, as some people from the east coast of the country would call affectionately, giving it the boot.

Even though this legislation has not received even second reading, the chief commissioner of the CGC, according to a report in The Western Producer, published February 23, 2009, sent a letter to industry indicating that it would end inspection services at prairie primary elevators this summer and would close three service centres and reduce staff.

The transition away from on-site inspection services means that the CGC will no longer provide official grading and weighing on grain shipments from the Prairies to terminal facilities nor for export shipments to the United States or domestic mills.

In essence, before Bill C-13 has been approved by Parliament, the CGC has decided to begin implementing the reduction in services it provides to western grain producers. That is very important. If nothing else, this is a demonstration of contempt for the legislative process by the chief commissioner of the CGC.

As a final point of concern, the minister announced that as of August 1 KVD will be removed. That is kernel visual distinguishability. It will be removed, according to what the minister announced on August 1. The minister was warned in January by senior officials, just weeks before his announcement of February 11, that farmers could suffer a negative impact of this removal and Canada's reputation for quality grain could indeed be undermined. The reason given by the officials, including his own deputy minister, was that no adequate system has been developed to replace the KVD.

The western grain industry needs a strong CGC. What is currently proposed in Bill C-13 is a worst case scenario. Removing the CGC from both inward and outward inspections is next to worst because it considerably weakens the role that the CGC plays.

Therefore, the following amendments should be made to Bill C-13: one, CGC-administered producer security should be reinstated; and two, if inward inspection becomes optional, the CGC should accredit and audit private service providers who would be responsible for inward inspection. A key part of this accreditation and audit process will be to institute clear CGC accountability for differences between inward and outward risk.

Therefore, I conclude that part of my speech by outlining three essential elements.

One, our support for the hoist motion is a signal to the government that it cannot simply bring in legislation which it is well aware does not enjoy the support of the House without any effort made at all to amend it.

Two, Bill C-13 is Bill C-39 from the previous Parliament. Remember that legislation was debated more than a year ago and the debate clearly indicated the government should reconsider its direction on undermining the CGC. It had a year to do so and it has failed to take that opportunity. This particular vote is not a vote against reform of the CGC, but it is indeed a vote against the arrogance of the government.

Let me illustrate that by bringing up a point about a particular case with the hoist amendment and what we did prior to this, about two years ago. I will go back to an example that we use. The lack of consultation was so pervasive. It became abundantly clear upon introduction in the House, as producers in the case of this bill, or fishermen in the case of the Fisheries Act, called us time and time again with questions and concerns. We were inundated at the time. The big thing was that the Conservatives insisted that consultation was taking place. We called the people whose names were provided to us and they said that was not necessarily the case; all they had received was a letter informing them what to do. Therein lies the arrogance.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

October 8th, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, with a reception like that from my hon. colleague across the floor, I might decide to run in politics some day.

I do want to thank the House for allowing me to speak on this issue. Certainly at the eastern end of the country, it is not as large an industry as it is in places such as western Canada, but there is a multi-million dollar industry for agriculture in Newfoundland and Labrador. We are affectionately nicknamed the rock, so if we can grow it on the rock, my goodness, it just says how good our farmers actually are.

To a great degree, that certainly does put me in a unique position, to say the least, so I would like to thank again all my hon. colleagues for allowing me this time.

I would also like to say that the principle reason for supporting a hoist motion which will effectively remove Bill C-13 from the order paper for this session is that the government has known for more than a year that all three opposition parties have expressed strong opposition not to reforming and improving the Canada Grain Commission, but to being complicit in its undermining and ineffectiveness. Therein lies the gist of the hoist motion to take this from the order paper.

There is a history of that type of mechanism here in the House that we have used on occasion. As a matter of fact, a couple of years ago we moved it during the introduction of the Fisheries Act. There was a tremendous amount of opposition toward it, and not only opposition but questions as to how it would affect each and every person. Instead this thing was rammed down the fishermen's throats in much the same way that we are seeing a pattern that continues with this particular situation now with Bill C-13.

In this particular situation, we see a similar pattern occurring here, because what the hoist motion does is take it away for a while. We can then consult with it and bring it across the country as a good starting point for the type of effective changes that we need. In this particular case, that is why we support the hoist motion.

Our concerns with the legislation are these.

The government has to date shown no inclination to amend the legislation, in spite of the fact that during debate on Bill C-13's predecessor bill, Bill C-39 in February 2008, the official opposition as well as the Bloc and the NDP raised the concerns referred to above, indicating clearly the need for consequential amendments.

On the issue of the producer payment security program, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, who is responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, told this House that while the government is eliminating the practice of CGC holding security deposits from grain dealers, under the producer payment program, he confirmed that the government has developed an alternative:

We understand and we know that there are concerns across the country with regard to these proposals.

The issue remains that the legislation, as it stands, will eliminate this provision without any alternative being established to replace it.

The Minister of Agriculture himself, according to a broadcast news wire story from March 5, is reported to have stated that the government will only remove the producer payment protection program when a better alternative is in place. That is interesting.

In fact the Minister of Agriculture was quoted directly in The Western Producer from March 12, when he answered a direct question as to whether farmers would be protected in relation to the bonding issue. He said:

Absolutely. We're not going to leave you hanging with nothing. We'll keep the program that's existing in place until something new comes along.

Here is what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture acknowledged as the flawed nature of the legislation. This is from page 1214:

We understand and we know that there are concerns across the country with regard to these proposals, and we are certainly more than willing to work with the opposition at committee.

That is what is interesting, “at committee”. What the minister has said is not that Bill C-13 needs amending, but that a key element in this bill cannot proceed given the failure of the government to develop an alternative.

The question is this. Can the minister and the government be trusted not to implement the removal of the bonding issue until a better alternative is in place?

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

April 2nd, 2009 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, the Liberal Party welcomes the hoist motion moved by my hon. colleague, because it has become increasingly evident that the government is not listening to the concerns expressed by the opposition in the House about the bill. Certainly it is clear that the government is not listening to the concerns of the primary producers.

The parliamentary secretary got it all wrong in his last remarks. The reason the opposition is taking such a strong stand against the bill is the government's failure when it comes to primary producers. Nowhere is that evidence of failure more clear than it is with this bill.

The government has not listened to any of the producers' concerns that were expressed during the committee hearings. It has not listened to the concerns that were expressed by producers on the original bill, Bill C-39. It has not listened to the concerns of producers between now and when Bill C-13 came into being. Obviously, the government is not listening to primary producers in this country. Therefore, the opposition parties are left with no choice but to try to bring the government to its senses and give us something that shows it is listening to producers and their concerns and not just to industry.

Calls are coming in every day from producers concerned about the bill. In fact, the principal reason for our supporting the hoist motion, which as stated by the parliamentary secretary, and I agree, will effectively remove Bill C-13 from the order paper for this session, is that the government has known for more than a year that all three opposition parties are concerned about it. Over the course of that time the amount of concern being expressed by primary producers, by the farm community, is unbelievable. I have not seen anything like it in my time in terms of the avalanche of concerns coming forward from industry on this particular bill.

There is strong concern, not about reforming and improving the Canadian Grain Commission, but about being complicit in its undermining and ineffectiveness. I do not want to see myself, my party does not want to see itself, and I understand that the other opposition parties do not want to see themselves as being complicit in undermining the Canadian Grain Commission and undermining its effectiveness for primary producers.

The major reason for the need to have this bill removed and reconsidered, redrafted and resubmitted is that the extent of the harm this legislation would do, given the extent of the amendments to the Canadian Grain Commission, are beyond the most recent parliamentary review of the activities of the Canadian Grain Commission. That review was conducted by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food after having heard from stakeholders across the country.

This morning the official opposition held a press conference on this very matter. The need for this press conference was that we have seen from the current government the ultimate in incompetence. It did not listen to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, which held hearings several years ago. The government introduced former Bill C-39, which was severely flawed. The government had concerns coming forward from producers and opposition parties. It failed to address those concerns and introduced a new bill, Bill C-13, which was substantially the same.

Since it was first introduced in Parliament, information is getting out to our producers on how bad the bill is, and we are being inundated with calls telling us to kill the bill, to get rid of it. Therefore, this morning the official opposition held a press conference in which we said that Parliament must at its earliest opportunity block the government's Bill C-13, which is proposed amendments to the Canada Grain Act. At the press conference I outlined many of my concerns with the bill and I will list them quite simply and shortly.

It changes the mandate from being in the interest of producers to being in the interest of industry. It takes away the bonding requirement of companies which is there to protect producers. Producers sell half a million dollars of grain to a grain company and they get no protection in terms of that company being bonded. A producer could go broke as a result.

