House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.


Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.


Gordon Kirkby Liberal Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak today in favour of Bill C-51, which contains amendments to the Canada Grain Act. This is a government of action. I am very proud of this government, particularly the actions and successes of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

I would like to commend the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food for his important role in the successful completion of the Uruguay round of the GATT talks. For years the international community has been engaged in a grain subsidies war that has had a very negative effect on grain prices and therefore a very negative effect on Canadian farmers and the economy, particularly western Canada which is so dependent on grain.

Canada had a much more limited treasury than our friends in Europe or the United States. As such we could not compete with the subsidy levels offered by those countries. Therefore, our minister had to fight hard at the GATT talks to reduce these levels of subsidies around the world and was successful in the pursuit of that endeavour.

Over time we are going to see grain prices rise as these subsidies fall. We can all be very grateful for that. This is going to be good for farmers in my riding of Prince Albert-Churchill River and for all the farmers of Canada. That is something we can all be very happy about.

In addition, our Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has shown negotiating skill and leadership in striking a good deal for Canadian farmers in the recent wheat export dispute with the United States. Limits on exports were obtained that are far above any levels of wheat export that we have seen in history.

Second, we obtained an agreement that repressive trade sanctions contained in American trade law would not be implemented for a year. This will allow the GATT to become effective, thereby blocking the use of these heavy handed trade tactics in the future.

These actions by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food typify the way this government deals with issues. The government identifies the problem. The government consults with all of the stakeholders who are affected by the issue and the government works hard with these stakeholders to fix the problem.

In spite of this heavy agenda, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has not stopped there. Through the mechanism of actively seeking public input and the input of farmers and farm organizations, grain companies, all of the people involved in grain transportation and the grain industry, the minister has proposed effective amendments to the Canada Grain Act intended to improve the operating and administrative efficiencies of the Canadian Grain Commission and the grain industry.

The world is changing. Technology is improving. The international marketplace is increasingly competitive and the deficit of the federal government and the protection of our taxpayers are things we all need to be concerned with. These are problems we must deal with. Our taxpayers, our farmers, all of us must be protected and looked after.

Generally speaking the proposed amendments are quite varied but not insubstantial in consequence. Some of the changes are of a bookkeeping or tidying up nature, which change definitions contained in the act or change some of the translations to increasingly make the act more internally and externally consistent.

Other changes give the Canadian Grain Commission the authority to establish by regulation, subject to cabinet approval, what constitutes a hazardous substance, which financial documents licensees must submit, the types of insurance an elevator must hold and how elevators must dispose of contaminated grain.

New authority also has been given to the Canadian Grain Commission rather than the cabinet to establish allowances to be paid to members of grain appeals tribunals and grain standards committees. There is no doubt that Canada produces the best quality grain in the world. The international community recognizes this fact and when a choice is given it will pick our grains every time, provided we continue to be competitive and reliable suppliers.

Amendments to the Canada Grain Act reiterate and recognize Canada's longstanding commitment to grain quality. Quality is a very important factor in the marketability of our grain. We must continue to do all we can to maintain that.

The amendment also gives the Canadian Grain Commission the authority to establish by regulation, subject to cabinet approval, the time limit for realizing on security posted by licensees with the Canadian Grain Commission and provides a limit of 30 days to the time following the default on payments that a producer has to claim on CGC held security.

Also the amendments provide the authority to establish by the Canadian Grain Commission, subject to cabinet approval, a percentage limit on the value of the claim against the grain commission held security. The amendments make clear that the Canadian Grain Commission is only liable to producers who deal with Canadian Grain Commission licensees and who obtain the prescribed documents upon delivery of their grain only up to the amount of security posted.

These provisions among other things provide certainty and security for the taxpayers of Canada as well as the farmers of Canada. During the recent consultation held with all the stakeholders who have an interest in grain transportation it became apparent that in order to achieve reliability of supply and to keep intact Canada's well-deserved reputation as a reliable supplier of grain products, the Canadian Grain Commission requires the flexibility to eliminate the requirement of establishing maximum elevator tariffs.

In all probability these amendments will ensure that grain will keep moving through our ports and on to our ships and will save the payment of demurrage fees that have been paid in the past when we have seen a lot of ships sitting in harbour empty and not moving our grain.

We all want to have payments made to keep the grain moving. This is a very progressive action. In addition to this we have the safety valve that the commission still maintains the authority to impose maximum tariffs if necessary.

Other amendments to ensure balanced enhanced competitiveness, better financial security, more protection for taxpayers and greater operational flexibility for the Canadian Grain Commission are contained within the legislation.

I wish to commend our minister of agriculture for bringing forward these amendments to ensure the continued success of the Canadian agricultural industry. I think the hallmark of this government and our minister of agriculture is that when there is a problem we move to fix it and our government will continue to support our farmers and our taxpayers by sensible regulation, of which this is a fine example.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed that speech very much. It sure makes me feel better to know how good things are on the farm.

I would ask the hon. member whether he is aware that under the free trade agreement article 705(5) clearly stipulates that there cannot be a cap put on imports unless there is excessive production by new farm programs. This was very well known by the Liberal government in the free trade agreement it signed.

About a week before this wheat deal was signed I heard someone on that side say, I think it was the hon. minister of agriculture, that no deal is badder than a bad deal. I wonder if he would comment on those statements.

Also, could he give us an indication on the action taken on the transportation problems, such as back-tracking, if that is the rate of movement we will see from this government, whether it is going to resolve problems as fast as it has up to now because it is sure encouraging?

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Gordon Kirkby Liberal Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, I wish to thank the hon. member for his questions.

The deal reached by the minister of agriculture concerning the wheat dispute with the Americans is an excellent deal for Canada. If we look back at the historic relationship and the historic levels of wheat exports to the United States Canada came out of this negotiation very successfully.

First, the minister ensured this very high level of continued export, well above the historic levels. However, in addition to this, and most significantly, the minister of agriculture achieved a moratorium from both countries in future trade action which could have very detrimental effects on the grains industry in western Canada. This delay allows the GATT provisions to come into force and prevents the American government from implementing these very draconian, heavy-handed trade provisions in the future. As an interim step this was an excellent result

obtained by the minister of agriculture and he should be commended.

With respect to the hon. member, the minister of agriculture is doing a lot of things to ensure that the grain transportation system is improved. Some of the examples of this are in this bill. The government is going to continue to support the farmers of western Canada. When we hear statements from the leader of the hon. member's party saying there are too many farmers in western Canada, let me say that the Liberal Party does not agree with that. We ask that hon. member to retract the statement he made about two years ago in Halifax. That is the kind of support they get from across the House.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Vic Althouse NDP Mackenzie, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to hear that the member for Prince Albert-Churchill River still believes that his government is acting on behalf of farmers.

It seems to me that this bill and its two companions which were introduced this fall have made a fairly sizeable shift toward dealing with the agri-food and the agri-business side of agriculture in providing protections and provisions for their needs sometimes at the expense of the farmer.

Just as a brief illustration of that, I wonder if he would explain to us, since he raised it in his speech, how open-ended fees being set by elevators in terminals are a help to farmers. How is it a help to a farmer to deliver grain to an elevator for use at the terminal and find out that the fees have been changed after he gets the product into the system?

