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House of Commons Hansard #98 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was board.


Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with considerable attention and what surprised me is how strongly the hon. member for Malpeque supports the Canadian Wheat Board. Like him, I come from the East, from Quebec to be more accurate, and I have four questions to put to the hon. member for Malpeque. These questions could require long explanations but I would be happy with a short answer.

Is the hon. member for Malpeque proud of the Canadian Wheat Board? Does the hon. member for Malpeque think that, in the past 12 months, the Canadian Wheat Board was dynamic enough in finding new markets? Could the hon. member for Malpeque tell us if he believes that the Canadian Wheat Board is democratic enough? Finally, does the hon. member for Malpeque believe that the appointment of members by the government, by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council, is today, in 1994, a good thing, as it was in 1949?

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely proud of the Canadian Wheat Board. I have been fortunate enough to have travelled internationally. Farmers around the world look at the Canadian Wheat Board and wish they had an agency like it.

The Canadian Wheat Board over the past 12 years has been aggressive. It can be improved in terms of its aggression in some areas. We have to understand that one of the difficulties the Canadian Wheat Board has had is that we had a government in Canada for the past nine years that did not believe in the principles of the Canadian Wheat Board and did everything it could to undermine the ability of the board to operate as effectively as possible.

In terms of democracy, I mentioned a moment ago the Canadian Wheat Board advisory committee. Looking at the record over the last nine years of the previous government, the one that lost the last election, it did not use the Canadian Wheat Board advisory committee which was the elected representative of farmers. It did not want to hear what those elected representatives of the farmers had to say in terms of support for the wheat board. The previous government undermined those democrati-

cally elected producers, the mass majority of which support the Canadian Wheat Board in the west.

In terms of commissioners there are several concepts of marketing. If commissioners are appointed, they should sit at the pleasure of the government. I personally believe we should conduct an investigation to ensure that the commissioners appointed by the previous government are operating in the interest of the policies of strenghthening and maintaining the Canadian Wheat Board and are not trying to undermine it from within. The principle of appointing commissioners is that the government appoints those with expertise in marketing. It is not like an election where people are elected by popularity. They are appointed for their expertise in marketing, those who will do the best job of marketing on behalf of producers.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the hon. member for Malpeque.

First I want some clarification. The member said we condone the law breaking that is going on by farmers shipping wheat over the border to the United States without a wheat board permit. This is absolutely untrue. He is deliberating distorting what Reform has presented.

As well the member said that the Reform Party is out to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board. He knows he is distorting the truth. We are not out to destroy the wheat board.

I have three questions. Does the member's party support him in his left wing purely socialist view in regard to the Canadian Wheat Board? Does the member believe that farmers should determine how they run their organization, the Canadian Wheat Board, or does he hold his strong socialist principles in such esteem that he refuses to give farmers control over their organization?

My last question is with regard to the advisory committee representing 110 permit book holders. What power does it have? I will answer that one because he will not. It has no power whatsoever. Why not elect a board of directors that has power?

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I will try to keep my answer short. In response to the first question I may have misinterpreted the Reform Party. I hope that one of its members will get up on a point of order later today and ask that the government charge those people violating the laws of the land. Maybe that would clarify it specifically.

These members have tried to talk about inefficiencies. I just want to make one point before I sit down. The Canadian Wheat Board has reduced its staff substantially over the last number of years. In fact, with a staff of 430 the wheat board transacts $4.5 billion to $5 billion worth of business annually which translates into an administrative cost of less than 3.5 cents per bushel for wheat and 2.8 cents per bushel for barley. That is amazing efficiency on the part of the wheat board in terms of operating for producers.

As the member knows full well, the democracy is in the election of the Canadian Wheat Board advisory committee which advises the board on matters. Democracy also exists in terms of this party campaigning in the last election that it would strengthen and maintain the wheat board and stand by it. We intend to do that. We have been elected to do that and I stand by that commitment.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to enter into this debate. I would like to make my points of view known with regard to Bill C-50 and possibly make some remarks on some of the issues that have been raised in this assembly.

As we know the bill has as its main purpose to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act. It allows members of the House to look at the Canadian Wheat Board in its broader sense and make some judgments and certainly make our points of view known in this assembly with regard to those matters.

Bill C-50 is set before us with one specific purpose. It allows a voluntary deduction from the final payment cheques of wheat and barley producers for the purpose of plant breeding research programs. That should be the focus of our discussion but certainly other items could be raised in the general arena.

When we talk about a voluntary check-off we should also recognize that this is somewhat of a taxation on producers. The producers of the country should have some kind of right to determine whether they accept it or not.

