Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, I need to correct the record. I am a farmer from northern Alberta. I was a former Wheat Board director. Thank you. I represented the region that included all of the area north and west of Edmonton, including the British Columbia Peace Region.
I was elected five years ago on a platform of changing the Canadian Wheat Board to provide farmers more freedom and flexibility to manage their businesses. I fully understood the mandate of the organization and I tried to work within that mandate to bring about the change that farmers were asking for. I was elected to a second term last year on the same platform.
On October 26 I resigned from the board of directors. I was faced with actions that the board of directors had decided to take, which I couldn't agree with. I couldn't reconcile the principles that I stood for with the actions the organization was taking. The reasons were the suit against the government; the direct costs of the action and the indirect costs of the uncertainty the suit would cause the industry, including the uncertainty for our customers; and I also was very concerned about the actions the organization appeared to take against people who had different opinions.
I was sanctioned for a three-month period in early January for the opinions that I expressed in public. Jeff was suspended from the November board meeting for expressing his opinion. Those things concerned me. What I saw was a philosophy in the organization that was driven by ideology rather than good business acumen and, to me, that was not the right way to run a business that was marketing farmers' grain. Their opinion of it being "my way or the highway" was the last straw. That was unacceptable to me.
In my view, commercial farmers want their own democratic right to market their own grain. The bill you have in front of you is good for the country. It's good for the economy, and I believe it's good for farmers. It represents a good transition to a new entity.
A government act to control grain prices to help out the war effort, at the start of the Canadian Wheat Board as we now know it, has outlived its usefulness. Farmers have been controlled for long enough. The war has been over for 67 years.
In the past 30 years I've grown many different crops on my farm. I've grown canola, fescue, oats, flax, sunflower, and alfalfa. Only three of the crops that I've grown I would called controlled substances. One was hemp. I grew industrial hemp one year. I required a permit from Health Canada and a criminal record check. The other two controlled substances were wheat and barley.
Every farmer in Canada needs permission from the Canadian Wheat Board to sell their wheat and barley if it's for human consumption. Pardon me, I meant in western Canada. Let's be clear on that: it is in western Canada. I ask you the question, is there some strategic importance in this country to the wheat and barley crop that the government has to impose control of it? I say no.
Are the farmers so irrational, irresponsible, or ignorant that they can't market their own crop? I say no. The farmers want their own individual, democratic freedom to market their crop. Everyone in the industry is tired of the constant bickering, the exercise of control, and the vindictiveness. Most commercial farmers want to move on.
Give the industry certainty and the ability to work directly with farmers, and I think you're going to see an industry grow and blossom. You're going to see energy, excitement, and investment. This bill, I believe, represents a good transition to a new entity that farmers can work with by their own choice.