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Gordon Kirkby Liberal Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

Madam Speaker, with respect to the fees that will be charged, first, open competition at the ports for different shippers is going to ensure that the rates charged are reasonable. However the grain commission retains the ability to regulate this issue.

Does the hon. member believe that it is wise for farmers to pay for ships to sit empty and have grain not move or does he believe it is wise to pay and have the grain move so that we continue to be a reliable supplier of grain to all our world markets?

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-51 because this bill impacts directly on an industry that is very dear to myself and my family, having been part of this industry all of my life.

After studying this legislation, generally, with only a few exceptions, there is little about it that I would not support. This is not because it is outstanding or comprehensive legislation. Far from it. My first impression from reading the bill would be that the minister instructed his bureaucrats to introduce some kind of legislation that would demonstrate the government's commitment to agriculture, but certainly not to introduce anything that might be controversial or innovative or new, but something that could be demonstrated to Canadians as their commitment to our industry.

This bill ratifies for the most part what already exists and makes a few minor procedural changes, in spite of the fact that the grain producing sector of this industry has been in crisis and has been struggling to undergo a very basic restructuring for the last number of years because of extremely depressed prices caused by an American-European trade war and a severe world recession.

This fundamental restructuring has taken a terrible toll on countless families that were involved in the production of grains and oilseeds, particularly those producing for the export market. Many of my neighbours have lost their homes, their families and lifetimes or even in some cases, several lifetimes of work.

Those who have managed to stay in the industry by consolidation, refinancing or off-farm income have been asking government for some time to provide the same kind of basic, fundamental restructuring of the regulations and services governments provide to the industry.

Regulations are needed governing the transport and marketing of their crops to provide more flexibility and choices to meet the needs of this new high volume, low margin market environment of today. What does the government offer this new generation of farmers? Nothing but do-nothing status quo tinkering with the obsolete ideas of yesterday.

Bill C-51 moves to remove the onus of responsibility from the government to the seller to investigate the integrity of those buying and selling grain. That in itself could be the proper direction to move but only if those regulations are followed and adhered to strictly and not as was done by the former agriculture minister when a number of producers with close connections to him got in trouble and the minister quickly moved to bail them out at great cost to taxpayers.

If that is how these regulations and procedures count then it really makes little difference whether they are there or not. It also deregulates the elevator industry to operate in an open market environment.

These initiatives would be acceptable also if at the same time, farmers were free to sell their crops where and how they chose to. Twenty years ago there would have been substantive benefit in the deregulation of elevator tariffs when almost all of the crops moved through the primary elevator system to market. This certainly is no longer the case now.

Another disturbing trend we see in legislation coming from the government dealing with agriculture, as dealing with all other sectors in our economy, is the movement to consolidate decision making authority in the cabinet. This trend is obvious in the bill in clauses 2, 4, 9, 15, 33 and 35 and is an affront to this House which was elected to represent the interests of all Canadians.

This trend should be of concern to all Canadians in all sectors but it should especially be troubling in this particular sector, the grain industry. I remember well an earlier Liberal Prime Minister referred to just yesterday by a member of the government as the greatest prime minister in Canadian history.

Many of those sitting in the benches opposite were also members of this earlier government. This Prime Minister in my opinion did more to destroy Canadian unity than anyone has before or since. As I said, I well remember the arrogant disdain that this Prime Minister had for Canadian grain farmers. We all remember the infamous Trudeau salute to western grain farmers.

The present Liberal government shows more and more of the same arrogant disdain toward those who are asking for real change and an open response of government. While there was little reference to the concerns of agriculture in the red book, there was a commitment to open, effective government.

If there really is a commitment to Canadians, why do we continually have to deal with these do-nothing, go-nowhere bureaucratic tinkering pieces of legislation? Why are we not dealing with these minor adjustments as part of a comprehensive plan to restructure regulations dealing with the licensing of new crop varieties, the bottlenecks in the grain transportation sector, the restrictive marketing policies of the Canadian Wheat Board and the free flow of agricultural products anywhere in Canada?

To demonstrate briefly some of the things that I have tried to talk about and tried to demonstrate, earlier this year, back in April, a group of producers in my area were attempting to receive an experimental licence to grow a variety of hemp used to produce industrial fibre. These varieties have been long grown in France and Britain and to some degree in the United States because the hallucinogenic quality of this particular product no longer exists and has been removed from the product.

I believe we have an opportunity to get in on the ground floor of the development of a new crop with terrific potential for the production of industrial fibre. One acre of hemp is capable of producing as much fibre as four acres of trees and this one acre can do it on a yearly basis where it takes some 70 or 80 years to produce the kind of growth in our forests to produce that kind of fibre.

In an attempt to assist this group I approached the minister and he responded to me in a letter received some two and a half months after my initial approach on the subject. In his letter he says: "The information you provided presents a strong case for the exploration of the commercial production of hemp as a source of industrial fibre". Further on he says: "The legislation currently before Parliament would have enabled the minister of health to license growers of hemp for industrial purposes". Further on he says: "Bill C-7 would provide the foundation for the legal framework that would allow for the exploration of hemp as a source of industrial fibre".

Not having realized there was this huge potential in Bill C-7 I went to the bill and examined it very carefully to see where this provision could be. I failed to find any implication that would show me where this might happen. Being confused I contacted the offices of the Minister of Health who was sponsoring the bill. I contacted the Solicitor General's department and the justice department. All three departments assured me there was absolutely no provision in Bill C-7 that would deal at any level with the production of industrial fibre from hemp.

We are at a stalemate and seem to be at a dead end in our efforts to get Canadian agriculture involved in the development of a crop with huge potential for income and a crop that could displace some of the lower income producing crops that have traditionally been grown on the prairies.

Not only was the minister not prepared to help this group he did not understand the issue or in fact western Canadian farmers at all in their mission here. This is so typical of what we get time and time again. If the government, as we heard a few minutes ago, is going to be the protector of Canadian agriculture and to try and bring back some of the strength and financial equity to our industry which is so important to Canadians, we certainly have not seen any demonstration of that, at least to this point with the legislation we have been dealing with.

I encourage the government, as a new government in the first year of its mandate to bring forward some new initiatives, some real changes, and to listen to the industry that has been asking for these changes instead of this tinkering and do-nothing stuff we have seen to this point.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Point of order, Madam Speaker. Pursuant to Standing Order 43(2) I wish to indicate to the House that members of the government party will from here to the end of the debate on this particular item be dividing their time.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario


Lyle Vanclief LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food

Madam Speaker, first of all to the members of the Bloc Quebecois and Reform I would like on

behalf of the minister to extend apologies that he could not remain for the debate on this bill because of cabinet duties. He assured me he will be reading your comments.

I would like to clarify a couple of things for the Reform Party today. The member for Lisgar-Marquette made some comments. Since we could not comment at that time I would like to do so now. The member made reference to Grandin wheat. I would point out to the member that soon after taking office this government consulted with the industry. It felt that Grandin wheat was not going to improve the quality of the great Canadian product we sell. It did not grant a licence to that variety of wheat.