We know that in bringing the legislation forward a number of industry representatives have given support to the program and that is good. The farmers involved in those organizations have been consulted and we think that is good as well.

We recognize the driving force behind the legislation has not been the government in total, even though it may take credit for it through its red book. Rather, the Western Grains Research Foundation has initiated it and through a variety of actions has made it possible that the amendment has come before us today.

That research organization is made up of 12 prairie farm organizations. It certainly has done some excellent work in the area of funding research for Canadian farmers.

A number of successful WGRF funded research projects have already been undertaken at Agriculture Canada Research Centre located in my constituency of Lethbridge. I would like to recognize those here today.

There is a communication to the hon. member for Vegreville from the chairman of the board of directors of the Western Grains Research Foundation. Mr. Roy Piper indicated that the Western Grains Research Foundation since its incorporation in 1981 had been working toward improved funding of grains related research.

"We now provide grants of about $1 million annually. An accumulative total of our grants paid and committed through 1996 is $11.5 million". He goes on to say: "Of this amount, 50 per cent has gone into projects in plant breeding in wheat, barley, canola, pulse crops and plants. Most of this money has been paid to Agriculture Canada research stations and the Universities of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta". I can only commend the organization for providing that support. A number of benefits have certainly occurred to us as farmers.

In my constituency one project should be of note. Research funded through the research grants is going on in the area of biological control of the Russian wheat aphid, which if allowed to continue to spread could be very devastating to our grain production in southern Alberta and other parts of Canada.

One of the other items of note is a funded project at the University of Alberta. They are applying biotechnology to reduce green seed in canola. We all recognize that having green seed in our canola certainly downgrades the canola and downgrades the net return to the Canadian farmer.

The Reform Party is supporting Bill C-50 largely because of the support expressed for it by the major stakeholders in the grain industry and because of the excellent work since 1981 of the Western Grains Research Foundation and the projects it has funded.

The central feature of the bill as has been recognized and outlined by the minister is the voluntary nature of the program. Western wheat and barley producers would voluntarily pay levies of 20 cents a tonne on wheat and 40 cents a tonne on barley. I do not think there is any necessity to go into detail but this then makes it incumbent upon the government in terms of accountability for this tax.

The request is 20 cents per tonne on wheat and 40 cents per tonne on barley. It is my hope there will not be an abnormal increase in that funding imposed by the government. If there is any kind of increase in funding it should be done with the co-operation of not only the farm organizations we have talked about today but also Canadian farmers as well, because it is a tax. It is a cost to us as farmers.

There is also the inclusion of an opt out provision. That opt out provision is expected to have a number of beneficial outcomes. It introduces a degree of market discipline that is difficult to create in a bureaucratic setting. The voluntary aspect of the program-and I hope it does not change-allows farmers who disagree with how the WGRF operates or with how it is allocating its funds to effectively withhold their contributions until the research foundation responds to their objections. This should help to ensure that the research foundation acts in a responsible and a very responsive fashion.

Another benefit provided by the voluntary nature of Bill C-50 is that it provides a degree of flexibility for the farmers depending on their needs and their interests. Hard-pressed farmers would not be forced to contribute to the program nor would farmers who have had an unexpectedly bad harvest be expected to contribute. Likewise, if farmers do not feel they will benefit from the research being conducted, they cannot be compelled to participate.

As my colleague from Vegreville explained earlier, the Reform Party will support Bill C-50 both because of the voluntary nature of the check-off and because of the support it has received from the farmer groups in the Western Grains Research Foundation. However, there are some aspects of the bill that raise concern in my mind.

A potential problem is that Bill C-50 might be looked at by government as a way to shift the cost of its research and development responsibilities to the farmers. According to the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food the $4.7 million that is expected to be generated each year by the check-off for plant breeding research is in addition to what the government already spends on agricultural research and development.

In other words this is not a reallocation of funds from within the current budget, but rather an additional research and development initiative controlled by a private sector organization that is designed to complement the existing government research efforts.

When taking this into consideration with the effects of inflation government support for agricultural research has decreased in recent years. If the government makes further cuts to agricultural research programs then the impact on the research foundation program will be seriously undermined.

Nobody is disputing that producers have a role to play in supporting agricultural research. They are the ones who benefit directly from such spending and it only makes sense that they bear some of the costs. However, Canadian farmers need government support to survive in a global marketplace that is awash in agricultural subsidies. At a time when governments of the United States, the European Community and Australia are all increasing their financial support for plant breeding programs, the Canadian government should not reduce its own support.