There is the whole issue of inward inspections, which my colleague from the fourth party outlined is really an issue of food security and food safety. I will get to that in a moment. The Canadian Wheat Board expressed some concerns a while ago in a press release it put out. If the CGC does away with inward inspection, it will have to be handled in some other way. The problem is, when it is handled in another way, who will handle those costs and take all the risks? It will be the primary producers.

Another problem with the bill is appeals on grades and weights. The chief grain inspector would have the ultimate authority, and the government even put in the bill that there is no appeal to the Federal Court. Imagine that. There is no appeal to the Federal Court. There is no way farmers who have faced an injustice can get to the justice system to appeal the decision made by an arbitrary regulatory authority. That is absolutely crazy in a democratic system such as ours.

This morning at our press conference, we said that the bill has to be stopped in the interest of the farm community. Our House leader said that there are three options. We could simply vote down the current Conservative motion asking for approval in principle; we could adopt a so-called hoist motion, which is the one we are talking about, which has been put forward by another party; or we could move a reasoned amendment. According to the rules of the House of Commons, any one of these three options would effectively kill the bill. There is no question that the bill must be stopped.

This is grain legislation. People in downtown Toronto and downtown Vancouver or even downtown Charlottetown probably do not understand the need for such strong regulatory actions in the grain industry.

As I said earlier in my remarks, Canada has become the number one supplier of quality grains around the world. We are recognized as the top supplier of quality grains in the world, as a result of the efforts of the Canadian Grain Commission and certainly the producers in producing the kind of grains they produce.

To make the issue relevant to consumers and people in urban Canada, I would say that while functioning, regulatory systems tend to be invisible until tragedy occurs. It is only after somebody dies, either from drinking bad water or food or whatever, that people recognize the need for a regulatory system in the background to protect the interests of all.

In an article in the Edmonton Journal written by Scott Sinclair and Jim Grieshaber-Otto, this is what they said on another issue:

Citizens rightly expect their governments to protect them and to act in the public interest. Too often governments fail to do so, instead responding to corporate pressure to weaken regulations so that businesses can cut costs and increase profits. Recent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses -- listeriosis in Canada, melamine contamination in China, and salmonella poisoning in the U.S. -- underline the dangers to the public of cutting back on government oversight and inspections in the food system.

They went on to say:

Yet these lessons seem to be lost on the Conservative federal government, which is threatening another of Canada's highly successful regulatory systems. Legislation now before Parliament -- Bill C-13 -- would gut Canada's world-class grain regulatory system.

They go on to talk about some other points in the article saying that what the government is really doing is increasing the risk of catastrophic financial loss to producers and also that the government is more interested in creating opportunities for transnational corporations than in protecting Canadian farm and consumer interests. I certainly would agree with those points.

With the pressure from the farm community, we have no choice but to support this hoist motion because the government has not listened. It had the opportunity since it first introduced the legislation to at least tell us what it was going to do. Instead, we hear statements from the minister along the lines of, “Don't worry, we will fix it”.

Canadians now know full well that they cannot trust the Prime Minister and the government. A statement saying it will fix it at some future date is just not acceptable. We have not seen any intention on the part of government that there is anything in the wings, behind the scenes, that is going to propose to amend this legislation in a proper way.

Let me speak a little more about inward inspection, which is a critical issue in terms of the legislation itself and why it is necessary to effectively close down this bill.

On the issue of inward inspection, the government has indicated it is removing the role of the CGC. The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, in a unanimous report, acknowledged that mandatory inward inspection is not a universal requirement while outward inspection and weighing is. The committee stated in its report, again supported unanimously:

--several strong factors seem to support optional inward inspection: the inward inspection requirement is already not universal; optional inspection would not affect producer rights of access to the terminal; and producers and the Canadian Wheat Board should not be unduly affected financially if a proper publicly supported infrastructure and pricing system are put into place in light of the public benefits of maintaining an inward inspection capability.

The fact is that while the government is removing the inward inspection provision, the work called for by the committee has never been done. The government has not done the work called for by the committee itself.

To just go on a little further, the government has to explain why it has decided, prior to the legislation, to downgrade, as expressed in the estimates for the commission under the section which describes the activity as providing “Consistent and reliable grain quality and grain safety assurance to meet the needs of domestic and international markets”, the forecasting spending. In 2011-12 it will be $23.4 million; in 2007-08, the planned spending was $50.2 million. By the Canadian Grain Commission's own records, the government will reduce the ability of the Canadian Grain Commission to do its job by $26.8 million.

I have to ask the question: Is this a matter of the government cutting costs on the backs of primary producers and the safety of consumers in this country? Is that what the government is really doing behind closed doors?

Staffing, as a previous member mentioned, will be reduced from 664 FTEs in 2007-08 to 421 in 2009-10. Somebody, I believe it was the parliamentary secretary, mentioned earlier that there is employment insurance and so on and so forth. That is not the point. The point is these people are needed in the industry to protect producers in the public's interest. This is not just about money. This is about protection and regulations in Canadian society that are direly needed.

A recent study of the Canadian Grain Commission itself found the following issues with respect to the loss of inward inspection, and I will go through them.

First, inward weighing and inspection, that would still be required, would be less trustworthy and more expensive.

Second, the grain system would lose an important early detection system for contaminated grain. Eliminating inward inspection by public officials would increase the likelihood of contaminated grain being comingled with larger quantities of clean grain.

Third, shipments to Canadian and United States markets would lose an important level of protection against contamination. Grain shipped to those markets could bypass official inspection. That is worrisome.

Fourth, inward inspection provides quality assurance information that makes outward inspection more efficient and cost-effective.

Finally, replacing public sector inspectors with private contractors, many of whom would be reliant upon private grain companies for business, would undermine the perceived reliability of the information derived from inward inspection.

Those are comments from a recent study by the Canadian Grain Commission itself.

Now, should Canadians worry? Should we, as opposition parties, worry? Definitely, we should. But where is the government? Why is not dealing with these serious concerns?

With respect to the diminished role of the Canadian Grain Commission, the study prepared by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found, for example, with respect to the port of Vancouver the following problem, bearing in mind that Vancouver and Prince Rupert, as of December 2007, moved almost 1.2 million tonnes of grain through its facilities:

At a typical Vancouver elevator, CGC weighers routinely process the unloading of 50-100 rail cars during a shift. Documentation on these cars, their parcels, weights, any anomalies and other relevant information is provided by the weigher to the elevator at the end of each day.

It goes on to show that their service is very important.

Let me conclude. The reason for the hoist motion that we are now supporting is really simple. Clearly, the government had ample opportunity to come forward with a bill that was amendable and made sense to primary producers. It has failed to do so.

Second, farmers are expressing their concerns about the current government. They are asking us, “Where are the government backbenchers?” “What are they doing?” “Are they trained seals or what?” “Why are they not expressing their concerns on behalf of their constituents?” They have concerns and this bill should be stopped in its tracks.

The bottom line is it is not amendable. The government has failed to do its due diligence and the opposition has a responsibility to hold the government to account. That is why we are supporting the amendment presented by the member opposite.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

April 2nd, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I am so glad my colleague posed that question because it hearkens back to what I said during my speech. The opposition is not being open and forthright. Even in those comments, we hear that.

I will give an example. I mentioned this in my speech but he must have been busy reading something. In 2006, COMPAS was hired by the government to conduct a review. In 2006, the standing committee held hearings on the COMPAS report and it tabled its own reports. This was way back in 2006. Was there a hoist motion put forward at that time? Were there any kinds of blocking motions put in place? No.

In December 2007, Bill C-39 was introduced in Parliament by this government. That was a long time ago. The bill ended up dying on the order paper in September 2008, nine months later. That legislation was on the table for nine months. Did we hear these kinds of comments? Did we have a hoist motion to kill it? Did we have these kinds of outlandish remarks being made? Not at all.

Therefore, the question is actually for the opposition members. What is it that makes them feel so strongly about their position now, when for nine months in the last Parliament this was not an issue? They were willing to let this bill move to committee for proper review by committee and to allow the input of producers.

I will go back to this point. This legislation is aimed at helping our grain producers. In fact, throughout my speech I spoke about grain producers and how this will help our producers and lower costs. The member and my opposition colleagues should allow grain producers to come to the committee to comment on the legislation, but they are cutting this short. They do not want to hear from producers. Why is that? They are afraid of what they will hear. They are not interested in the input of Canadians. They want to kill the bill now before producers get a chance to speak out.

I will put this into context. What the agriculture minister was saying in the quote read out by my colleague was that we are open to working with the opposition and to working with producers to make this the best bill for producers. When they kill the bill outright like this, it is very hard to work with the opposition when it moves in such an aggressive fashion.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

April 2nd, 2009 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, the member surprised me that he would go after the opposition in some of his last remarks. We are not trying to scuttle the bill. We are trying to bring the government to its senses. It has a responsibility to producers, not just to the multinational corporate sector. The problem here is that Bill C-13 does everything for industry and takes away protection, power and authority for producers.