There was reference to an assistant commissioner who had some dealings with that. I would clarify for the member that that person is no longer an assistant commissioner of the Canadian Grain Commission.

I find this passing strange and I would like to have some comments from the member for Athabasca at this time. As the great free enterpriser that the Reform Party sees itself, I find it interesting that it has some concern that we as a government want anyone who is dealing with it, people who are buying grains from Canadian farmers to have licences and the support or the bonding or whatever term should be applied to it in order to protect Canadian farmers.

That is one of the duties we have. If it was a producer in one of their ridings who was found to be dealing with someone who was not bonded, I wonder what their feeling would be on that.

In closing, I would make one further clarification for the Reform Party members. The member for Lisgar-Marquette said that commissioners are appointed for life. That is not the case. They are seven year appointments. Assistant commissioners are five year appointments. I just wanted to put that clarification on the record.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, I will respond briefly to the point about the requirement for licensing and bonding through the Canadian Grain Commission. Certainly I support those initiatives. They are more important now than ever before in our industry. Some years back when most of the grain produced in the industry went to the primary elevator system and most of that primary elevator system was owned and operated by producer managed or controlled elevator companies, those regulations were less important.

Today with a proliferation of grain dealers popping up around the world every day that protection is more important now than ever before.

I do have some concerns as to why now when it is so much more important than ever before the government moves to put the onus on the farmer rather than on the Canadian Grain Commission to identify those who are licensed and bonded properly. Certainly I support that particular initiative and I think most producers would.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.


Bernie Collins Liberal Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, I wish to speak in support of Bill C-51, an act to amend the Canada Grain Act.

Bill C-51 contains a variety of necessary changes to the Canada Grain Act. I believe that producers, the grain industry and Canadians in general will find measures to address their specific concerns.

The aspects of Bill C-51 that I wish to comment on are those which enhance the international competitiveness of Canada's grain industry. Canada is a trading nation and competitiveness is essential.

In the world of free trade that we see before us, our ability to compete will directly affect our capacity to sustain and improve the living standards of Canadians. Few Canadian industries depend on international trade more than our grain industry. Every year we export 25 million to 30 million tonnes of grain, more than half our annual production. In wheat and barley we rank second among the world's top exporters. In other grains, canola and flaxseed for example, we are world leaders. There is no question that we depend on our trade for continued help to our grain industry. Our grain industry's success is central to the health and well-being of rural communities throughout western Canada especially.

Part of the role of government in this regard is to create a regulatory environment that adds value to the efforts of Canadians to create, to produce and to compete. This includes developing new laws that support our shared interest and also includes removing laws which no longer are useful or purposeful.

An important initiative contained in Bill C-51 concerns the deregulation of maximum elevator tariffs. Elevator tariffs are the fees that grain elevator companies charge for their services. They cover the cost of handling, storage, cleaning and the drying of grain. Under the current Canada Grain Act, the Canadian Grain Commission is required to regulate elevator tariffs by establishing maximum allowable levels. As well, companies are required to provide 14 days notice of any change they wish to make to these tariffs.

Bill C-51 will remove the requirement that the CGC place a ceiling on tariffs. Companies will be allowed to adjust their tariffs without giving prior notice to the CGC.

Critics of this legislation may charge that the government is abandoning producers, exposing them to excessive charges by elevator companies. However, a close examination will demonstrate that regulation of tariff maximums is no longer needed and that ample safeguards exist to protect producers from

excessive charges. Government regulation of tariffs dates back in time to when producers were less able to protect themselves from the setting of unfair prices. However, because producer owned or controlled companies now control the majority of elevator capacity in Canada, we believe that there is less need for government to regulate tariffs on behalf of producers.

On the west coast, producer owned or controlled companies own 54 per cent of terminal capacity. At Thunder Bay the figure is 75 per cent. It stands to reason that these companies will act in the interests of producer owners by offering competitive prices. With no competition there will be no need for government to set prices.

Even though we are confident that elevator companies will behave responsibly, Bill C-51 contains numerous safeguards for producers. Deregulation of maximum tariffs will proceed in stages. Initially, the commission will retain the authority to set tariff ceilings by order of a two-year transition period. After this transition period, the commission will continue to have authority to set maximum tariffs by regulation if needed. During and after the transition period the CGC will perform a mediation role responding to complaints and seeking remedies.

Based on the responsible behaviour of the companies involved, we have reason to be optimistic in the current crop year as terminal elevator operators receive power by commission order to set their own elevator tariffs. For the most part their increases were minor and on the whole, very fair. This augurs well for the future. I am confident that allowing the market to function more freely will provide more benefits for all. These benefits will include more capital investment by elevator companies and a more flexible, competitive elevator industry.

I should note that regulation has not prevented a high tariff system. For example, for a variety of reasons, U.S. rates which are less regulated are lower than Canada's.

This amendment arises from our commitment to removing regulations which restrict the competitiveness of Canadian industry. Bill C-51 contains other similar initiatives. For example, process elevators will no longer be required to undergo weighovers. A weighover is an audit conducted to verify that the weight and grade of grain stored by an elevator corresponds with what is recorded. Weighovers help maintain the integrity of grain transactions when conducted at a terminal and transfer elevators because in those instances the elevators are often handling grain they do not own. However, process elevators own the grain they have in stock. Therefore weighovers saddle them with an unnecessary cost and thus hamper their competitiveness.

Earlier I spoke of the need for laws which add value to the efforts of Canadians. I said that this involves removing unnecessary obstacles such as maximum tariffs and weighovers at process elevators. It also means that new laws are required from time to time.

In the context of Bill C-51, there are provisions which strengthen the role equality plays in Canada's grain industry. As well, Bill C-51 sets out the responsibility of elevator operators for the safe handling of hazardous compounds and the safe disposal of contaminated grain. It confirms the CGC's authority to set standards for the drying of grain. All of these measures add value to Canadian grain and serve to enhance our competitiveness in the world.

In conclusion, Bill C-51 is the product of lengthy, detailed discussion with stakeholders throughout the grain industry. Producer organizations played a major role in these consultations as did elevator companies, processors and marketers. Because Bill C-51 reflects a broad industry consensus I believe it deserves the support of all members of this House.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Glen McKinnon Liberal Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to express my support for Bill C-51, an act to amend the Canada Grain Act.

Bill C-51 has much to commend it. It addresses the need for regulatory reform. It introduces necessary protections for producers and taxpayers and it gives the Canadian Grain Commission more of the tools it needs to do the job on behalf of producers, the grain industry and Canadians in general.

There are many aspects of Bill C-51 worth commenting on. The one I wish to speak on however is the strengthened emphasis on grain quality.

We depend very heavily on international trade. As my colleague has mentioned, we export from 25 million to 30 million tonnes of grain per year, more than half of our annual grain production. It is difficult to overstate how crucial grain quality is to our success in international markets. No other factor is as central to Canada's impressive international marketing record.

When we consider some of the disadvantages Canadian producers face it is easy to see why quality has emerged as our marketing edge. Our producers must move grain farther to export locations than any of our competitors in other countries. Our harsh climate works against high yields. Our tax base is smaller than those of competing countries and we cannot play the export subsidy game and win. We are left with the quality of our product, a card that Canada plays with great effectiveness.

