House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.


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9 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

Order! I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but his time is up. We now move to questions and comments. The hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

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9 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to the words of the member and to the member who spoke before him and, frankly, I have questions to ask about where the information comes from-if it can even be called information-that these members have shared with the House.

The member who just spoke to us called for the Government to deliver on the Agricultural Equity Development Program, as set out in the red book. Mr. Speaker, I know that the member may not be in the habit of reading his mail, but the program was announced three weeks ago by the Farm Credit Corporation and the Minister of Agriculture could confirm this immediately.

Second, I must ask the member opposite, because he told us, regarding quotaed agriculture, If I understood his words correctly, that Quebec should have a percentage of the poultry market proportionate to its population. Is he telling us that he wants Quebec to have less poultry production than it currently has? If that is his position, it is not mine.

Finally, Quebec produces 48 per cent of industrial milk.

Is he telling us that he favours a reduction in the industrial milk granted to Quebec? Because, once again, that is not my position or that of my colleagues.

This member will have to explain to us just what he means and where he gets his information from, particularly on the equity lease issue that he advocated, that already exists and that was already announced by the government more than three weeks ago.

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9:05 p.m.


Réjean Lefebvre Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to answer the honourable colleague seated across from me. At present, leases are not in use.

I would like to go back to some statements I made. When I defend the farmers of Quebec, I am also talking about small farms. In the West and in Ontario, they are used to seeing large producers. In my constituency, I want to defend the small farms.

At present, dual jobholding is common, with spouses forced to look for work. We are moving toward globalization of markets, and we know that the big farms are indeed ready for global markets, even with the GATT agreement. However, we also have to think about small farms, which are fighting to survive. I personally believe that we are going to have to allow products to be processed in our regions and to develop new local and regional niches.

When I talked about standards, I did not mean that I have anything against standards, but sooner or later, the government will have to reach a decision on this issue. I am in favour of having standards now, but not in favour of having them applied immediately. Two or three years could be allowed before they are implemented.

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9:05 p.m.


Murray Calder Liberal Wellington—Grey—Dufferin—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

The government recognizes that an economically healthy farm sector depends on conservation and protection of our natural resources. It is a simple fact. Without fertile soil and clean water, Canada's farmers cannot continue to produce the high quality nutritious food they are famous for.

Over the past few years all Canadians have come to recognize the importance of protecting the environment. Many Canadians have changed the way they go about their daily lives. They are reusing, recycling and reducing, the famous three rs.

More and more of our industries are also changing the way they go about business. They are trying to minimize their impact on the environment. They are also increasingly recognizing the need to protect the environment can represent business opportunities that not only result in environmental benefits but in jobs as well.

Canada's agri-food industry is no different. Things are changing on the farm. Many urban Canadians may not realize it but Canadian farmers are changing the way they do business. As we all know, change is not easy but farmers are used to facing challenges. For example, farmers across the nation are working to preserve wetlands that are crucial to wildlife and the entire ecosystem. In Prince Edward Island farmers are partners in the P.E.I. wetlands stewardship program that helps them build fences around wetland areas to protect them from cattle. Farmers are increasingly moving to low till or zero till cropping technologies to reduce soil loss and runoff into our lakes and rivers. In my riding of Wellington-Grey-Dufferin-Simcoe the Grey County Federation of Agriculture made mention of this problem in a brief presented to me in March.

Because much of our landscape is blessed with many rivers it is essential to protect them from contamination and from erosion. A study in progress in Ontario is indicating that no till farming has increased almost 50 per cent in the last three years.

Farm families have always been great recyclers and reusers. It is often born of necessity. Therefore it is no surprise that recycling empty pesticide containers is a major initiative found in many Canadian farm communities. Agricultural pesticide use is declining. Figures show Ontario farmers have reduced their use by about 20 per cent over the last decade.

In Quebec, farmers are taking part in a program to reduce their pesticide use by half by the year 2000. Farm organizations are increasingly taking a leadership role in promoting environmentally sustainable agriculture. Prairie pools and the co-operative formed by the Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta wheat pools are developing an environmental assessment guide. It will be distributed across the prairies to help farmers incorporate environmental planning into their farm management practices.