Regarding the hoist motion, sometimes legislation is so bad and so terrible that it is basically unamendable, and that is what producers are telling us. The government has a record of failure in most areas relating to the farming community in this country, and I could go through a list, but had the government come forward with a bill that was at least a starting point, then we could get to the substance of the issue and amend it.

Maybe the parliamentary secretary and his minister should look in the mirror and accept their responsibilities for not having done their work. They had lots of time to do it, since the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food had first put forward its committee report several years ago. They had Bill C-39 and heard the criticism there and came in with another bill.

We do get the odd statement out of the minister when he is getting attacked on this issue in the country. When asked if farmers would be protected, he said:

We're not going to leave you hanging with nothing. We'll keep the program that's existing in place until something new comes along.

Producers want some assurances. They want to see what the protection is in legislation. They know the government cannot be trusted. They certainly know the minister cannot be trusted because they have seen his attack, trying to break the law, and the Federal Court trying to stop them on the Canadian Wheat Board issue.

My question for the parliamentary secretary is simple. Why did the Government of Canada, having all this time, not do its homework and come in with a bill that would have given us at least something to amend and work with?

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

April 2nd, 2009 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I, too, listened to the member's remarks and appreciated them. As well, I appreciate the tremendous work that this member does on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

I know that he was there during the original hearings that we had on the Canadian Grain Commission. In the last Parliament the government introduced Bill C-39. There was a lot of opposition to Bill C-39 and it died on the order paper. I would have thought that the government, by introducing Bill C-13, would have changed the bill to accommodate those concerns, and there are many. I outlined them in my remarks earlier.

I think the key concern is that the bottom line principle in Bill C-39, previously, and Bill C-13, now, changes the mandate of the Canadian Grain Commission from being in the interests of producers to being in the interest of industry.

This Canadian Grain Commission has been around for a long time. In fact, it has put Canada as the number one reliable supplier of quality grains in the world. This undermines our being a quality grain supplier, but more so undermines the protection for producers.

Is the government just not listening? Does it not care about producers? How is this government bill going over in Quebec relative to that issue? I wonder if the member could comment.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

April 2nd, 2009 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act, chapter 22 of the Statutes of Canada, 1998 and chapter 25 of the Statutes of Canada, 2004.

This bill is exactly the same as former Bill C-39. The number C-13 may be unlucky, because the government does not seem to have learned from its mistakes. The previous bill had serious shortcomings. My speech today will focus on many aspects of the bill that should be improved so that it better serves grain producers and the industry.

Canada is in the midst of an economic crisis. Since the government introduced Bill C-39, we have learned that there will be job losses related to the proposed changes to the Canadian Grain Commission. It is expected that jobs will be lost because of the elimination of the Grain Appeal Tribunal, the end of registration and the cancellation of receipts, and the end of inspections and mandatory weigh-overs. In all these areas where the government wants to make changes, jobs will clearly be lost. This does not come as good news at a time when thousands of jobs are being lost. Passing this bill will unfortunately cause collateral damage, to use more military language, and people will find themselves on employment insurance.

The job losses will be concentrated in the ports of Vancouver and Thunder Bay. Jobs will also be lost in Winnipeg, mainly in inspection. In the longer term, other jobs could be cut in other regions, including Quebec. Grain is weighed and assessed in the ports of Montreal and Quebec City.

The most telling proof that this bill is a product of the Conservative ideology is that the government has not followed a single one of the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, a committee on which you, Mr. Speaker, have had the pleasure of sitting for some time and where we have had the opportunity to work together. That committee examined Bill C-39 and made recommendations. It also studied a report from Group Compass Canada. The government has changed not one word in Bill C-39, now Bill C-13.

There are, therefore, a number of elements of uncertainty in this bill. We must remain vigilant. The reform of the Canadian Grain Commission is taking place in a specific context. We know the Conservatives are trying their best to dismantle the collective marketing mechanisms that protect the interests of producers. I am thinking of course of such things as the Canadian Wheat Board, but also of everything surrounding the current Doha round of negotiations in Geneva. Moreover, once again last July there was a text on the table that placed the supply management system in jeopardy. That text was studied by seven countries, but Canada was not one of them. We did, however, have two ministers there, the present Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the former Minister of International Trade, Michael Fortier, who was not re-elected.

The two of them were in Geneva to follow the discussions. The text that was on the table placed the supply management system in jeopardy. At the end of the negotiations, which fortunately did not result in an agreement between the countries, the two ministers expressed disappointment that it had not. Understandably, the sword of Damocles is still hanging over the heads of supply-managed farmers, and I need hardly tell hon. members there are very many such farmers in Quebec. The supply management system accounts for over 40% of Quebec's agricultural economy.

That being the case, great vigilance is required when we are examining any government bills relating to agriculture. What is more, the Conservative government has appointed a friend of the minister to head the Canadian Grain Commission. One might well wonder whether the new commissioner will defend the producers' interests or the minister's, particularly since the mandate of the Canadian Grain Commission has been modified. It is no longer required to act in favour of producers.

It was clearly written into the commission's mandate, yet it has disappeared from the bill. Any time bills deal with issues that directly affect producers, our focus should continue to be the economic health of agricultural producers.

I was talking about the chief commissioner, Elwin Hermanson, a former Reform Party member from 1993 to 1997. The Minister of Agriculture was Mr. Hermanson's campaign manager in 1993 when he first ran for election, and from 1993 to 1997, the minister was the constituency office coordinator for Mr. Hermanson, who appeared before the committee. In any case, while I do not mean to impute any motives, we can nevertheless ask ourselves if the head of the commission will have our producers' interests, first and foremost, in mind.

The government is implementing some recommendations of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, such as modernizing the mandate of the Canadian Grain Commission. One might now wonder if it did so correctly. I want to make it clear that, based on the speeches I have heard from my various colleagues and what we have also talked about in committee, everyone agrees that the Canadian Grain Commission's mandate must be modernized. The question we must now ask, and what we need to gauge here today is this: does Bill C-13 address the worries and concerns that have been raised, any more than Bill C-39 did in the past?

The Bloc Québécois is skeptical about some of these measures. That is important to note. We are skeptical about the elimination of the Grain Appeal Tribunal and the payment security program, because we do not know what will replace it. The Bloc Québécois also condemns the fact that the government has not introduced an office of grain farmer advocacy, as the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food recommended. I will have more time later to talk about some of the committee recommendations that have not been included in this bill.

What does the bill do? The government is changing the mandate of the Canadian Grain Commission in such a way that, in addition to the interests of grain producers, the commission would also consider the interests of the industry as a whole, including grain processors.

In order to clarify the Canadian Grain Commission's mandate, it will be split into two parts by Bill C-13. Part one will set out the CGC's core mandate to establish and maintain standards of quality for Canadian grain and regulate grain handling in Canada to ensure a dependable commodity for domestic and export markets. Part two will establish that the CGC shall specifically protect producer interests with respect to deliveries to elevators and grain dealers, access to binding CGC determination of the grade and dockage of grain deliveries, and the allocation of producer cars.

At present, the mandate of the Canadian Grain Commission is to, in the interests of producers, establish and maintain standards of quality for Canadian grain and regulate grain handling in Canada, to ensure a dependable commodity for domestic and export markets.

I would like to point out that clause 3 of Bill C-13 amends section 13 of the Canada Grain Act by removing the words “in the interests of producers” from the object to establish and maintain “standards of quality for Canadian grain and regulate grain handling in Canada to ensure a dependable commodity for domestic and export markets”.

As we stated earlier, like the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food, the Bloc Québécois supports modernization of the Canadian Grain Commission's mandate. Our party recognizes that the commission must be able to consider broader interests, such as public health, preserving the enviable reputation of Canadian grain producers, and other interests.

The Bloc Québécois is also sensitive to the concerns of grain producers who believe that Bill C-13 is drafted in such a way as to reduce the protection it affords grain producers. It should be understood that since Bill C-39 was first introduced before the election was called, therefore dying on the order paper, much water has flowed under the bridge. We have had all kinds of meetings, correspondence, telephone calls, visits from different people affected by the changes to the mandate of the Canadian Grain Commission.

That gave us a chance to weigh the pros and the cons of this bill. The cons are definitely adding up.

The National Farmers Union has told us that it is essential to preserve the language of the existing Act, which includes the expression “in the interests of producers”, to describe the purpose of the Canadian Grain Commission and the standards of quality in the regulations respecting grain handling operations in Canada. In fact, the first recommendation in the COMPAS report was as follows:

The Standing Committee supports a redefined mandate of the Canadian Grain Commission as more in line with the practical reality of the Canadian grain industry and it recommends that any eventual bill clearly protect the interests of grain producers.