With approximately 20 per cent of the global market, we are on average the world's second largest wheat exporter, ahead of the European Community, Australia, Argentina and everyone

else. We are surpassed only by the United States. We are second in barley, accounting for over 30 per cent of the world market. We command over 40 per cent of the world's canola markets, almost as much as is exported by all the countries of western Europe combined. We are unique in that we are the only major exporter of that product.

We lead the world in flaxseed exports that account for over 70 per cent of the market. Canada's refusal to compromise on delivering cargoes of uniform consistent quality has served us well. As the CGC plays a pivotal role in Canada's grain hauling system, I am pleased to see provisions in Bill C-51 that reinforce this marketing strategy.

For example, there is a provision allowing the CGC to set out methods, visual or otherwise, for determining the characteristics of the grain for purposes of meeting the quality requirements of purchasers of grain. The significance of this amendment is that it gives the commission the authority to specify procedures for determining the quality of grain so that the industry can deliver the quality desired by the end users.

With the commission's considerable expertise in grain quality assessment this amendment positions the CGC to ensure that emerging procedures and technologies meet end user needs and increase returns to producers.

Another provision of Bill C-51 confirms the CGC's authority to specify the correct handling and treatment of grain and hazardous substances in grain elevators. This provision strengthens Canada's commitment for safe, wholesome food and to environmentally sustainable practices.

Finally, Bill C-51 confirms CGC's authority to set grain drying standards. The commission has paid careful attention to this issue over the years because improper drying seriously harms grain quality. Often the damage is not visually apparent and problems are only detected when the grain is processed. The commission has worked hard to educate producers and others on the proper techniques. This provision will give the CGC more authority to move in this area.

There are some who believe that Canada over emphasizes grain quality. In a hungry world they argue Canada need not place as much emphasis or effort as it does on ensuring that Canadian grain meets the high standards it is known for.

I believe quality will become more important than ever before. With the ratification of the GATT tariff walls will soon be falling around the world and subsidies will melt away. To maintain their position our wealthier competitors in Europe and the United States will have to become more quality conscious, more like Canada if they want to compete. Already we are seeing signs they are beginning to understand this.

I will conclude with the words of one of Canada's grain customers spoken at Grain Vision'93, an international symposium that the Canadian Grain Commission held last year: "The current Canadian system of utilizing quality to link all aspects of business to achieve the marketing strategy of exporting at a premium 80 to 90 per cent of total wheat crop is now unique in the world. If you begin to implement changes for short term volume goals the end result will all too quickly be a situation where you become just another `me too' supplier of which the world has all too many at present".

This sentiment was echoed by speaker after speaker at this conference. More tellingly, their appreciation of Canada's quality system is illustrated by their continued purchases of Canadian grain.

Bill C-51 strengthens Canada's grain quality system. For this reason alone it deserves our support.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders


Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Madam Speaker, it certainly gives me pleasure to enter into the debate on the Canada Grain Act, Bill C-51.

It is the second opportunity I have had in this assembly to speak on one of the agricultural bills, the former being Bill C-50 which we debated last week.

In Bill C-50 we took in this House steps that would increase producer control over agricultural research. When we look at Bill C-51 in comparison it is a bill that grants the Canada Grain Commission greater operational flexibility and promotes enhanced competitiveness in the grain industry. Those are certainly both worthy objectives to support for an entity that is responsible for a very important aspect of our grain industry in this country. It is important to give it those kinds of responsibilities.

We in the Reform Party will be supporting this bill today as we did with Bill C-50. We will also take the opportunity in these debates to outline some of our broader concerns about where agriculture is headed in Canada. In particular, we would like to emphasize that government created boards and agencies like the Canadian Wheat Board, which were originally designed to assist and help the Canadian farmer, are becoming an entity, increasingly becoming an impediment to the free market system. They should come under scrutiny and review at this time.

Since the details of Bill C-51 have already been discussed and thoroughly enumerated in this House, I will make one or two quick points about one feature of the legislation before taking this opportunity to broaden my focus on other subjects relative to agriculture in Canada.

The aspect of Bill C-51 that I wanted to comment on was the provision which removes some of the interprovincial trade restrictions faced by farmers. Clause 25 repeals the restriction

of transporting grain from one province to another and repeals the restrictions on transport of grain by public carriers.

The measure is a step in the right direction, but one has to ask a very important question at this time: Why should there be any restrictions on trade within Canada at all at this point? Why can we not have open boundaries and free movement in this country where all Canadians should share and have equal opportunity? That is an important issue that must be addressed not only by this federal government but by each of the provinces as we work together to enhance the agricultural industry.

There are more barriers to interprovincial trade in Canada than there are barriers to trade between the nations of the European Community. That has already been mentioned by one of my colleagues. What is the rationale for the Canada Grains Commission to have any restrictions for grain movement to and from Canada enshrined in this legislation?

For that matter, why are Canadian farmers being prevented by the Canadian Wheat Board from taking full advantage of the international trade opportunities created by the signing of GATT or NAFTA? Should the Canadian Wheat Board not also be forced to eliminate some of the restrictions that it is placing now on farmers?

I said in the House the other day that we should raise some of those restrictions for the farmers so they can enter into a freer trade market or determine their own markets. There should be certain restrictions or a certain framework placed on the farmers if and when they wish to deal through the Canadian Wheat Board on some certain aspects at a future time.

As farmers we cannot have our cake and eat it both with a board that is created by government and also by utilizing the free market. There must be a trade off when we have that kind of opportunity.

Reformers have already made it clear that there is a need to reform the Canadian Wheat Board. However, this is just one example of the agricultural issues that need to be addressed in this assembly.

When considering the agricultural sector, it is important to note that on the major questions of the day, it is the farmers who are leading. We heard that very clearly from the minister in his presentation earlier to this assembly. The legislation before us has been farmer directed, farm organization directed and I certainly appreciate that.

We often find in this circumstance that we as government scramble to keep up with some of the farm attitudes. This is certainly very typical in the discussion regarding the Canadian Wheat Board at the present time.

I looked at an article in the Financial Post that talked about the direct sales of grain to American markets that are classed as illegal under the Canadian Wheat Board at the present time. Those sales to the American markets now represent about 20 per cent of the total volume of Canada's grain exports to the U.S.

We can only hope that this massive display of somewhat civil disobedience on the part of Canadian wheat farmers will convince the government that changes must be made to the practices of the Canadian Wheat Board. Again, it is a situation in which farmers are leading, finding markets, maintaining their economic stability as farmer but we as government have not looked at the circumstances and reacted in a positive way.

The trend is similar with the restrictions on the movement of grain from east to west and on the government's reluctance to create a continental barley market. In both instances, fed up farmers have decided not to wait around for the government to make changes. They are going ahead and doing it themselves. Then, as a government, we are reacting. As an assembly here we must get ahead of the circumstances and be able to respond to the farmers when they see that there is a need.

In this latest example, I read with interest that the minister of agriculture has now promised the Canadian grain farmers a chance to debate the future of the Canadian Wheat Board at a special forum to be held this fall. I commend him for that.