The government is working and will continue to work in partnership with farmers, farm organizations, industry representatives and the provinces to ensure this trend continues. It is in everyone's interest to see that Canada's agri-food industry is second to none in the world when it comes to working in harmony with nature. Building Canada's reputation as an environmentally sustainable producer of food and crops can only help us in seizing world-wide marketing opportunities.

Just last month the Canadian Agricultural Energy Use Data Analysis Centre was opened in Saskatoon. The centre will provide farmers, companies involved in agriculture and governments with the information they need to improve the efficiency of energy use in the agricultural sector. It is a partnership effort involving the federal government, the Saskatchewan government and the University of Saskatchewan.

Also last month the direct seeding program was announced. This three-year $1.6 million program will help Saskatchewan farmers to obtain the information they need to make the technology transfer to direct seeding, that is seeding the new crop directly into the stubble of the past crop.

What are the benefits of direct seeding? It reduces field work. It saves farmers fuel costs. It reduces soil erosion. The crop yields are equal to or better than traditional seeding methods.

There is another benefit that non-farming Canadians may want to spend a few minutes thinking about. We have heard a lot about greenhouse gases changing the global environment. Canadians are worried about this. Let us consider that scientists believe the undisturbed plant material left behind by direct seeding methods can reduce greenhouse gas concentrations. Agriculture can play an important role in protecting our environment.

The direct seeding program is a result of the partnership of the federal government, the provincial government, private business and non-government organizations. This is the kind of partnership for sustainable agriculture that we need to see continue and will continue from this government.

I quote from a Saskatchewan Wheat Pool brochure on sustainable agriculture: "We are not where we should be or could be, but we are a long way from where we used to be". The government, in consultation with stakeholders, is developing long term approaches to sustainable agriculture that will get us to where we should be, approaches that will integrate not only our environmental goals but our economic and social goals. Our rural areas and farming communities must be safe, healthy and vital places. These long term approaches will guide us as we develop a new national soil and water conservation program. This involves reviewing our programs for their environmental impacts and it involves continuing to help our agri-food industry to acquire the environmentally sound technologies and

practices it needs to meet our goals for a sustainable industry. That is this government's agenda to get us where we should be.

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9:15 p.m.


Gilbert Fillion Bloc Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the presentation we have just heard is evidence of how dedicated my colleague opposite is to the environment, co-operation, recycling and the harmony of nature.

I am confident that these sentiments are shared by all parliamentarians. It is critically important that all of these factors be present if we are to have sustainable agriculture.

I would, nevertheless, like him to explain to us how opportunities can be seized on world markets. That is the real issue, because if we want to seize these opportunities, the wealthier countries will have to stop subsidizing agriculture indirectly.

Financial assistance, particularly if it also entails standards specific to certain countries, impedes the movement of our goods and prevents them from being exported.

I want to give you one example and then I would like to hear your view on the subsidies that wealthy countries award to agriculture and find out if there is any way to change this situation.

In the Lac Saint-Jean area, we produce an aperitif made from a fruit characteristic of our region, namely the blueberry. Vast quantities of this product were exported to Japan because Japanese consumers had created a great demand for it. Japan did everything it could to block the sale of the product on its markets. It proceeded to indirectly subsidize national companies so that they could compete with our products.

I wonder if the hon. member would care to comment on this aspect of the question which, in my view, is a logical follow up to what he was saying earlier.

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9:15 p.m.


Murray Calder Liberal Wellington—Grey—Dufferin—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to hear that the hon. member shares with me the responsibility that we have to enhance our environment and turn it over to our children in better condition than when we took it on. That is a commitment that as a farmer I have always had.

As to the rest of it, I have lobbied for farm issues for years. One of the problems that I had as a person representing supply management within Canada was as I lobbied for my own sector I knew I was doing it to the detriment of another part of agriculture, one of the people who worked in the same business. In other words, if I was effectively able to get a good deal for supply management it could have been to the detriment of grains and red meat and that always bothered me.