We know that the Conservative government is allergic to collective marketing mechanisms and instruments that enable producers to earn a fair market return. Deregulation and reducing constraints on the free market are key elements of their ideology, elements that, unfortunately, come through in this bill, as I will demonstrate.

The Canadian Grain Commission must not become another Canadian Food Inspection Agency. That organization has lost a lot of credibility over the past few years because it has been forced to choose between the two components of its dual mandate. Agricultural producers in Quebec and Canada are quite right to distrust this government, which has set its sights on the Canadian Grain Commission. It is clear that deregulating everything under the sun has not produced the desired results with respect to protecting producers.

The Bloc Québécois is ready to look at what can be done with the Canadian Grain Commission's mission. We are ready to do that. Can a bill like this really be amended? A lot of people have their doubts.

One of the problems with this bill is that it suggests that an office of grain farmer advocacy is no longer necessary. I strongly disagree. As for the protection of the interests of agricultural producers, we deplore the fact that the government rejected the third recommendation of the parliamentary committee, proposing the establishment of an office of grain farmer advocacy that would have reported directly to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

One might wonder if this is not another sign that the government wants to divest itself of any responsibility and thus deregulate the services of the Canadian Grain Commission. The mandate of the office of grain farmer advocacy, whose role would be similar to that of an ombudsman, would be to ensure that producers understand their rights under the act, and to defend their interests in disputes with other stakeholders.

We had a short briefing, an information session, with officials on this, and I asked a question on this very subject. I can report that I was not at all satisfied with the answer.

Like the parliamentary committee, we think that such an office would have ensured that the interests of producers are defended in disputes with the other stakeholders involved, including the Canadian Grain Commission. We believe that the communication, consultation, liaison and complaint investigation responsibilities assumed by such an office would have strengthened Canada's grain quality assurance system.

Another problem is the elimination of grain appeal tribunals. What does this bill do? The grain appeal tribunal hears the complaints of grain producers and companies that are not satisfied with the grades given by the commission's inspectors. The chair of the tribunal is an authorized grain inspector, but acting at arm's length. The other members of the tribunal come from the grain industry.

The tribunal's position within the Canadian Grain Commission limits its legitimacy and perceived effectiveness. Moreover, clause 14 of the bill proposes to abolish grain appeal tribunals, which are currently established under sections 35 to 38 of the Canada Grain Act. From a reading of clause 31, on page 12, the proposed subsection 70(5), we understand that, in case of a disagreement over a ruling made by the chief inspector—who is the first level of appeal—grain producers will no longer be able to turn to the grain appeal tribunal. They will have to turn to the regular courts. Hon. members will understand that the message being sent to producers is quite simply that that have to fend for themselves, using their own money, as if they had any to spare, and defend themselves before the courts. That not only can be very costly, it can also take a very long time before a ruling comes down. We know all the things that can slow down the regular courts.

We note that the parliamentary committee did not address this issue. The COMPAS report commented that the Canadian Grain Commission's “grain appeal tribunal has earned some plaudits for effectiveness”.

COMPAS continued, “Our impression is that the Tribunal is respected for its role in grading disputes, although at times some stakeholders sensed excessive influence on the part of the Office of the Chief Inspector.” We heard that in committee as well. It was also stated that there is always room for modernization and improvement, but in my opinion that does not mean abolishing the tribunal. The Bloc Québécois awaits the government's explanations for this amendment.

Then there is the elimination of inspection and mandatory inward weighing, which is what the bill would do. Weighing and inspection of grain is carried out by the Canadian Grain Commission and is mandatory on bulk shipments overseas but optional for container movement or for exports to the United States.

Inward inspections are the weighing and grading that take place when railcars or trucks arrive at transfer elevators or terminal elevators. The Canadian Grain Commission then provides third-party weighing so as to forestall errors and to provide assurance to producers.

With its Bill C-13, the government is proposing that inward inspections take place only at the request of the shipper, but that outward weighing and shipping remain mandatory. Terminal and transfer elevator operators will be required to allow access to service providers who will do the weighing and inspection.

While the Canadian Grain Commission will no longer be involved in the delivery of this optional service, both shippers and elevator operators will have access to binding Canadian Grain Commission arbitration in the event of dispute over a grain grade.

Like the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Bloc Québécois supports optional inward inspection, as proposed by the government. We have been told that inward inspection is no longer universally required. According to COMPAS, “About half of railcars unloading at terminal elevators originate at primary elevators of the same company.”

Rather than proceeding with complete deregulation, we should find a compromise for such cases, perhaps continuing to pay the costs for those who opt for this inspection. However, we also have questions about food safety inspections. I will come back to that if there is time.

We also agree with the arguments presented in the committee report to the effect that the Canadian Grain Commission could abandon kernel visual distinguishability when this method is replaced by one that is more efficient, according to recommendations 5 to 7 of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. Contracting out of inspection services must be evaluated in a pilot project and the government, after three years, must evaluate the real impact.

We must be careful, however. Since inward inspection is optional, this could increase unit costs and prices by decreasing economies of scale. Making it optional would likely put smaller grain companies that do not have a terminal elevator at a disadvantage in terms of competitiveness. Inspection and weighing fees are collected from the farmer at the primary elevator. Optional inward inspection would benefit larger companies that have a terminal elevator by allowing them to avoid payment of the fees and offer a better price to farmers. Grain companies that have a better geographic location will be in a better position to take advantage of mixed shipments.

It is therefore important to promote competition in the grain handling system by helping the smaller companies. That is why we believe that the Canadian Grain Commission must have sufficient funding so that the commission can maintain efficient and timely services for both producers and smaller handlers who need such services for transactional purposes.

There are many other elements I could talk about, but I will just mention certain irritants in this bill. As I said, we received a huge amount of correspondence indicating that there were serious flaws in this bill. For example, the Agriculture Union said that if Bill C-13 were passed, some 200 commission employees, most of them front-line service providers, would lose their jobs.

The Agriculture Union, a component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, represents most of the employees of the Canadian Grain Commission. Obviously, these people met with us and shared their concerns.

I also want to mention that I have here a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that talks about the problems with this bill. The report is entitled Threatened Harvest.

It is important that the members of this House be aware of this report and the other elements that show that Bill C-13 has huge flaws.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

March 3rd, 2009 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated a moment ago, I am somewhat discouraged to speak at second reading of this bill. I say discouraged because Bill C-13, in the second session of the 40th Parliament, is exactly the same bill with exactly the same extensive flaws and shortcomings that were contained in the old Bill C-39 introduced in the 39th Parliament, originally on December 13, 2007.

I would refer government members, and especially the minister and his bureaucrats at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, to the Hansards of February 1, 2008 and February 15, 2008 where extensive concerns about this bill were outlined in this House at that time.

Where have the minister, the bureaucrats at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and those at the Canadian Grain Commission been for the last year? This bill could have come in this House substantially improved. We could have started at a higher level. However, this bill is coming in with the same old flaws that were in it previously. Very prominent in those concerns was the fact that the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food's report on the Canadian Grain Commission was all but ignored.

The chair of the committee at that time, who signed off on that report, was the very minister who now puts forward this flawed bill. One would think the Minister of Agriculture would have more respect for his own signature than to sign a report making certain recommendations and then ignoring those recommendations when he has the authority as a minister to put forward the bill.

However, we all know that the Minister of Agriculture, when it comes to listening to farmers, is about as stone deaf as one can get. Even so, one would think that at least the department or the Canadian Grain Commission would have addressed some of those concerns.

We also know that the person who happens to be chief commissioner at the Canadian Grain Commission is a friend of the minister. In fact, I would wonder if that friend is more interested in protecting the minister's desires and programs than he is of protecting the very producers who he is supposed to represent.

In my question to the parliamentary secretary a moment ago, I outlined that there was absolutely no cost benefit analysis done in terms of this proposal on changes to the Canadian Grain Commission by the government. Now that is not unusual for the government. We know it did not do a cost benefit analysis when it exercised its attack on the Canadian Wheat Board.

Finally, the Parliament of Canada shut the Prime Minister and the minister down in terms of what they wanted to do in undermining the Wheat Board. Even the court system had to come in a couple of times and shut the Prime Minister down in terms of his undermining of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The government has a history of trying to undermine the very institutions that protect farmers in western Canadian, the Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Grain Commission. The Canadian Grain Commission does have protective measures for grain producers right across the country.

I would like to take the opportunity to put one thing that I probably should put on the record in terms of the way the minister has used his position to attack institutions that in fact protect farmers in this country.

I will quote an article from the Melfort Journal on February 24. The minister stood in this House and attacked the contingency fund losses of the Canadian Wheat Board, which was the wrong thing to do. In fact, that hurt grain producers commercially.

The quote from the Melfort Journal says:

Last year, the CWB registered $7.2 billion in returns for western producers, a year which saw nearly a 50% increase in wheat revenues and nearly a 100% increase in barley and durum revenues from the previous year.