I also encourage him to go one step further and hold a referendum on the issue of the Canadian Wheat Board's selling monopoly. It is clear that Canadian agriculture has changed a great deal since 1912 when the Canadian Grain Commission was established.

This next decade will be a crucial time for the agricultural sector. As farmers prepare to make the adjustments required by GATT and free trade, they need a government prepared to assist them and help them gain the competitive edge to compete in an increasingly global marketplace. That is the environment in which we must prepare ourselves, the global marketplace. It is not just Canada. It is not just the United States. It is the global marketplace in which we work as farmers today.

Reform has worked hard to create a comprehensive and balanced agricultural strategy capable of supporting the needs and challenges of the 21st century. We intend to elaborate on those in this assembly.

The Liberal government on the other hand-I look at this with some disappointment-seems to be moving from one crisis to another and legislation that comes before this House seems to be motivated through the public service, albeit a point of view by the farmers or farm organizations rather, than from the legislators of this assembly.

I look at Bill C-50 and Bill C-51 and they are good pieces of legislation in their own right but not in the broader context of what we have to do as leaders in the agricultural field. They are

modest pieces of legislation which only seek to fine tune and present some of the parts of an agricultural regime.

When will the government respond to growing pressures originating both within and outside Canada and bring forth the major broader legislative initiatives that are necessary for the farmers of this country?

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12:10 p.m.


Bernie Collins Liberal Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member opposite. I commend him for having the wisdom to support Bill C-50 and in supporting Bill C-51.

As he went through his presentation we came to a summary. In the summary on one hand he wants to allow the farming industry and farmers in general to have some input into the direction that we are to go and we are committed within the red book to maintain the process that we support the Canadian Wheat Board.

We have here an opportunity on behalf of the member to say why does the government not just go through and hold a referendum. What I would like to know from the hon. member opposite is would he not sooner have that total input from the farming community and say: "In our opinion there should be a referendum and we would like you to move in that direction"?

As it is now, he is saying government, back off. I support that. We have to. Some of our comments in Bill C-51 are directed in that response. I would like to know how we can as a government move through and hold a referendum when we are at this point allowing the opportunity for the farming community through the minister of agriculture to have it place its input before us before we would start with the legislation.

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12:15 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Madam Speaker, in short, the minister of agriculture has not made it clear to farmers, particularly western farmers and those under the Canadian Wheat Board, that a referendum is a possibility and an option. It is not clear that it is there.

It would be good if the government made a statement that there would be a referendum, that in the preamble or in preparation for the referendum there would be major hearings and major submissions to the standing committee on agriculture of the House to determine what the question would be, the content of the question, and what the implications of the answers would be following the referendum.

At the present time we are unsure of the sequence and the pattern of commitment of the government. If it would make the commitment we could move ahead.

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12:15 p.m.


David Iftody Liberal Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak in support of Bill C-51, a bill to amend the Canada Grain Act. The bill has many positive measures that will contribute to the prosperity and competitive advantage of farmers and indeed all Canadians.

The aspects of the bill I intend to address are the amendments that will remove the obligation of government to establish maximum tariffs for services performed by primary transfer and terminal elevator operators.

For the benefit of members who are unfamiliar with the grain industry, a tariff is a charge assessed by an elevator company for services such as handling, cleaning of grain, storage and drying of grain. As the Canada Grain Act is now written, the Canadian Grain Commission is required to establish by regulation the maximum allowable tariff for each elevator service. If an elevator company wishes to change its tariff, it must give the commission 14 days of notice. If it wishes to offer a new service it cannot provide it until the commission has established a maximum tariff for the new service.

These laws date from an era when farmers had few marketing choices and farmer organizations were relatively weak. In the early decades of this century these provisions made sense because elevator companies were not always as scrupulous as they should have been. Farmers were vulnerable so these changes were brought in at an appropriate time for protection. I know all members of the House continue to support them.

In the grain industry of the nineties however this kind of government intervention, as I know the Reform Party would agree, provides no measurable benefit for producers as it places unnecessary obstacles in the path of grain companies.

These are not merely my opinions. They reflect the advice the commission received from the grain industry and producer groups during the 1992 grains and oilseeds regulatory review. As the minister said this morning 57 groups were consulted. In addition we received written responses. The government shares the perspective of those representative groups.

If the key participants want this change who are we to deny them? We will go along with it. We have concluded that regulating elevator tariff maximums is not in the best interest of the grain industry. We believe that removing maximums will encourage increased urgently needed capital investment by elevator companies. We are therefore confident the measures we are proposing today would result in a flexible, more competitive elevator industry.

What are the changes we are proposing? First, the obligation that the Canadian Grain Commission set maximum elevator tariffs will be eliminated. Elevator operators will be able to decide for themselves how much they will charge for their services. As well, while we will still require elevator companies to file their tariffs with the commission, the requirement to give 14 days notice of the change they wish to make in their tariffs will be removed. This will allow elevator companies the same freedom enjoyed by other businesses, other farm groups and

agri-groups, namely the freedom to adjust their prices quickly to respond to local market conditions.

We have discussed these notions with respect to the wheat board and other kinds of institutions in place for the Canadian grain farmers. This is the way to respond to those niche market needs. We have that in the particular bill. As well, operators will no longer be required to charge the same tariff at all of their elevators. This will allow them more flexibility in rate setting.

We will not be making these changes overnight. Again, on the advice of producers and acting with due prudence with the grain companies, we recognized the need for a transition period. For a two-year period, the Canadian Grain Commission will retain the power to set maximum tariffs by order, if situations arise where the tariff charged is excessive. Those checks and balances are there. Those protections are there for members of the House representing grain farmers in their areas who are concerned about drastic changes that may not have the policy outcomes we intend.

When the two-year transition period has concluded, the commission will still exercise its power to investigate complaints. It is hoped that problems which may arise after the two-year transition period has ended will be resolved through discussion and moral suasion. We want to bring the people back to the table again to discuss any concerns and glitches that may still be evident in the policy.

Nevertheless government will retain the power to intervene if intervention is required. The commission will continue to have the authority to reimpose maximum tariffs subject to the approval of the governor in council if circumstances so warrant.

Inevitably in a situation like this one the first question to be asked will be: How will the measure affect the producer? All of us in the House today engaging in this debate have those interests firsthand.

Protection of the interests of grain producers remains one of the most primary purposes of the act. The government has introduced numerous amendments to the act which will benefit producers. This particular amendment is no different.

How are producers protected in a deregulated tariff environment? First an important point I want to stress particularly for the members of the Reform Party, and I speak in terms of Manitoba. They have their own producer owned or controlled elevator companies to protect their own interests. I am referring to such companies as the United Grain Growers. Manitoba Pool Elevators with 18,000 members in that province own the elevators. The interests of elevator owners and the interests of farmers are one and the same. We are not going to have the kind of subjugations and conflicts of interest leading to taking advantage of producers bringing their products to the elevators if we have that kind of producer involvement at the elevator door.