Under the new GATT agreement we are now underneath one umbrella. Now we can lobby for the farm industry as a whole. Also, the GATT agreement laid out world-wide foundations that we never had before and now have.

When I campaigned in the October election I campaigned for the retention of article XI(2)(c)(i) for supply management because at that point that was what we understood to be the only position that we had and therefore we went for it.

When we became the government we found afterwards that the position of article XI(2)(c)(i) was not attainable because there were 116 countries out of 117 voting against it. That was not our fault. What we did was go to the places, the SM-5, the supply managed groups to replace that aspect of it and said: "All right, what do we need? What do we need to protect that part of agriculture?" They told us. We negotiated it and got it. That part of supply management is protected.

However, I want to go back to the foundation as the soil is within agriculture. With the GATT signing we now have a foundation that is world-wide that we can build from. If another country like the United States challenges us on wheat we can work from a base set of rules which we never had before. I think we are miles ahead because of that.

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9:20 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak for a few minutes tonight to express the grievances, wishes and desires of the people whom I have the honour and the privilege to represent in this House.

Let me commence my remarks by complimenting the minister of agriculture. Not only has he proposed this motion today which is unprecedented but I have no recollection in the 14 years I have had the honour of representing my constituents at the federal and provincial levels of the government taking an initiative like that, of having a debate on its own; not an opposition motion but a government initiated debate of this kind. I congratulate the minister.

I also want to indicate to the House and indeed to all Canadians that the minister has been in the House as we have had this debate all day. He has been here for about 12 hours listening to the suggestions of hon. members from all sides of the House. I know that members of his able staff are here taking notes and informing themselves of the wishes of Canadians through their respective members of Parliament with regard to agriculture.

There are about 68,000 farms in the province which I have the honour to represent. My riding alone has 1,000 farmers. So it is an important region for supply managed agriculture.

As you well know, Mr. Speaker, there are also poultry producers, egg producers and many others. I would like to share some of my constituents' concerns and make some suggestions to the government.

First, I would like to join with some of my colleagues who today expressed an interest in ethanol.

I as well as other members use ethanol blends in my automobile. At the present time I do that in an effort to encourage agriculture in part because it is a good conservation measure and of course because it makes my car work better. My ethanol is a local brand called McEwans. You know it well, Mr. Speaker. I think Mr. McEwan is a close personal friend of yours. A number of McEwan gas bars in eastern Ontario sell this very good product.

This ethanol blend, however, as all ethanol blends in eastern Canada, mostly has in the portion of the blend which is ethanol a product imported largely from the United States. There is nothing wrong with that per se, except that in encouraging agriculture by purchasing gasoline I would much prefer to encourage agriculture in Canada and even better agriculture in Glengarry-Prescott-Russell.

You no doubt know the group of producers in our region, the St. Lawrence Ethanol Co-op, which also has an ethanol project in our region. I even think that it is in the riding of the hon. member for Leeds-Grenville, with many producers coming from your riding, and the president is a resident of mine. A whole group of corn growers in eastern Ontario is interested in this project. I point out to the minister that these growers need our encouragement and support.

I would also like to make some suggestions about the Farm Credit Corporation to the minister.

The Farm Credit Corporation of course lends funds to a number of producers both in my riding and elsewhere and I congratulate it for the work it does. I am not always pleased with what FCC does but I do not share the view of the Reform Party member who spoke earlier who suggested that there was no room for the Farm Credit Corporation in financing agriculture at all.

I do not share those views. I think the FCC has a significant role to play and if it did not it certainly would not have the loan portfolio that it does. In any case the Farm Credit Corporation is a valuable instrument and we should encourage it.

I want to suggest to the minister that he consider doing what another minister had done a number of years ago and that is to review the present loan portfolio of the Farm Credit Corporation in an effort to determine whether or not it would be possible to lower the interest rates on some of the existing loans.

In approximately 1985 or 1986 the then agriculture minister had made a decision to lower the interest rates on a number of outstanding loans, I believe they were loans financed at 16 per cent and above, to bring them to what had been the prevailing rate for the preceding year which was in the order of 12 per cent. That had a significant impact.