Any attempt to make the WGRF an alternative to publicly funded research rather than a complement to it will adversely affect the competitiveness of Canada's agricultural industry. Today in the House the minister assured us that the government will not reduce its present contribution in terms of research and development in the area of wheat and barley. I respect him for making that statement in the House. As an opposition member and a member from the farming community of Alberta I intend to hold him accountable to the commitment he has made to this assembly.

As I said earlier one of the most attractive features of the bill is the voluntary nature of the check-off. The Reform Party would like to see this philosophy extended even further. We believe Canadian exporters of grain should not be forced to operate exclusively through the Canadian Wheat Board.

Reform is encouraging the implementation of special opting out provisions for entrepreneurs interested in developing special niche export markets. If individual farmers believe they can get a better price for their produce, especially barley, than the price negotiated by the Canadian Wheat Board then we believe they should be given the freedom to do so.

Instead of allowing farmers this freedom the present government has already demonstrated it will support the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly. The best example of this is what happened when farmers this year tried to take advantage of high prices in the American market. Rather than encouraging such a growth of an entrepreneurial spirit, Revenue Canada and the Canadian Wheat Board instead worked together to impose heavy fines on all prairie grain farmers attempting to transport grain into the United States for direct sale to customers.

When we in Reform talk about opting out provisions, be it for the plant research check-off in Bill C-50 or for the broader questions of farmers opting out of the Canadian Wheat Board pooling system of export of grain, what we are really talking about is choice. Farmers must be given the choice to control their own lives. The Reform Party has serious doubts about whether the Canadian Wheat Board as it is currently organized is capable of providing the flexibility and choice demanded now by Canadian farmers.

A good place to start is to undertake a review of the Canadian Wheat Board. I am not suggesting that the Canadian Wheat Board should be disbanded. There is a lot of support for the Canadian Wheat Board, but there is a lot of support for change as to how it operates.

For many years now the Canadian Wheat Board has played a vital role in assisting individual farmers to penetrate foreign grain markets. However I am suggesting it has a virtual monopoly over all sales. This virtual monopoly is unnecessary and serves only to stifle the initiative of those farmers who wish to market on their own.

Another aspect of the Canadian Wheat Board that should be reassessed is its undemocratic nature. Because the board of directors is appointed by the government there is no democratic way for producers who support greater freedom from the Canadian Wheat Board to influence its actions. Reformers believe that steps must be taken to democratize the Canadian Wheat Board. We have already had a discussion in the House about that.

The people who are now on the Canadian Wheat Board are political appointments. Most likely most of them were appointed by the last government. I am sure it is going to be the intent of this government as soon as it is possible to take those people out of their appointed positions and appoint its political friends. But where do farmers stand in that kind of action? Farmers do not have a role in determining who represents them and one of the most important boards in this nation, the Canadian Wheat Board, has a monopoly.

The present government appointment system should be changed to a board of directors consisting of producers elected through a fair and open electoral process. The first thing this would accomplish is to increase the legitimacy of the Canadian Wheat Board. Farmers would know they have had a means of influencing wheat board policy through exercising their vote. They would also be more likely to accept wheat board decisions made by a democratically elected board.

Flowing from this democratization would be the improved responsiveness of the wheat board. Not only would election of board members encourage candidates to listen to farmers' concerns but farmers would be in a position to hold wheat board members accountable at election time.

In conclusion, let me quickly review the main points I have tried to make here today.

Reformers have decided to support Bill C-50 for two reasons. First, we believe that the voluntary check-off provides farmers with a degree of flexibility and choice in how their money is spent and invested in their future. Second, we are optimistic that this will encourage the Western Grains Research Foundation to be responsive to farmers' concerns. As well, we support Bill C-50 because it allows producer organizations, in this case the Western Grains Research Foundation, to have more say over their own destiny. Decisions on how to spend the moneys raised by the check-off will be made by the private sector stakeholders, not by the government.

Finally I have argued today that much remains to be done to improve Canadian agriculture. Specifically there is need for a reform of the Canadian Wheat Board. By advocating the democratization of its board of directors we hope to encourage the

creation of a more flexible, more responsive Canadian Wheat Board for the farmers of Canada.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Madam Speaker, on behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus I would like to join in making some comments on Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act.

The Liberal government is amending the Canadian Wheat Board Act to introduce the voluntary check-off program for wheat and barley research. I believe this is a very good move on behalf of the government and on behalf of the producers and those who support this move.