It is the same for the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and the Alberta Wheat Pool. We do not believe for one moment that farmers will allow-and I have full confidence they will not-their own companies to take advantage of them. Producer owned co-operatives are formidable players in the grain industry. At Thunder Bay, for example, 75 per cent of the terminal capacity is operated by producer owned or controlled companies.

As my hon. colleague from Saskatchewan had mentioned earlier, on the west coast producers own 54 per cent of that capacity, the majority holders. In the interests of their producer owners these companies will maintain downward pressure on tariffs, forcing privately owned companies to compete. Moreover most producers will have choices they did not have in 1912 when the Canada Grain Act was passed. If they did not like what one company was charging they would take their grain to another. Allowing opportunities is the secret to that competitive advantage and open market competition. Competition will keep the rates in line and in some cases, I am convinced, will reduce them.

If the grain producers' own companies in the competitive marketplace are not able to set fair prices, the Canadian Grain Commission is still there to investigate. The commission will be able to limit tariffs and will retain the right to set maximum tariffs by regulation. This right will only be exercised, however, in extreme situations.

Members can rest assured that even in a deregulated tariff environment the Canadian Grain Commission will have the legal tools to defend the interest of grain producers whether in Lisgar-Marquette, Provencher or Brandon-Souris, important Manitoba ridings with grain producers.

In conclusion, I encourage members to support the legislation and I thank those who support it. It offers significant opportunities for grain farmers to become more competitive. At the same time it retains appropriate means to protect the fair interests of grain producers should these interests be threatened.

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12:25 p.m.


Vic Althouse NDP Mackenzie, SK

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the remarks of the hon. member. I have two questions on the many arguments he made.

He said that the problem of the grain companies having difficulty setting tariffs for new services was now to be resolved by simply not having them report these services to the grain commission and that it would be completely deregulated. I wonder if he would give the House some idea of what the new services might be that would require charges that are not being made now.

The second matter that got my attention was his argument that unlike at the turn of the century grain companies are now quite scrupulous in their dealings with their customers and their farm deliverers. I remind him that a number of grain companies operate internationally. Those operating in both Canada and the United States, as an example, each year have been found to be shorting customers on weight, delivering the wrong grades, shorting farmers on payments and so on.

His faith in the modern day elevator company is really one of having faith in a very good policeman, namely the Canadian Grain Commission which will be backing off and not be patrolling the neighbourhood so fully. Many grain companies may find it much easier to revert to the practices they engage in outside Canada as soon as the grain commission backs off. Would the member comment on those two items?

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12:25 p.m.


David Iftody Liberal Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for those helpful comments.

I would like to respond as quickly as I can to the second one first. On his question of companies shortchanging producers, I do not have any facts to that effect. I have never seen any documents or heard any representations from farmers in Provencher in support of those rather surprising statements.

I refer the hon. member to a phone call I made this morning to the Manitoba Pool Elevator. I asked: "How many members do you have? What kind of support do you have in Manitoba?" They have 18,000 members. I assure the hon. member that I have faith in the good judgment of those members to make decisions and to keep an eye on those institutions which respect their best interests.

In terms of the service charges I would say the same. In terms of new service charges and outcomes from these policy changes which will be reviewed in two years, I believe the members will have that input. I assure the hon. member we will not allow grain companies to run away unchecked, at a complete arm's length from their producers.

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12:25 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Madam Speaker, I am wondering if the hon. member for Provencher would comment on the pools going toward public companies or corporations. UGG is finished with them. They are public corporations now. The shareholders do the voting and the directing.

It is of interest to me that one director of the Manitoba pool was very upset that the Canadian Grain Commission lacked the support of an independent inquiry into the Winnipeg Grain Exchange, the commodity markets. The Canadian Grain Commission is supposed to regulate the commodity exchange. Why has the government not supported an independent inquiry into the operation of the commodity exchange?

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12:30 p.m.


David Iftody Liberal Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, again, if there was a question of impropriety with respect to those responsible in either the handling of grain or trading in this commodity, I find these suggestions a bit surprising.

I just want to say to the hon. member for Lisgar-Marquette that I am sure the crown and the minister represent the interests of farmers. If there is any impropriety or any evidence of it, if this member has received any facts or actual information to support that from this particular gentleman, I would be pleased to pass it on to the minister of agriculture and conduct an investigation.

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12:30 p.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill C-51. The purpose of Bill C-51 is to update and modernize the Canada Grain Act as outlined by the hon. minister of agriculture.

These amendments will put more responsibility on the shoulders of the users of the grain system, the producers, the grain dealers and the elevator operators.

We in the government know that we must learn where to regulate and where not to regulate. It is shown that in this bill we will regulate to improve the quality and protection of the producers, but we do not wish to regulate the exact pricing of services or in any way restrict the marketing of grain.

Part of this legislation is designed to renew and enhance our commitment to a quality product. Canada has built a reputation as a supplier of consistent and uniform quality grains. This reputation has served us well in our marketing of grain around the world. Buyers expect top quality when dealing with Canadian grains. We should give them no less.

The bill clearly defines the commission's role in setting grades and grade names as well as methods of determining such grades. This gives the commission the solid ground to actively improve the consistency of Canada's grain grades.

The legislation also removes the requirement for the Canadian Grain Commission to set maximum elevator tariffs. This will allow market pricing of those services that the commission feels will benefit from market pressure. Also removed from legislation is the requirement that an elevator operator give the commission 14 days' notice of a change of tariffs. This will allow operators more flexibility in dealing with the changing pressures of the market.

To address concerns about excessive charges, the Canadian Grain Commission will have the right to establish maximum tariffs by order for the next two years. If an investigation of a complaint from an elevator user finds that a particular tariff is not justified, the commission may set maximums. The Canadian Grain Commission also has the ability to set tariff maximums

through regulation if elevator operators set tariffs at excessive levels.

The government notes as well that the majority of primary and terminal elevators are owned by the producers themselves through the various wheat pools. The government does not think it necessary to protect western grain farmers from themselves.

The legislation improves protection to grain producers by authorizing the commission to require additional security from dealers and elevators as is determined by the commission. This ability improves the protection to the growers to help ensure that they will be paid for their produce.

The legislation protects Canadian taxpayers from footing the bill when a grain dealer or elevator goes bankrupt and does not have enough security placed with the commission to cover amounts owed to producers. When the posted security is not enough to cover its debts, the creditors will be paid on a pro rata system, which is the fairest way of dealing with such a problem. The taxpayers of Canada should not be paying for the bad business practices of an operation.

The legislation improves the Canada Grain Act provisions to facilitate the movement of grain interprovincially and for export. The amendments simplify the regulations governing the transport of grains. It removes regulations controlling transport of grains wholly within the western or eastern divisions. Public carriers are required when shipping grain between divisions and in or out of the country.

I encourage our members to support this legislation. We wish to support our grain growers and facilitate the sale and disposition of their product. I think this legislation achieves that end.

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12:30 p.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, it is good to again be able to talk about agriculture here in the House. We are dealing with Bill C-51. It is a bill to deal with the Canadian Grain Commission and its powers.

On the whole, Bill C-51 is a good starting point for improving the agriculture industry in Canada.