Of course farmers can do that now but they are subject to a considerable penalty and that has reduced some of the potential help that farmers could have received had they been able to restructure those loans with the Farm Credit Corporation.

I want to bring to the attention of the minister this suggestion of mine and I hope that he considers it.

I want to say a few words on GATT. The GATT agreement signed last fall was not the Liberal government's first choice. We did say what our first choice would have been. Mr. Speaker, you know hockey well. You know that if 117 teams play under the same rules, and if 116 of those teams decide to change the rules, you will not be able to do anything about it. Indeed, if 116 out of 117 teams decide to change the rules, those rules are going to be changed, no matter what.

Under these circumstances, we had to find what was best for our country. I think we have done that. And the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell is not the only one to think so. I have here an article published in the December 20 issue of Agricom , which is an agricultural publication from my riding. It says: In spite of the loss of article XI, Canadian supply management programs are safe''. I will only quote another short excerpt:The new GATT agreement provides for the maintenance of supply management programs through tariffs''. Agri-com is not the only newspaper that said that. As a matter of fact I have before me the May 10 editorial of the agricultural publication Farm and Country , a very well known publication in

my province of Ontario. The editorial is entitled "Canada survives GATT Chess Game" and reads:

"The world's dairy producing countries which protected their markets before will continue to do so. The U.S. section 22 is gone. The EU's"-European unions-" variable import levies are gone. So is Canada's article XI. But domestic industries around the world will still be protected". The still critical Globe and Mail should take note.

In other words, this writer is responding to criticism of that in Toronto's Globe and Mail .

The point I am making is that agricultural publications are telling us that our supply management has been protected, but it is not over. I raised this in a question with one of my hon. colleagues earlier. I give this note of caution to members of the House and hopefully through them to all Canadians involved in supply management. I have said this before. The supply management system has achieved a certain maturity and when an industry does, it sometimes becomes self-critical. That is not bad in itself but when there is an excess of that there is a danger.

I am thinking generally of the chicken and poultry industry. I have what I have referred to as the fear of implosion for lack of a better word, and I am concerned about it. I hope producers in supply managed commodities will ensure they do not become their own worst enemies.

They could have been their own worst enemies last December and some of them were. Some of them panicked. Many of us, the parliamentary secretary, the minister and myself included, spent hours and hours, days on the phone with farmers reassuring them and telling them that if they sold their quota they could be putting the whole system in a tailspin. Most of them were careful and through the efforts of everyone the supply management sector survived.

But the concerns persist, and I want to point that out.

Let me express some thoughts in the few minutes I have left. I do not know how to solve the problem, but I ask the minister and the parliamentary secretary to think about this. We live in a society which does not give sufficient recognition to the agricultural sector and that concerns me. This is true for all of North America. Again, I do not know the solution, but I think it is good to mention that point.

I have had the opportunity to go to Europe many times and I noticed that Europeans in general value their agriculture a lot more than we do here. Is it because more European consumers go to the market to buy products directly from the farmer who is a personal friend, whereas here in North America consumers think that produce comes from the supermarket? Is it this lack of interaction which is responsible for the lack of recognition? I do not know. However, I urge the minister and his cabinet colleagues to look at this important issue and try to make sure that Canadians living in urban areas can better understand our agricultural sector.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you and the House for giving me this opportunity. Again I thank the minister and his parliamentary secretary for the attention they have given to agriculture in Canada.

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9:30 p.m.


Len Taylor NDP The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Mr. Speaker, as I did earlier I want to congratulate the hon. member as well for his support of the ethanol sector. I was very pleased that he has chosen to utilize ethanol blended fuel in his vehicle.

I too have been using ethanol blended fuel in my vehicle for the last two and a half years, but I have a greater difficulty in securing ethanol fuels for my vehicle in northern Saskatchewan than he would have in Ontario. I certainly encourage the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell to do whatever he can within government to support the ethanol industry to ensure it can survive and prosper not only in Ontario but throughout the prairie provinces as well. I believe there are many other Canadians who would benefit by using ethanol blended fuels in their vehicles, as he and I already have.