It is reminiscent of the pulse crop producers in Saskatchewan who over the years have had check-offs on their crops, on their production for the purpose of research, for the purpose of enhancing their markets, for the purpose of providing greater returns for agriculture in the pulse crops that are produced in the province of Saskatchewan.

It has proven very successful there. I predict it will be very successful if it is managed properly by the government and by the administrators for the wheat and barley end of it as well.

The proposed check-off has been debated by western farmers over the last few years. There is no major opposition to the concepts and the government is responding to a proposal from the Western Grains Research Foundation. The proposal was developed by producers and farm organizations, the research community and the Canadian Wheat Board.

The Western Grains Research Foundation is proposing a 20 cents per tonne check-off on wheat and a 40 cents per tonne check-off on barley. This could produce an estimated $3.8 million for wheat and $900,000 for barley. The levies will be deducted from the CWB final payments beginning with those for the 1993-94 crop year. These funds would be automatically transferred to special accounts set up and administered by the WGRF.

The bill excludes check-off on soft wheat and barley marketed at delivery points in Alberta. This is a point that requires further review and explanation. The Alberta government has introduced a long list of check-offs on farm products.

It is our view in the case of barley producers that some of the money is being used in a permanent campaign against the Canadian Wheat Board. All farmers should be in the check-off as proposed in this bill. Alberta farmers will obtain the benefits of plant research financed by Saskatchewan and Manitoba farmers while the Alberta barley growers association uses its check-off to attack the Canadian Wheat Board which is trying to build its industry.

If the Alberta barley producers want to maintain a check-off for political purposes, it would be their business. If the aim of the check-off is to foster plant breeding research to reduce the administrative costs of the check-off, since the barley growers association, including Alberta producers, members of the WGRF and others, there is no logical explanation to exclude them from this voluntary check-off.

I have a question for the member for Lethbridge, a member of the Reform Party. How do the member and the Reform Party square their support for the bill and yet do not support the Alberta farmers from being involved in the check-off, contributing to the research and contributing to the benefit of their industry and using their money to contradict and campaign against the CWB?

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Madam Speaker, I certainly can only respond in a general sense rather than in a specific sense.

My understanding is that the Alberta barley growers have as their purpose and function to promote their organization and to make contributions to research. To say that they are just a political body I would not agree with that. They are trying to make a case that the wheat board is not serving their purpose.

More of a concern about the Canadian Wheat Board comes from individual barley producers who are financing their own campaign against the wheat board. They are entrepreneurs who feel that they can market on their own and can develop a market in the United States and other places in the world. They would like the opportunity and privilege to do so. What we should do in the Canadian Wheat Board legislation is allow for that to happen.

We cannot have producers having their cake and eating it. There would have to be some kind of a provision that if a producer wishes to do it on their own and go out into the free marketplace as an individual producer then they have to take that risk and not be able to all of a sudden jump back into the Canadian Wheat Board when something looks better in that case. Therefore there has to be some kind of a trade-off done through the Canadian Wheat Board legislation.

I believe that Alberta producers want to play their part in research and development, specifically in barley.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.


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

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to discuss Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act.

The purpose of the bill is to allow for a voluntary check-off on board sales of wheat in four western provinces and the sales of barley in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia. The funds collected, an amount estimated to be $4.7 million a year,

would be administered by the Western Grains Research Foundation and would be used for plant breeding research.

The research moneys would be directed toward improving farm income through two main mechanisms: by improving the field performance of barley and wheat through varieties with increased disease and pest resistance, and by developing varieties with specific qualities required by the marketplace.

The CWB act is specific in the terms of the deductions that can be made from final payments. The bill would amend the CWB act to allow voluntary research check-offs to be made. There are a number of key provisions in the bill which are worth taking note of.

The CWB would now be legally empowered to make voluntary deductions from final payments to producers of wheat and barley for the purpose of plant breeding and research. We are really talking about responsible legislation from the government that in essence is helping western Canadian grain farmers ensure the future and viability of the industry.

The program is voluntary but I believe that participation will be high as most farmers, including myself, realize the importance of research and development. The program has the potential to bring in $4.7 million in additional plant breeding research. This figure is significant in light of the fact that Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research centres spent $18.7 million on wheat research in 1991-92 and a further $10.5 million for barley.

Plant researchers have expressed the belief that a well co-ordinated and adequately funded research program over 10 to 15 years in all western wheat classes could lead to the development of varieties that are 15 per cent higher yielding and equal in protein to current varieties.

Based on a current price of $125 per tonne for wheat, the preceding implies that the gross total return for the research levy is projected to be worth approximately $400 million to the prairie farmers annually.