Parts of the bill give me cause for concern. I will outline those areas in more detail later. There are some positive aspects to this legislation and I would like to briefly touch on them.

First and perhaps more important, the bill places the onus on farmers to ensure that they are dealing with a duly licensed grain company. This bill makes it clear that the Canadian Grain Commission and therefore the Canadian taxpayer is only liable to cover claims from duly licensed companies.

This protection lets farmers know exactly where they stand as well as protecting taxpayers from unreasonable expenses. Canadians have paid up in the past for claims coming from unlicensed companies and I am glad to see that this protection will be included in the act.

There are those who would argue that the language in clause 13 of this bill may still leave some doubt as to which claims are to be paid. Therefore I would encourage and support any strengthening of the wording during the committee stage that would ensure taxpayer protection from unlicensed claims.

I had a case in my constituency prior to the election where a seed cleaning company ceased to do business and left many farmers out on a limb. It was a very messy situation. There were accusations of political involvement and patronage. Certainly we do not want to hear those horror stories repeated in the future.

Clause 12 of the bill allows the Canadian Grain Commission some latitude when deciding whether or not to close an elevator having financial or cash flow difficulties. This is a positive step for farmers. Many have been caught by an insolvent elevator company or seed cleaning company in the past.

The bill also provides for better financial protection for farmers by making them responsible for obtaining adequate security for grain shipped to an elevator and for ensuring that the grain name and amounts shipped is on the ticket.

The bill brings the protection offered to farmers more in line with security provisions common in other financial areas. Farmers have long been saying that they do not want special treatment, they only want a fair shake the same as other small businessmen. This bill moves, however slightly, in that direction.

Farmers will be pleased to see that there is some movement on the issue of interprovincial trade flexibility. Of course in good Liberal style, this is done as a half measure. The bill only allows for flexibility within the western wheat block and within the eastern wheat block. It does not go nearly far enough in removing interprovincial barriers to trade. Perhaps more important, the bill does not address the issue of trade with the United States at all, a bone of contention which the current Liberal government has not been prepared to deal with in a positive manner.

The bill would solidify and enforce the use of common grade names. This too is welcome news for producers. There will be much less confusion about the quality of grain shipped to an elevator.

As I stated at the outset of my remarks, the bill does have some positive aspects. However, there are some very serious problems with certain parts and clauses of the bill on some very important issues that are entirely ignored by this legislation.

In the bill an increasing amount of decision making is being placed in the hands of the governor in council. We are aware that this is a formalized constitutional body through which the cabinet exercises executive power.

If members would study the bill they would see that clauses 2, 4, 9, 15, 33 and 35 all move powers into the hands of the executive, into the hands of the cabinet. This extensive power grab on the part of the government directly contradicts the commitment to a more open and democratic government promised in the now infamous red ink book.

In taking so much power away from the legislators and producers and giving it to cabinet to exercise in the form of orders in council, the government is doing the opposite of what farmers want. Agricultural producers have been consistent in saying that farming boards and institutions should be democratized and accountable. Moving more power and decision making behind closed doors and off the public record is continuing to be counter to the will of Canadian farmers.

A good example of this power grab can be found in clause 34. This clause allows cabinet to approve and define all regulations not specifically contained in the act. This is tantamount to Parliament passing blank cheque legislation allowing the minister to fill in the blanks later.

This seems to be a mindset of the Liberal government. Do not deal with the issues, allow the bureaucrats and the cabinet to make up the rules as they go. History teaches us that we get into trouble when we follow this procedure. We should learn lessons from the previous Tory government that authorized the establishment of a continental barley market through an order in council rather than bringing it to Parliament as it should have for a decision in the House that is elected by the people. Had Parliament been able to deal with that issue the matter would have been resolved one way or the other and producers would not be struggling and demanding a plebiscite and action on the part of the government at this date.

The bill demonstrates once again that this minister of agriculture is a bureaucrats' minister, not a farmers' minister. Not only does cabinet take powers from Parliament but the bureaucracy also gets a whole raft of new authority.

For example, the Canadian Grain Commission would now have the power to set the salaries of the western and eastern standards committees and the grain appeal tribunal. I would suggest it is not a common practice for bureaucrats to set their own salaries, at least it should not be. Not only do these people have the power to set their own pay but they also are often patronage appointments as well.

The standards boards, while expensive and patronage filled, are only advisory. This means that the minister may ignore their recommendations in any case.

It will be interesting to see how the salaries of these advisory patronage committees change as a result of this bill. Of course, I suppose they are watching what happens in this House where MPs set their own pay and pensions. Perhaps they are saying that if parliamentarians are going to play that game we want to play it and we demand to be able to play it as well.

My concern is that one of these days Canadian taxpayers are going to start fighting back by saying that if MPs set their own salaries, if bureaucrats set their own pay, then perhaps we will decide how much we are going to pay in taxes whether the government demands it or not.

It would seem in many ways the bill is designed to protect the bureaucratic empire from the changes that are coming to the industry. I want to refer for a few moments to the special crops or pulse crop initiative that is changing the way the industry operates, particularly in my province of Saskatchewan.

As the minister knows many farmers have been diversifying crops over the past few years as a way of remaining viable and competitive. This diversification has been a boon to the agriculture industry. Many farmers have remained in a viable position because they have diversified and tried some non-traditional crops such as peas, lentils, canary seed, mustard seed, and many others. This industry has flourished and prospered without massive government intrusion, regulation and control. Perhaps it has prospered because of little government involvement. I know many farmers believe so.

An example of a crop being developed and becoming a major staple in the prairies is canola which was an experiment a few decades ago. This year canola is one of the main cash crops in the prairie region and we believe-I know I believe and I am sure my Reform colleagues believe-that these other crops can be expanded and provide much income to producers if again government does not interfere and place too many regulations and restrictions in the way of development of these new commodities.

Groups of farmers, in consultation with all the players in the industry from the pools, the wheat board, and everyone else have spent years developing pulse crop initiatives.

The minister has had a copy of that initiative for quite some time and even so he has chosen not to include the speciality of pulse crops in this legislation. It is expected, and rumour has it, that some legislation dealing with these crops will be introduced a year or year and a half from now.

In light of the enforcement provisions of Bill C-51, what does the minister expect will happen to this vital industry in the interim? A lack of legislation for special crops, combined with the witch hunt under way by the Canadian Grain Commission to licence and control the special seed cleaning and distribution

sector will potentially have a devastating effect on agriculture as a whole.

With the provisions of Bill C-51 only to pay claims from duly licensed companies, the current push on the part of the Canadian Grain Commission to licence and audit pulse crop companies can only be interpreted as a move to push many of the small companies out of business. This would lead to a monopolized industry with the bureaucrats comfortably in control.

The farmers want the pulse crop sector left the way it is. The customers want the sector left the way it is. Everyone wants a free market pulse crop sector, apparently that is everyone except senior agriculture mandarins.

Because pulse crops are not grown in quantities comparable to grains such as wheat, barley or canola, the cleaners and handlers of these commodities are much smaller operations. The cost of Canadian Grain Commission licences, bonds, and audits can run anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 every year. This would unnecessarily force most of the operators out of the specialty crops sector at a time when the sector should be expanding and should be strengthening.

