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.