Simply put, the board outperformed its international competitors, an outstanding performance that should be recognized even by the board's most strident critics...and you sure shouldn't expect any government minister to misuse their offices and authority by telling a small portion of the story to advance their political agenda. This is an issue that goes well beyond whether you support the board or not.

I make that point because it is extremely important for Canadians to understand that the minister and the government know no low when it comes to attacking the various institutions that are there to protect the farmer community, because they clearly favour ensuring that greater benefits, greater authority or greater power accrues to the industry side of the equation, mainly the grain companies and the railways.

I was in Alberta on the weekend, at a great event in Edmonton that our party was doing. I could not help but think, when I was talking to producers there and looking back over the years, that when I first went west as a farm leader in the late 1970s, western Canadian farmers had a branch line and railway infrastructure that went into nearly every community. The cooperative movement was strong at that time. Shapiro, from the United States, had come up and talked about a pool system, and farmers in the west set up a pool system. They had Manitoba Pool Elevators, the Alberta Wheat Pool, the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, and organizations and cooperatives working for the farm community, so farmers had protection on that front as well.

All that is gone. Now we have grain corporations that are interested in their shareholders and the profits of their shareholders elsewhere in the world, and not in those primary producers in those rural communities.

The elevator system within that branch line infrastructure was fully paid for by primary producers. Yes, they were wooden elevators, but they were in every small town and they were fully paid for. There was no debt, and they were paid for by farmers. Now we have a system in which big grain and big railways are trying, almost on a daily basis, to close down branch lines and abolish service to those small communities. As a result, grain has to be trucked on the road, which taxpayers pay for at the provincial level. The steel that Canadian taxpayers paid for on those railways has been sold to the likes of Brazil and elsewhere, and at the end of the day farmers have poorer service and less service. Their branch lines have been torn up and they do not have the protection of the cooperative movement they once had.

The only protections farmers have any more in western Canada are, one, the Canadian Wheat Board, which the Prime Minister has tried everything to undermine and undercut, and two, the Canadian Grain Commission, which this bill is all about. Through this bill the government is trying to weaken many of the protections within the bill itself.

Looking at the bill itself tells much about the attitude of the government. In the 2008-09 report on plans and priorities, the Canadian Grain Commission outlines its mandate. The Canadian Grain Commission administers the provision to the Canada Grain Act. The Canadian Grain Commission's mandate, as set out in the act, is to:

...in the interests of the grain producers, establish and maintain standards of quality for Canadian grain and regulate grain handling in Canada, to ensure a dependable commodity for domestic and export markets.

The reference to the interests of primary producers is what is done away with in this particular bill. In fact, the mandate changes to say that it is more in the interests of industry than it is in those of primary producers. Again, I think that goes to my original point and my earlier question to the parliamentary secretary, which was that the government has a record of failure when it comes to the farm community. It is even extending it into this bill by making the point that it is taking away primary producers as the main interest of the mandate.

The president of the National Farmers Union, Stewart Wells, made a few key points that I want to put on the record in terms of what this bill would do to the farm community. He says in his correspondence, “The amendments will remove the requirement that the CGC operate as a public interest watchdog that regulates the overall grain industry 'in the interests of producers'. If this bill passes, the grain industry would become virtually self-regulating, and the CGC's role will be reduced to being a passive 'service provider' that provides grading, weighing and inspection services to grain companies on a fee-for-service basis. Farmers' protections will be reduced to a minimal level, while the legislation leaves the door open for companies to be able to circumvent those limited protections”.

He goes on to say:

Canadian farmers have not advocated any weakening of the CGC regulatory role. At a time when grain companies like Viterra, ADM and Cargill are consolidating their hold over the market, it is obvious there needs to be a mechanism in place to provide farmers with protection.

I would make the point that the Government of Canada is undermining that protection in this instance.

Mr. Wells goes on to say:

The current system allows grain inspectors to catch contaminated, off-condition or incorrectly represented carloads while they are being emptied, weighed, and elevated, and before they are mixed with large quantities of other grain. Eliminating this provision will have a negative effect on farmers’ bottom line.

The amendments also call for eliminating the provision that grain dealers post a security bond before they can be licensed by the CGC. This provision was put in place to protect farmers who would be left holding the bag if the grain company goes bankrupt. The last point Mr. Wells makes is this:

Eliminating this requirement will not save farmers any money. It will, however, greatly increase their risk.

This is the end of Mr. Wells' comments, but they are all valid. They show a weakening of farmers' protection.

The amendments weakening farmers' relative position have been part of the minister's overall record of failure. In his December 13, 2007, introduction to the Canadian Grain Commission's performance report, the minister said that he introduced Bill C-39, an Act to amend the Canadian Grain Act to Parliament. He went on to talk about how his proposed reforms were consistent with the goals expressed in the so-called Growing Forward framework.

I am worried about Growing Forward. I mentioned earlier, in my questions to the parliamentary secretary, that if Growing Forward is the example the minister is using for the government's position, then farmers are in trouble in this country. We have seen 3,600 farmers go out of business each year. We have seen the debt load of farmers go up to $54 billion, four times what it is per farm in the United States. We have seen the government cancel the cost of production program, a commitment by the Prime Minister in the 2006 election. He broke his word, violated his word, and cancelled cost of production in the estimates this time. That is part of Growing Forward.

We know that in times of declining income, AgriInvest and AgriStability in fact pay out less money than the old CAIS program that the Prime Minister hated so much.

If Growing Forward is the way and this is another example of Growing Forward, I say to the farm community, “Wake up and smell the roses”, because it is a decline. It is an undermining and a deteriorating of farmers' protective measures in this country.

As I said, farmers should be worried. Let me point out some of the flaws in this particular bill. Clearly Bill C-13 does not reflect the unanimous recommendations of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. For the minister to imply otherwise is misleading.

Why is there this contempt for the committee, and why is there this contempt by the minister for his own Conservative colleagues on that committee? His own signature was on it. Therefore, does he even undermine his own integrity?

The fifth recommendation in the committee report called for a cost-benefit analysis. No cost-benefit analysis has been done on the impact of Bill C-13 with respect to the contracting out of grain inspections called for in that report. In fact, the government response tabled to the original standing committee report said this:

The government considers that inspection and weighing services performed by CGC employees played a considerable role in enhancing the marketability and reputation of Canadian grain. With this in mind, we need to be cautious to ensure the benefits of any changes in the weighing and inspection services are greater than the costs this may impose on the system. The Government agrees that a cost-benefit analysis should be conducted to assess the advantages and costs that would be associated with contracting out these services.

In its response to the committee, the government admitted itself that a cost-benefit analysis should be done, yet no such cost-benefit analysis is provided. Why?

A good friend of the minister is now the chief commissioner of the CGC. He made a couple of points on this issue, and they worry me as well. He said that even without the legislation, the chief commissioner and the Canadian Grain Commission were moving ahead with changes. They have decided to end inspection services at prairie primary elevators this summer, close three prairie service centres and reduce staff.

The chief commissioner said, “The transition away from on-site inspection services means that the CGC will no longer provide official grading and weighing on grain shipments from the Prairies' terminal facilities, nor for export shipments to the United States or domestic mills”.

That is worrisome, because the chief commissioner, prior to the legislation coming in, is already making changes that will undermine our ability to ship the high-quality grain we have become noted for as a country.

I would close by saying this: we believe improvements can be made to the Canadian Grain Commission; however, major amendments will be required of the bill before us. We look forward to that discussion, and I plead with the government to listen to producers this time.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

June 9th, 2008 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

I heard the member for Lévis—Bellechasse say “agreed”. It would be fine to sit, but what has happened over the months that have gone by? What has happened in Parliament under the Conservative minority government? What will happen in the coming months?

If the bills are so important, as the Conservatives are saying, the government can guarantee that, if the motion is not passed, the House of Commons will not be prorogued. That means that in September we will come back to the House and continue to work. The Conservatives would not prorogue until October or November, as they have done before: a young government that came to power prorogued the House of Commons when we could have been debating bills.

This session, after the May break, our calendar shows four more weeks of work. Of these four weeks, two are reserved for the possibility of extended sitting hours here in the House of Commons. I cannot accept that the Conservatives are saying that we are a bunch of lazy people, and that we do not want to work, when this government has done everything possible since last August to ensure that the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs could not operate.

It has been at least two or three months now since the committee last sat because the Conservatives have refused to appoint someone to chair it. The Conservatives decided that the matter submitted to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs was partisan, and that is why they are not replacing the chair.

I remember that we appointed a new chair, we voted for a new chair, but the chair never did call a meeting of the committee. The chair is being paid to carry that title, but he met with the members once, and then, it was only to adjourn. Is that not partisanship? When a party refuses to hold a public debate on things going on in Parliament or with political parties, that is partisanship.