On the same subject of sustaining the environment, I know the member has some interest in the organic farming industry. Does the member have any thoughts on the organic industry, given that the organic growers require a greater amount of marketing support from the federal government? That would be because the organic industry is more expensive to maintain. Also there is a problem with the official certification of an organic product. I wonder if the member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell could offer some advice to the minister about what the federal government could be doing to ensure that the organic industry is able to prosper within our country.

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9:35 p.m.


Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to thank the member for a very good question. He and I served on a number of committees together during the years we have been here. He might recall my raising this issue in the past with the previous minister of agriculture.

In regard to the certification process and also in regard to what a person can call organic, the difficulty we have is that the identification of products as being organic seems to be a little bit like the expression "good", good versus what. It becomes a relative word particularly in the absence of more definitive rules than we have had.

For instance constituents have had problems importing organic products. Their products would being stopped at the border by inspectors who did not want to allow the products to come in because they were applying tests that apply to non-organic products and they did not match. I had to intervene on a number of occasions during the previous Parliament with the then minister. The goods were released and were allowed to come into the country.

It created quite a problem at the time. There were many consumers willing to buy the product but there was difficulty with certification.

What we need is clearly marked differences for organic and non-organic products, tests that have to be followed in order for products to be identified that way. It should not be subjective. It should be totally objective. As well as ensuring that when these products are imported for part of the year, particularly products such as tomatoes that we do not grow, that the people who enforce the rules at the border are clearly aware of the differences because they are clearly not the same. Even the appearance of the product is not the same. Products may have a more blemished and bruised look because they are organically grown and because they are not sprayed with some of the things that give the flawless appearance that products that do not have the organic properties sometimes have.

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9:35 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, during the last six months the grain handling and transportation system in the west has been in crisis. Tonight I want to take part of my time to discuss the recommendations made by the subcommittee on grain transportation which has reported to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food. I also wish to address some of the long term solutions offered by the Reform Party for grain transportation in the west.

The subcommittee on grain transportation has been examining the current problems over the last few weeks and even held public hearings with the major participants in the grain handling and transportation sector.

The subcommittee reported to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and the Minister of Transport on Friday, May 6. In the report the members of the subcommittee describe the current situation as a crisis. They estimated that in this crop year alone the grain car shortage in the west would cost producers at least $35 million in demurrage charges for ships waiting at the west coast ports. They also estimated that two million tonnes of grain sales would be lost or at least deferred which could cost producers between $100 million and $200 million.

The report prepared for the subcommittee on the St. Lawrence seaway by the Library of Parliament also felt that there was an even far more serious long term consequence if this transportation crisis is not solved on an urgent basis. It was felt Canada's reputation as a reliable supplier of grain to the world would be jeopardized.

The report said: "If Canada cannot meet its delivery commitments on time sales will be deferred, cancelled, and customers will go elsewhere".

The subcommittee determined that the current grain transportation crisis was caused by a number of circumstances including, first, a sharp increase in the movements of grain to the U.S.A. resulting in a doubling of turnaround times for rail cars from 20 days to 40 days; second, a tight lease market in the U.S.A. for grain cars because of the flooding of the Mississippi needed to replace barges; third, an increase in the movement of non-board speciality grains which are handling intensive, resulting in longer car cycles; fourth, a very severe winter which slowed rail traffic; and, fifth, a 13-day strike at the west coast by grain handlers.

The Reform Party supports the recommendations made by the subcommittee on grain transportation and the subcommittee on the St. Lawrence seaway. If I had the time, I would like to outline all nine of the recommendations made to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and to the Minister of Transport in response to this crisis. However I think at this point in the debate everyone in the House is fairly clear on the content of these recommendations.

In addition to the subcommittee's report to the ministers, Reformers have two other recommendations which we believe will help address the crisis. First, farmers should be allowed greater choices as to how their grain is shipped to market. In times of backlogs and strikes alternative ports including U.S. ports should be used to export Canadian grain.