I am very concerned that this legislation does not adequately protect those operators and the producers who deal with them. It is a serious flaw in this bill. I am concerned that a wait of 12 to 18 months or however long it takes the minister to bring in legislation to deal with that sector may be too late and drive many of them out of the industry.

The absence of this pulse crop legislation makes Bill C-51 a farmers versus the bureaucrats bill with regard to pulse crops.

I challenge the minister to show it ain't so. If he can do so, I would be one of the most pleased people in this House. I call on him to bring in the kind of legislation that works for farmers, not just measures that protect and enhance the jobs of his senior bureaucrats.

Although this bill contains some very positive aspects it is legitimate to ask why the minister would introduce legislation that makes the government mandarins more comfortable and secure while making the farmers wait at least another year before moving on issues that they really care about.

This bill is a good place to start but there is a lot of work that needs to be done at the committee level to make it good legislation.

I would hope that the minister can solve his in house power struggle soon so that farmers can get some movement and government action on the issues they care about.

It is quite interesting to note that in the life of this Parliament, now almost one year old, that not many steps or perhaps no steps have been taken by the minister or his government to put producers in the driver's seat in their own industry.

If there is one thing I know from being a producer it is that they are not afraid to take responsibility and they are not afraid to make decisions and by and large they make very good decisions. Often it is government through order in council decisions, through legislation that is incomplete such as Bill C-51 that has been a hindrance to the industry rather than an asset.

I encourage the minister to review his legislation with a view to seeing what he can do to put producers in charge of their own industry so that they can be adequately able to make decisions, to take steps to strengthen their industry without being hindered by the government that is supposed to represent and serve them.

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12:45 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak on Bill C-51, amendments to the Canada Grain Act.

It is important at the beginning to put into perspective the role that the Canadian Grain Commission has played in terms of Canada being seen as the reliable supplier of high quality grains in the world.

The combination of the Canadian Wheat Board as the single desk selling agency for export wheat and barley and the quality control and inspection system and watchdog capacity of the Canadian Grain Commission has worked extremely well in Canada's interests and in the interests of Canada's primary grain producers.

The key selling point for grains out of Canada in the international marketplace has been certainly our quality control system. Millers around the world know that when they buy Canadian wheat they are going to get high quality grains that they can blend in with other countries' products and still have a reasonable quality of bread.

The Americans, on the other hand, the system that some of our colleagues in this House on the other side want to emulate, are looked upon by the world as a residual supplier of grain. They are used in terms of setting the price worldwide but they are a residual supplier, a supplier of last resort because they do not have the quality control system that we have in this country that is made possible because of some of the regulations of the Canadian Grain Commission that we have in this country.

This bill's objective is to maintain that support for quality grades and inspection. However, we have to be constantly aware

of the danger in terms of our legislative processes of knuckling under to those who believe that cost cutting should be all that matters.

The principal concern of the federal government on this issue of inspection and quality control are two elements key to the security of our export markets, quality and inspection.

When appearing before the agricultural committee, Dennis Wallace, executive director of the commission made the following comment: "We are looking at streamlining, weighing and inspection that will move at the pace the industry sets and our comfort that we can sustain the standard of quality in the process. In our view quality has not been affected by the steps we have taken to this point". That is an important point.

We must ensure on this side of the House and as the government that we maintain those standards that have been so true and beneficial to the Canadian grain industry.

I had hoped that I would have time to indicate to the House some of the dangers within the system because several of the groups that have come before the Standing Committee on Agriculture, the Public Service Alliance of Canada for one, outlined some of the problems that have happened at Thunder Bay. They provide a good example of the dangers that can happen to quality control in the grain system if we do not have a strong, dedicated agency like the Canadian Grain Commission with strong regulations behind it to protect the interests of producers and the interests of the grain industry.

I do not have time to quote that evidence but I would refer members of the House to the April 26, 1994 submission of the Public Service Alliance outlining some of the dangers of quality control.

We must ensure as a government that the security of a regulatory and inspection system is maintained, that the future of either downsizing or efforts to promote competitiveness do not result in a loss of our competitive position which is based upon production and exports of the highest quality standards of grain in the world.

There has been a lot of talk by members on both sides of this House on the questions regarding clause 14. Under clause 14 the Canadian Grain Commission will no longer be required to set maximum tariffs charged by grain elevators.

This is a point that, to be honest, is open to question for me. We will certainly have an interesting debate at the agricultural committee on this point. There are a number of questions that need to be raised.

I do not believe for a moment that we can depend on the co-operative movement or the pools to protect producers' interests. I have been involved in that industry out west for a number of years and the co-operative movement, the pools, when they are making decisions in the kind of international arena we now face have to weigh in their own minds whether they are making a decision in terms of their corporate business interests and the bottom line as a corporation or making a decision in their membership's interests as a co-operative. Therefore, I believe there need to be some government safeguards in terms of protecting primary producers' interests, and certainly we will debate that at committee level.

Other questions need to be raised. Some clarification is needed of the ombudsman like role the commission will perform. Under what circumstances will it be able to intervene, what powers will the commission have to act upon complaints, and under what authority? Under what circumstances will the commission be able to set maximum tariffs by regulation if needed?

An important point in the bill and one I strongly support is that if there is a danger there the Canadian Grain Commission can step in and impose maximum tariffs if the grain industries, the companies or the trade is abusing the system set in place.

I raise those points because I think this is the place, the House of Commons, in this arena and at the committee level, for good, strong, informed debate on the facts so that we can come up with better decisions in the end.

I recognize that my time is getting short. I have heard from members opposite talking about competition. We have to look at that infrastructure in western Canada where the Canadian Grain Commission operates and recognize that more and more in those small community towns with elevators that there is less and less competition between grain companies.

Grain companies are now consolidating their system. Because you are going to gain a lower tariff rate at one elevator does not necessarily mean that you are going to haul to that elevator because it may be 50 or 100 miles away and you would lose all you had saved or more by hauling that distance.

We have to be very careful in making these decisions to ensure the kind of international arena we are entering into, the kind of consolidation that is happening, especially in western Canada, and the impact that may have on primary producers if there is not a very strong Canadian Grain Commission in place to protect the interests of primary producers and the interests of the country in terms of the grains we sell.

Let me conclude by saying that the Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Grain Commission have served this country well in the past. I believe they can in the future. I look forward to maintaining those kinds of standards and see that Canada remains the kind of reliable supplier of grains that we have been in the past.

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12:55 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Madam Speaker, I must thank the hon. member for that speech. I do agree with him once in a while on certain areas.

I know he is a very good and efficient operator and does probably employ people and pay their wages. Does he not think that when I as a farmer pay 92 per cent of the grain commission's wages I should have some input into who these people are? I would feel a lot more comfortable if I as a farmer had some input into who these people were and how they were working. The people employed on an operation are really the backbone of the operation because management depends on them. I wonder whether the hon. member would respond to that.

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12:55 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I did have some figures. I believe you are correct, Mr. Hoeppner, in the figure you indicate in terms of how much-

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

May I remind the hon. member that we do not address members as mister, we use the riding, which is Lisgar-Marquette.