As I recall, during the sponsorship scandal, it was fine for the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, which was chaired at the time by an opposition Conservative member, to hold hearings and discuss the sponsorship scandal.

But now that the Conservatives are the ones who spent $18 million during the last election and shuffled money around to spend another $1.5 million on top of that, well, they do not want to talk about it. They will not talk about it. When the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights was about to discuss another case, it was shut down again.

To this day, there are bills that have not been debated in committee. The Conservatives think that democracy should happen nowhere but in the House, and certainly not in committee. Parliamentary committees are an important part of our political system, our parliamentary system, our democracy. We were elected by the people in our ridings to come here and pass bills.

We cannot invite a member of the public to testify in the House of Commons, for example. We do not hear witnesses in the House of Commons. We have parliamentary committees where we can invite constituents or people from any part of the country to explain how a bill will affect them and to suggest ways to improve the bill.

For the Conservatives, the most important committee is the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. All they want to do is create justice bills. They would rather build prisons and put everyone in jail than adopt sound social programs to help people work and give them a fair chance in life. For the Conservatives, you either follow the straight and narrow path or you go to jail. These are the sorts of bills they are most interested in.

These are the sorts of bills they are most interested in, yet they brought the work of this committee to a standstill. The chair left the committee and said there would be no more meetings. Experts and members of the public are being prevented from talking to us about important justice bills. This evening, the Conservatives are asking to extend the sitting hours of the House of Commons until June 20 in order to discuss and pass these bills, because they are important. If we do not vote for these bills, then we are not good Canadians. That is in essence what they are saying. They do not want any debate.

They would have us believe that if we extend the sitting hours of the House of Commons every evening until June 20, there will be a terrific debate. We will debate these bills. We will have the opportunity to see democracy in action. At the same time, they have brought the work of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to a standstill. I have never seen such a thing in the 11 years I have been in the House of Commons. I have never seen such a thing.

I would go so far as to say that it has become a dictatorship. Everything originates from the Prime Minister's Office. So much so that, last week, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons complained that he was tired of rising in the House of Commons. He is the only one to stand up; the ministers do not even have the right to rise to answer questions. It is always the government House leader who answers questions. He was so tired one day last week that he knocked over his glass and spilled water on the Prime Minister. They should have thrown water on him to wake him up because he was tired. He himself told the House that he was tired.

That shows the extent to which the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons as well as the Prime Minister's Office, and not the elected Conservative MPs, control the government's agenda. The MPs have nothing to say. There are also the little tricks of the Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip who told members how to behave in parliamentary committee meetings, which witnesses to invite and how to control them. If they are unable to control them they interrupt the meeting. I have never seen anything like it in the 11 years that I have been an MP.

I have been a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages since 1998. We invited the minister to appear in order to help us with our work and she refused. She refused. She was asked in the House why she refused and she replied that she did not refuse. The committee was studying the Conservatives' action plan. If they wish to make an important contribution to communities throughout the country, there is an action plan to help Canada's official language minority communities—anglophones in Quebec and francophones in the rest of the country.

The action plan was being studied. We asked the minister to speak to us about the action plan so we could work with her. She refused and said she would appear after the plan was tabled. We will invite her again. I have never seen a minister refuse to help a committee.

We invited her again to the Standing Committee on Official Languages concerning the 2010 Olympic Games. The francophone community will not be able to watch the Olympic Games in French anywhere in the country because the contract, which was bid on by CTV, TQS and RDS, was awarded to CTV. We asked the minister to come to the Standing Committee on Official Languages. Instead she said that it was not important for this country's francophones, and she declined. The communities have questions. This all happened in the fall.

This spring, at budget time, the Conservatives declared that money for the action plan or for official languages would come later. We are used to that. We receive an article in English and are told that the French will come later. That is what the budget reminded us of. The money will come later.

But people are waiting. They are wondering what will happen to their communities. People from Newfoundland and Labrador even came to speak to the committee. They told us that currently, minority language communities are having to use lines of credit or even credit cards to help the community. It would be interesting to hear the minister explain why the Conservatives are not giving that money to communities, as they should. They promised to help minority language communities.

I would like to come back to the environment. When we were supposed to be working on environmental issues, the Conservatives systematically obstructed this work for days. They said they had the right to do so. Indeed, they did have the right; that is no problem. We have done the same thing, we will admit. That is part of debate.

Someone came and asked me how we could stop this obstruction. I told that person that it was their right to obstruct and that, if they wanted to talk until the next day, they could. However, when that happens, the chair must not take sides.

Yet that is what happened at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. We had to ask for the chair of the committee to step down. In fact, when we arrived at the committee meeting at 11 a.m., the Conservatives took the floor in order to filibuster and if one of them had to go to the bathroom, the chair adjourned the meeting for 10 minutes. That is no longer obstruction. When we asked the chair if it was going to continue after 1 p.m., he told us to wait until 1 p.m. to find out. Then, at 1 p.m., he decided to adjourn the meeting.

We have been trying since August to discuss the problem of the Conservatives, who had exceeded the $1.5 million spending limit allowed during the last election campaign. The problem with the Conservatives is that they want to hide everything from Canadians. They spoke of transparency, but they wanted to hide from Canadians all their misdeeds. When they were on the opposition benches, they counted on this, especially during the Liberal sponsorship scandal. I remember that and the questions they asked in the House of Commons and in parliamentary committee. They did not hold back.

But they do not want that to happen to them. And if it does, they try to hide it. That is why they did not allow a parliamentary committee to discuss the problems they had created, such as the story with Cadman, our former colleague. His wife said today that her husband told her that he was promised $1 million if he voted with the Conservatives. She never said that was not true; she said that was what in fact was said. Her own daughter said the same thing, that promises had been made. The Conservatives are saying that no one has the right to speak about that. Only they had that right when they were in the opposition, but not us. They are acting like gods and we have to listen to everything they say.

Today, they are moving a motion asking us to listen to them. And yet, when the House leaders and the whips met in committee there was nothing on the agenda. I have never seen the like. The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons was even asked if there was anything else on the agenda. He just smirked. He was mocking us and today he wants us to cooperate with him. The Conservatives are saying that they are here to work, but they have blocked all the work of the House of Commons for the past six months.

And they are lecturing us?

When the House leader of the Conservative Party tries to give us a lesson and says that we do not want to work, but they are here to work, I cannot believe it.

We have a committee that does not even sit right now. The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs has not sat for the last two or three months. The Conservatives do not want to hear what they perhaps have done wrong. If they have nothing to hide, they should have let it go ahead.

The Conservatives said that if they were to be investigated by Elections Canada, they wanted all parties to be investigated. Elections Canada did not say that all the parties were wrong. It said that the Conservative Party had broken the rules of Elections Canada by spending over the limit of $18 million. It was the Conservative Party that did that. Right away the Conservatives filed a lawsuit against Elections Canada. Now they say we should not talk about that in the House of Commons.

Every time we went to the House leader meeting and the whip meeting, they had nothing on the agenda. The Conservatives say that they are very democratic. They want a big debate in the House of Commons on bills. BillC-54, Bill C-56, Bill C-19, Bill C-43, Bill C-14, Bill C-32, Bill C-45, Bill C-46, Bill C-39, Bill C-57 and Bill C-22 are all at second reading.

I will not go into detail about what each and every bill is, but even if we say yes to the government, we will be unable to get through those bills. If we want to get through those bills, it will be the PMO and the Prime Minister's way. The Conservatives bring bills to the House and say that members opposite should vote with them. If we do not vote, they say that we are against them. That is the way they do it, no debate.

The debate, as I said in French, should not only take place in the House of Commons; it should to take place in parliamentary committees. That is the only place where Canadians have the right to come before the committees to express themselves. That is the only place people who are experts can come before us to talk about bills, so we can make the bills better.

When a bill is put in place, it may not be such a good bill, but maybe it is a bill that could go in the right direction if all parties work on it. If we put our hands to it, perhaps it can become a good bill. We could talk to experts, who could change our minds, and maybe we could put some new stuff in the bill.

However, no, the Conservatives got rid of the most important committee that would deal with the bills in which they were interested, and that was the justice committee.

I may as well use the words I have heard from the Conservatives. They say that we are lazy. How many times did we say at committee that we would look after the agenda, that there were certain things we wanted to talk about, for example, Election Canada and the in and out scheme? At the same time, we said we were ready to meet on Wednesdays and we could meet on other days as well to discuss bills.