The second recommendation we would like to put forth is that there is an excessive amount of overregulation and the rail transportation system is unable to respond effectively to market demands. The rail car allocation system needs to be less centralized and less regulated.

Personally I would like the ministers responsible to seriously consider the port of Churchill. It could be used to help alleviate the immediate crisis. I would like to also encourage the minister to develop a long term strategy for grain transportation using all ports: Vancouver, Thunder Bay, Churchill and the U.S.A.

On the longer term the Reform Party believes that permanent reforms are necessary to ensure that politics are removed from the transportation of grain. I emphasize the Reform Party believes that agricultural commodities should move to markets by any expeditious mode, by any route, and in any form or state of processing. Such decisions should be based exclusively on the principle of cost effectiveness and with the best interest of the customer in mind.

To this end the Reform Party makes the following recommendations. First, the Western Grain Transportation Act should be repealed and all transportations subsidies should be redirected to the Reform Party's proposed comprehensive safety nets

programs which will defend Canada's food producers against matters over which they have little or no control.

Second, in order to create a genuinely competitive transportation environment the Reform Party recommends the deregulation of the rail transportation system, turning control of the allocation of rail cars back to railways and the grain companies and eventually privatization of all rail cars. This would mean the end of the grain transportation agency and the senior grain transportation committee.

There are about 21,000 grain hopper cars in the system today and 18,500 are owned by the government. Reformers see no reason for the grain companies and the railways not to own their own rail cars. The free market should determine how many rail cars are needed and when and where they are needed in the system. The turnaround time for a rail car in the grain transportation system is between 20 and 25 days, and this turnaround time has not improved since 1908. By comparison, the potash industry in my riding has a turnaround time of between 7 and 8 days to the same ports. The potash industry leases its own rail cars and the grain industry should do the same.

As our final recommendation, during periods of labour disputes the Reform Party recommends the alternate use of shipping points, including U.S. ports. Should that not prove sufficient in maintaining shipment levels and customer satisfaction then they should legislate the grain handlers as an essential service.

A final point is in regard to the strategic use of the port of Churchill. The Hudson Bay Route Association has its office in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. For years this association has been effectively promoting the use of the port of Churchill as an alternate port for grain shipments. If the shipment of agricultural products is based exclusively on the principle of cost effectiveness and with the best interests of the customer in mind as the Reform Party proposes, the port of Churchill will be successful in attracting its fair share of the transportation market.

For example, and this is important, if CN will provide the boxcars this summer to an agricultural commodity broker he will move at least one and possibly two shiploads, that is 80,000 tonnes of pulse crops, through the port of Churchill to Europe at a saving of 60 cents per bushel. The Hudson Bay Route Association also maintains that if elevators are plugged and the grain bins are full then the boxcars designed for the Churchill run should be moving grain to Churchill and customers could be advised of the availability of grain at that port.

The Hudson Bay Route Association has also learned that the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA, gives away 750,000 tonnes of grain handling. It asks, if we are going to give that grain away, why we cannot direct those ships to pick up their grain at Churchill. It is a question that deserves an answer.

Even the Minister of Human Resources Development publicly supports greater utilization of the port of Churchill. The ministers of agriculture in both Saskatchewan and Manitoba publicly support greater use of the port of Churchill. The federal and provincial politicians agree that now is the time to actively promote the port of Churchill to grain customers throughout the world.

In closing I would like to point out that I was raised on a farm. I farmed myself for seven years just outside Yorkton. Farming is part of me. Farming is in my blood. Farming is my culture and my heritage. Farming is very special to me, so special that I do not want the government running it. The government is too involved in trying to solve the farmers' problems when farmers are quite capable of solving their own problems; if only the government would get out of the way.

I encourage members of the House to support the subcommittee's recommendations to help get the grain moving in the west. I also ask for support of the Reform Party's longer term solutions to our grain transportation system.

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9:45 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to note that the Reform Party supports the recommendations of the subcommittee on transportation and agriculture dealing with car shortage.