We proposed all kinds of agenda, and I dare any colleague from the Conservative Party to say we did not do that. We have proposed an agenda where we could meet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and the Conservatives refused.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

June 9th, 2008 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I would like at this time to move the standard motion that can be made only today. I move:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 27(1), commencing on Monday, June 9, 2008, and concluding on Thursday, June 19, 2008, the House shall continue to sit until 11:00 p.m.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated last week in answer to the Thursday statement, this is we have work to do week. To kick off the week, we are introducing the customary motion to extend the daily sitting hours of the House for the final two weeks of the spring session. This is a motion which is so significant there is actually a specific Standing Order contemplating it, because it is the normal practice of this House, come this point in the parliamentary cycle, that we work additional hours and sit late to conduct business.

In fact, since 1982, when the House adopted a fixed calendar, such a motion has never been defeated. I underline that since a fixed calendar was adopted, such a motion has never been defeated. As a consequence, we know that today when we deal with this motion, we will discover whether the opposition parties are interested in doing the work that they have been sent here to do, or whether they are simply here to collect paycheques, take it easy and head off on a three month vacation.

On 11 of those occasions, sitting hours were extended using this motion. On six other occasions, the House used a different motion to extend the sitting hours in June. This includes the last three years of minority government.

This is not surprising. Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard to advance their priorities. They would not look kindly on any party that was too lazy to work a few extra hours to get as much done as possible before the three month summer break. There is a lot to get done.

In the October 2007 Speech from the Throne, we laid out our legislative agenda. It set out an agenda of clear goals focusing on five priorities to: rigorously defend Canada's sovereignty and place in the world; strengthen the federation and modernize our democratic institutions; provide effective, competitive economic leadership to maintain a competitive economy; tackle crime and strengthen the security of Canadians; and improve the environment and the health of Canadians. In the subsequent months, we made substantial progress on these priorities.

We passed the Speech from the Throne which laid out our legislative agenda including our environmental policy. Parliament passed Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, to make our streets and communities safer by tackling violent crime. Parliament passed Bill C-28, which implemented the 2007 economic statement. That bill reduced taxes for all Canadians, including reductions in personal income and business taxes, and the reduction of the GST to 5%.

I would like to point out that since coming into office, this government has reduced the overall tax burden for Canadians and businesses by about $190 billion, bringing taxes to their lowest level in 50 years.

We have moved forward on our food and consumer safety action plan by introducing a new Canada consumer product safety act and amendments to the Food and Drugs Act.

We have taken important steps to improve the living conditions of first nations. For example, first nations will hopefully soon have long overdue protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and Bill C-30 has been passed by the House to accelerate the resolution of specific land claims.

Parliament also passed the 2008 budget. This was a balanced, focused and prudent budget to strengthen Canada amid global economic uncertainty. Budget 2008 continues to reduce debt, focuses government spending and provides additional support for sectors of the economy that are struggling in this period of uncertainty.

As well, the House adopted a motion to endorse the extension of Canada's mission in Afghanistan, with a renewed focus on reconstruction and development to help the people of Afghanistan rebuild their country.

These are significant achievements and they illustrate a record of real results. All parliamentarians should be proud of the work we have accomplished so far in this session. However, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done.

As I have stated in previous weekly statements, our top priority is to secure passage of Bill C-50, the 2008 budget implementation bill.

This bill proposes a balanced budget, controlled spending, investments in priority areas and lower taxes, all without forcing Canadian families to pay a tax on carbon, gas and heating. Furthermore, the budget implementation bill proposes much-needed changes to the immigration system.

These measures will help keep our economy competitive.

Through the budget implementation bill, we are investing in the priorities of Canadians.

These priorities include: $500 million to help improve public transit, $400 million to help recruit front line police officers, nearly $250 million for carbon capture and storage projects in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, and $100 million for the Mental Health Commission of Canada to help Canadians facing mental health and homelessness challenges.

These investments, however, could be threatened if the bill does not pass before the summer. That is why I am hopeful that the bill will be passed by the House later today.

The budget bill is not our only priority. Today the House completed debate at report stage on Bill C-29, which would create a modern, transparent, accountable process for the reporting of political loans. We will vote on this bill tomorrow and debate at third reading will begin shortly thereafter.

We also wish to pass Bill C-55, which implements our free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association.

This free trade agreement, the first in six years, reflects our desire to find new markets for Canadian products and services.

Given that the international trade committee endorsed the agreement earlier this year, I am optimistic that the House will be able to pass this bill before we adjourn.

On Friday we introduced Bill C-60, which responds to recent decisions relating to courts martial. That is an important bill that must be passed on a time line. Quick passage is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of our military justice system.

Last week the aboriginal affairs committee reported Bill C-34, which implements the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement. This bill has all-party support in the House. Passage of the bill this week would complement our other achievements for first nations, including the apology on Wednesday to the survivors of residential schools.

These are important bills that we think should be given an opportunity to pass. That is why we need to continue to work hard, as our rules contemplate.

The government would also like to take advantage of extended hours to advance important crime and security measures. Important justice measures are still before the House, such as: Bill S-3, the anti-terrorism act; Bill C-53, the auto theft bill; Bill C-45 to modernize the military justice system; and Bill C-60, which responds to recent court martial decisions.

There are a number of other bills that we would like to see advanced in order to improve the management of the economy. There are other economic bills we would like to advance.

These include Bill C-7, to modernize our aeronautics sector, Bill C-5, dealing with nuclear liability, Bill C-43, to modernize our customs rules, Bill C-39, to modernize the Canada Grain Act for farmers, Bill C-46, to give farmers more choice in marketing grain, Bill C-57, to modernize the election process for the Canadian Wheat Board, Bill C-14, to allow enterprises choice for communicating with customers, and Bill C-32, to modernize our fisheries sector.

If time permits, there are numerous other bills that we would like to advance.

These include Bill C-51, to ensure that food and products available in Canada are safe for consumers, Bill C-54, to ensure safety and security with respect to pathogens and toxins, Bill C-56, to ensure public protection with respect to the transportation of dangerous goods, Bill C-19, to limit the terms of senators to 8 years from a current maximum of 45, and Bill C-22, to provide fairness in representation in the House of Commons.

It is clear a lot of work remains before the House. Unfortunately, a number of bills have been delayed by the opposition through hoist amendments. Given these delays, it is only fair that the House extend its sitting hours to complete the bills on the order paper. As I have indicated, we still have to deal with a lot of bills.

We have seen a pattern in this Parliament where the opposition parties have decided to tie up committees to prevent the work of the people being done. They have done delay and obstruction as they did most dramatically on our crime agenda. They do not bother to come and vote one-third of time in the House of Commons. Their voting records has shown that. All of this is part of a pattern of people who are reluctant to work hard.

The government is prepared to work hard and the rules contemplate that it work hard. In fact, on every occasion, when permission has been sought at this point in the parliamentary calendar to sit extended hours, the House has granted permission, including in minority Parliaments.

If that does not happen, it will be clear to Canadians that the opposition parties do not want to work hard and are not interested in debating the important policy issues facing our country. Is it any wonder that we have had a question period dominated not by public policy questions, but dominated entirely by trivia and issues that do not matter to ordinary Canadians.

The government has been working hard to advance its agenda, to advance the agenda that we talked about with Canadians in the last election, to work on the priorities that matter to ordinary Canadians, and we are seeking the consent of the House to do this.

Before concluding, I point out, once again, that extending the daily sitting hours for the last two weeks of June is a common practice. Marleau and Montpetit, at page 346, state this is:

—a long-standing practice whereby, prior to the prorogation of the Parliament or the start of the summer recess, the House would arrange for longer hours of sitting in order to complete or advance its business.

As I stated earlier, it was first formalized in the Standing Orders in 1982 when the House adopted a fixed calendar. Before then, the House often met on the weekend or continued its sittings into July to complete its work. Since 1982, the House has agreed on 11 occasions to extend the hours of sitting in the last two weeks of June.

Therefore, the motion is a routine motion designed to facilitate the business of the House and I expect it will be supported by all members. We are sent here to engage in very important business for the people of Canada. Frankly, the members in the House are paid very generously to do that work. Canadians expect them to do that work and expect them to put in the time that the rules contemplate.

All member of the House, if they seek that privilege from Canadian voters, should be prepared to do the work the rules contemplate. They should be prepared to come here to vote, to come here to debate the issues, to come here for the hours that the rules contemplate. If they are not prepared to do that work, they should step aside and turnover their obligations to people who are willing to do that work.

There is important work to be done on the commitments we made in the Speech from the Throne. I am therefore seeking the support of all members to extend our sitting hours, so we can complete work on our priorities before we adjourn for the summer. This will allow members to demonstrate results to Canadians when we return to our constituencies in two weeks.

Not very many Canadians have the privilege of the time that we have at home in our ridings, away from our work. People do not begrudge us those privileges. They think it is important for us to connect with them. However, what they expect in return is for us to work hard. They expect us to put in the hours. They expect us to carry on business in a professional fashion. The motion is all about that. It is about doing what the rules have contemplated, what has always been authorized by the House any time it has been asked, since the rule was instituted in 1982. That is why I would ask the House to support the motion to extend the hours.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

June 5th, 2008 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, this week we have focused on the economy by debating and passing at report stage the budget implementation bill as part of our focused on the economy week.

The bill guarantees a balanced budget, controls spending and keeps taxes low without imposing a carbon and heating tax on Canadian families.

It also sets out much-needed changes to the immigration system in order to maintain our competitive economy.

It will also include the new tax-free savings account, TFSA, an innovative device for individuals and families to save money. That bill is now at third reading and we hope to wrap up debate tomorrow on the important budget implementation bill to maintain the health and competitiveness of our economy.

Next week will be we have work to do week. Since the Speech from the Throne we have introduced 59 bills in Parliament.

These bills focus on fighting crime, sustaining our prosperous and dynamic economy, improving Canadians' environment and their health, strengthening the federation, and securing Canada's place in the world.

To date, 20 of these bills have received royal assent, which leaves a lot of work to do on the 39 that have yet to receive royal assent. I know the Liberal House leader suggests perhaps we should work on only three, but we believe in working a bit harder than that.

To ensure that we have the time necessary to move forward on our remaining legislative priorities, I will seek the consent of the House on Monday to extend the sitting hours for the remaining two weeks of the spring sitting, as the rules contemplate. I am sure all members will welcome the opportunity to get to work to advance the priorities of Canadians and get things done.

I will seek in the future the consent of the opposition to have next Wednesday be a special sitting of the House of Commons. This is to accommodate the special event about which the Liberal House leader was speaking. The day would start at 3 p.m. with an apology from the Prime Minister regarding the residential schools experience. I will also be asking the House and its committees to adjourn that day until 5:30 p.m. to allow for solemn observance of the events surrounding the residential schools apology. Residential school survivors and the chief of the Assembly of First Nations will be offered a place of prominence in our gallery to observe these very important formal ceremonies in the House of Commons.

Tomorrow and continuing next week, we will get started on the other important work remaining by debating the budget implementation bill. After we finish the budget bill, we will debate Bill C-29, to modernize the Canada Elections Act with respect to loans made to political parties, associations and candidates to ensure that wealthy individuals are not able to exert undue influence in the political process, as we have seen even in the recent past.

We will also discuss Bill C-51, to ensure that food and products available in Canada are safe for consumers; Bill C-53, to get tough on criminals who steal cars and traffic in stolen property; Bill S-3, to combat terrorism; Bill C-7, to modernize our aeronautics sector; Bill C-5, dealing with nuclear liability; Bill C-54, to ensure safety and security with respect to pathogens and toxins; Bill C-56, to ensure public protection with respect to the transportation of dangerous goods; Bill C-19, to limit the terms of senators to eight years from the current maximum of 45; Bill C-43, to modernize our customs rules; Bill C-14, to allow enterprises choice for communicating with customers; Bill C-32, to modernize our fisheries sector; Bill C-45, regarding our military justice system; Bill C-46, to give farmers more choice in marketing grain; Bill C-39, to modernize the grain act for farmers; Bill C-57, to modernize the election process of the Canadian Wheat Board; and Bill C-22, to provide fairness in representation in the House of Commons.

I know all Canadians think these are important bills. We in the government think they are important and we hope and expect that all members of the House of Commons will roll up their sleeves to work hard in the next two weeks to see that these bills pass.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

May 29th, 2008 / 3 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, Parliament has been having a very successful week. We started with a successful address to Parliament by the President of Ukraine, Victor Yushchenko. The president gave an eloquent speech that was well received by all parliamentarians and Canadians.

This week the House of Commons has been proceeding on the theme of sound economic management without a carbon tax. We passed Bill C-21 to give aboriginals living on reserves the protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act. We passed our biofuels bill, BillC-33, at third reading and it is now in the Senate. This bill requires that by 2010, 5% of gasoline and by 2012, 2% of diesel and home heating oil be comprised of renewable fuels.

Our bill to implement the Free Trade Agreement with the countries of the European Free Trade Association—the first free trade agreement signed in six years—passed at second reading and was sent to committee.

Bill C-5, which deals with nuclear liability issues, also appears poised to pass at third reading and be sent to the Senate today.

Last night, the Minister of Finance appeared for over four hours to answer questions by parliamentarians on the main estimates of his department.

Yesterday, the finance committee reported the budget bill back to the House. This bill would ensure a balanced budget, control spending and keep taxes down while avoiding a carbon tax and a heating tax on Canadian families. As well, it would make much needed changes to the immigration system, which will help keep our economy competitive. We will begin debate on that important bill, the budget implementation bill, at report stage tomorrow.

Next week we will be on the same theme, focused on the economy week. Through the budget implementation bill, we are investing in the priorities of Canadians. which include $500 million to help improve public transit, $400 million to help recruit front line police officers, nearly $250 million for carbon capture and storage projects in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, and $110 million to help Canadians facing mental health and homelessness challenges.

Those investments, however, could be threatened if the bill does not pass this session due to opposition obstruction and delay. Today we again saw evidence of such procedural delay tactics from the opposition in the form of a concurrence motion. All opposition parties joined together again to ensure that important legislation to strengthen key Canadian economic sectors could not be debated in the House earlier today.

I want to state clearly that this government is absolutely committed to ensuring the passage of the budget implementation bill this session.

In addition to debating it tomorrow at report stage, we will debate the bill next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, if necessary.

We will also debate: Bill C-7 to modernize our aeronautics sector, Bill C-43 to modernize our customs rules, Bill C-39 to modernize the Canada Grain Act for farmers, Bill C-46 to give farmers more choice in marketing grain, Bill C-14 which allows enterprises choice for communicating with customers, and Bill C-32 to modernize our fisheries sector.

With regard to the question of the remaining opposition day, as the House knows, we have had all but one of those opposition days already during this portion of the supply cycle. The last opposition day will be scheduled sometime between now and the end of this supply cycle. We do know that we are scheduled to rise on June 20.

With regard to the very helpful suggestions of my friend with regard to the apology to our first nations communities for the residential schools issue, plans are underway for that. I am happy to ask the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to take the very helpful suggestions into account and, if necessary, we would be happy to take up the matter at our usual House leader's meeting.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

May 15th, 2008 / 3 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, in keeping with our theme for this week, which is strengthening democracy and human rights, today we will continue to debate Bill C-47, which is a bill to provide basic rights to on reserve individuals to protect them and their children in the event of a relationship breakdown, which are rights that Canadians off reserve enjoy every day.

We will debate our bill to give effect to the Tsawwassen First Nation Final Agreement, Bill C-34, and Bill C-21, which would extend the protection of the Canadian Human Rights Act to aboriginals living on reserve.

We will also debate Bill C-29, which is our bill to close the loophole that was used most recently by Liberal leadership candidates to bypass the personal contribution limit provisions of the election financing laws with large personal loans from wealthy, powerful individuals, and Bill C-19, which is our bill to limit the terms of senators to eight years from the current maximum of 45.

Next week will be honouring our monarch week. Members of Parliament will return to their ridings to join constituents in celebrating Queen Victoria, our sovereign with whom Sir John A. Macdonald worked in establishing Confederation, and honouring our contemporary head of state, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The week the House returns will be sound economic management without a carbon tax week. The highlight of the week will be the return of the budget bill to this House on May 28.

This bill proposes a balanced budget, controlled spending, investments in priority areas and lower taxes, all without forcing Canadian families to pay a tax on carbon, gas and heating. Furthermore, the budget implementation bill proposes much needed changes to the immigration system. These measures will help us ensure the competitiveness of our economy. I would like to assure this House that we are determined to see this bill pass before the House rises for the summer.

We will start the week by debating, at third reading, Bill C-33, our biofuels bill to require that by 2010 5% of gasoline and by 2012 2% of diesel and home heating oil will be comprised of renewable fuels, with our hope that there will be no carbon tax on them.

We will debate Bill C-55, our bill to implement the free trade agreement with the states of the European Free Trade Association.

This free trade agreement, the first in six years, reflects our desire to find new markets for Canadian products and services.

We will also debate Bill C-5 dealing with nuclear liability issues for our energy sector; Bill C-7 to modernize our aeronautics sector; Bill C-43 to modernize our customs rules; Bill C-39 to modernize the Canada Grain Act for farmers; Bill C-46 to give farmers more choice in marketing grain; Bill C-14, which allows enterprises choice for communicating with their customers through the mail; and Bill C-32 to modernize our fisheries sector.

The opposition House leader raises the question of two evenings being set aside for committee of the whole. He is quite right. Those two evenings will have to be set aside sometime between now and May 31.

With regard to the notes that were quoted from by the Prime Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, they were their notes and referred of course to announcements that clearly have been made about the need and the imperative of restoring our military's equipment and needs in the way in which the Canadian government is doing so.