That committee's recommendation shows the kind of proactive approach the minister talked about in his resolution this morning. I would encourage the member opposite to read the transcripts of that hearing. It was not the excessive amount of regulation that was the problem with respect to car shortage. It was that the regulations were not enforced enough for the GTA.

With regard to the example of 1,000 cars of canola meal, that was a result of non-administrative product and it was the problem. It is not just a matter of less regulation; it is a matter of enforcing those regulations.

What would the member suggest the government should do with respect to the railways not living up to their obligations under the Western Grain Transportation Act in terms of providing the rolling stock and capital investment with which to move the product to market?

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9:45 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the recommendations of the committee with regard to that are sufficient.

In regard to something else, there is no incentive built into the system now for many of these bureaucrats to really get at some of the problems that underlie the whole grain handling system.

When one has over a dozen support programs and all the bureaucracies saying that they are trying to help the farmer and in effect working at cross purposes, it does not help. This is where I get back to what the Reform Party is saying.

We are saying that you should take all of these 11 departments of agriculture and get them to start working together. The best way you could do that is with the Canadian Wheat Board. Give farmers some control. Let them get involved. Right now it is run from the top down. We find this totally unacceptable. We are a populace party and we would like to see a lot more of the grassroots farmers supported and represented in these agencies.

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9:50 p.m.


Len Taylor NDP The Battlefords—Meadow Lake, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will not abuse your consideration. It will be a short question.

The member talked about wanting greater choices in the transportation opportunities for farmers. I am wondering if he is aware of the producer payment panel report on the Crow benefit that has just recently been produced and made public, a report that basically indicates that a pay the producer option means less money and fewer farmers on the land. Is that the program that he supports?

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9:50 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure of everything that the member is speaking about but I think we should put this money put back where farmers have control over it. Put this Crow subsidy money into a fund that is administered. We have proposed three of them. I am just going to briefly explain what I mean by this.

We could take these over a dozen consolidated, unco-ordinated support programs and put them into three major programs and use the funds that are now presently in the Crow subsidy and gradually eroding. We could put these into funds that would protect producers from unfair trade subsidies that other countries have, natural hazards and income fluctuations beyond their control. They would be effective and farmers would begin to be able to make some choices that would really make farming a profitable enterprise once again.

I think that is the kind of thing we would like to see happen in agriculture.

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9:50 p.m.


Jan Brown Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, how appropriate tonight that the Reform Party should have the last word.

Flying east to west the southern landscapes of Canada offer a panoramic view of fields and farms stretching to the horizon in a richly textured patchwork. This rich and productive farmland injects a massive boost to Canada's general economic activity and provides the most basic of all human needs, food.

Yet, agriculture remains a virtually invisible industry scarcely noticed by the media when more fashionable news captures the interests of consumers. Issues that do enter the public arena are treated as the preserve of an emotional special interest group or a sad but quaint relic of other times.

Agriculture in Canada in reality is a vital and integrated industry, including primary production, processing, marketing and delivery of a final product to the consumer. It remains a fundamental part of the economy and society affecting in subtle ways the development of our social policy in Canada and a changing economic agenda.

Three decades ago Canadians spent 25 per cent of their budget on food. Today we spend much less, 13 cents of every dollar and we get better quality and more consistent supplies than virtually any overseas country.

There is an established pattern of consumer demand that suggests stability for the short term but emerging trends may reshape food production in the long term. To anticipate changes in demand we need to know what already exists, what could be and what can be made to be. Managing what exists today was yesterday's business. Our task is to plan and manage what tomorrow may become.

Consider the following. In present day agriculture the interest of the consumer is almost constantly sacrificed to that of the producer. The system seems to consider production and not consumption as the object of all industry and commerce.

As a trading nation Canada must address the fact that the global neighbourhood is a place of change. A neighbour of today may not be there tomorrow. Where is the Bloc?

Globalization really boils down to a definition that means jobs and money now go in search of skill and income levels regardless of distance and borders. The production process takes place over thousands of kilometres and is co-ordinated by instant communication.

Now how will these global changes affect our current levels of domestic production? What kind of planning process needs to be in place to address the future needs of not only Canada but the world? What kind of trading agreements will need to be negotiated with countries such as China? Our current government policies do not give serious consideration to these issues. They regulate for today with little thought for tomorrow.

In the year 2000 earth's inhabitants are expected to be 6.4 billion and 10 billion by 2030. Before the world reaches population stability food demands could be three times today's level, but arable land is expected to increase by the year 2000 only to the extent of 4 per cent worldwide. So traditional methods of improving crop yields will be hard pressed to make up the difference between population and farm land growth.

In Canada the government has had a unique pervasiveness and integrated relationship with agriculture because of the highly disbursed nature of farming and the limited size of the individual enterprise. Because of the importance of a strong agricultural sector to the overall competitiveness of the economy, it is imperative that Canada develop an industry that takes advantage of its specific natural and human resources.

Practically speaking, consumers eventually get what they want. Just how quickly and efficiently that happens measures a supplier's success. How readily Canada anticipates and responds to emerging demands will become an important yardstick determining her competitive advantage or lack thereof. And so while the world waits, Canadian consumers also present a very real and current challenge. They create demand and they consume the product.

About 90 per cent of the people who are here now will be here at the turn of the century, I am very happy to say. Canada like many other countries is approaching zero population growth. Beginning in about the year 2010 if no dramatic change in fertility or immigration occur our population will start to decline. This implies weak domestic opportunities for growth and increasing competition at all levels.

As well, there are growing concerns for food safety which places further pressure on government as well as distributors as consumers become more aware of the food chain. It is an irony of the food industry that it takes a lot of work to be natural.

Opportunities exist to attempt new communication approaches to more effectively manage the public's worry about food safety. There are implications for increased costs to the consumer. Government too needs to accept responsibility for developing regulations that assure producers remain competitive within this food safety conscious environment.

Regulations have been mentioned prior to my presentation tonight. They are an insidious form of hidden taxation and any assessment of the tax environment in Canada should also consider its regulatory climate. It is complex with many departments unable to work independently of one another because of the current structure. Can you imagine implementing even the slightest regulatory change when regulatory amendments have to go through 80 to 90 offices before they can be gazetted. It is taxpayers' money that continues to support this huge monolithic structure.

Government now has an opportunity to encourage initiative and innovation to meet changing expectations, heightened competition, industrial evolution and risk. Its responsibility becomes one that must not limit innovation by overregulating. As well the regulatory process has to be streamlined to allow for timely and effective change to meet the needs of the marketplace.

How do we become market responsive? We know the characteristics of the consumers we wish to serve. We know the emerging reality of increased competition in the marketplace and of the new global trading environment regulated by GATT rules and the NAFTA alliance.

NAFTA raises questions of basic rights and obligations regarding issues related to sanitation and vital sanitary measures for agriculture. Technical standards such as these are based upon scientific principles and risk assessment.

We understand also that distortions to world markets and prices for commodities have been the result of subtle but invasive farm policies worldwide. And the cost of protection is getting higher and higher.

Currently a number of sectors of the agriculture industry are production driven under supply management regulations. This continuation of such regulation does not bode well for the consumer who seeks choice in an open market environment. It is time to redefine supply management and to decide what Canadians want in terms of farm policy.

To achieve this, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food should be asking how to achieve an orderly marketing system in Canada, how to handle imports, how to harmonize the current quotas given to producers in order to shield consumers from short market disasters. The standing committee has been hesitant to date to look into these matters. Why?

We know that a farm policy is no substitute for realistic rural policy. Guaranteed prices do not prevent bankruptcies, and being self-sufficient does not ensure food security.

To those who remain in the House tonight and to those on the agriculture committee, it is time to be courageous in leadership and to demonstrate that development of new opportunities demand a new approach, and then go and do it. It is no longer enough to follow where the path is going.

It is time to go where there is no path and blaze our own trail.

AgricultureGovernment Orders

9:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

It being 10 p.m., pursuant to order made Friday, May 6, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 10 p.m.)