Producer funded research programs are not new. This type of initiative is well established and conforms to our GATT obligations, as producer funded programs are not subject to any restrictions. Over 15 U.S. states have check-off programs on wheat. These are made at the state level and are deducted at first point of sale.

The levy can be refunded by request within 60 days. The check-offs are generally voluntary and have a high level of participation. In general most funds are used for market development activities and domestic production. Research also receives a small portion of the levy fund.

There is also an Australian example. The Australian wheat board has a wheat industry fund levy that has been in place since the 1989-90 crop year. In this case a non-voluntary levy is used in part to fund plant breeding research. It is set at approximately 1.5 per cent of the return price. As all hon. members can see, Canada is not breaking new ground here; we are simply catching up.

Another key aspect of the bill is the provision made by way of order in council for fixing the rate of deductions and for excluding from deductions certain grains and/or classes of grains for certain regions within Canada. A study of the needs for enhanced plant breeding programs in wheat and barley has shown the need for an additional $3 million annually in wheat and $1 million in barley.

The business plan of the WGRF proposes a check-off of 20 cents per tonne or a half cent per bushel of wheat, and 40 cents per tonne or about one cent a bushel for barley.

I believe this is a small price to pay. The world grain industry today has a high dependence on export markets. Consumers demand both stability of supply and the quality of the product for their end use requirements. The ability to meet these demands provides a competitive advantage for Canada.

Satisfaction of both these demands depends to a large extent on the genetic make-up and the varieties grown by barley and wheat producers in Canada. It is expected that there will be significant growth in demand, not only in the heavily populated Pacific rim nations but around the world, particularly for the quality and quantities of grain that western Canada has so far been unable to supply.

Canada must be able to respond rapidly to new demands for the varieties of wheat suitable for specific end use such as frozen bread dough and noodles. Meeting this challenge could mean significant new market opportunities for western producers.

The bill also provides for the deposit of the amount of deductions from the final payments into a special account, by way of order in council providing for the ultimate distribution of those amounts to the account through the WGRF to the various organizations where needed.

These would include governments, organizations, corporations, foundations, educational institutions and other bodies having among their objectives the support of scientific research to develop and improve wheat and barley varieties.

The WGRF is made up of 12 major prairie farm organizations, including the United Grain Growers, the Manitoba Pool Elevators and the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. The board of directors is made up of these 12 organizations as well as one representative from the research branch of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada which will collectively set their priorities.

The program has been designed with its own checks and balances. There is accountability at the individual producer level since a person can flag their support or disapproval by opting out of the program. There is accountability at the institutional level since the WGRF is made up of such a broad base of farm groups.

The WGRF which will be overseeing the research also represents the interests of its member organizations. There are costs associated with the program. The CWB has estimated a one-time setup cost of $56,800 and the annual costs of approximately $55,700. The WGRF has estimated its total costs at $50,000.

The total administrative costs are estimated to be less than 2 per cent of the research funds generated and will be deducted from the levy funds. The proposed bill obliges the WGRF to provide annual reports to both the producers and the federal government of their activities.

What we have finally is a recognition that producers have an important role to play in an activity that is directly related to their livelihood.

Producer funding is increasingly important because plant breeding of wheat and barley has been eroded by so many years of inflation. By allowing producers to have such a direct role in this process they can contribute directly to ensuring the future and viability of their industry.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Madam Speaker, the main political issue of Bill C-50 would be the opening up of the Canadian Wheat Board Act. That is the view of the New Democratic Party caucus. We are a bit concerned about opening it up even though it is for a good purpose. Inadvertently this may have a negative effect on the wheat board and its operation.

The reason I mention this point is that members of the Reform Party are demanding freedom to choose. They want referenda and other approaches to the wheat board and its orderly marketing process. It is my view and the view of some farmers I represent in the province of Saskatchewan that it poses a possible threat to the stability of the board.

I want to ask the Liberal member if the government could give some assurance or a clear statement on the future of the wheat board and to confirm again the government's commitment to orderly marketing and its election promise to ensure that the Canadian Wheat Board is an ongoing strong, single desk marketing agency.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


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

Madam Speaker, I understand where the hon. member is coming from with this. First, the bill allows for more funding and is actually GATT responsive. That is one thing we have to look at here.

To allay his concerns as to whether or not it is backed, I just want to read off some of the grassroots organizations that have already said they approved. The list includes the Prairie Pools Incorporated, Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, Manitoba Pool Elevators, the Alberta Wheat Pool, the Canadian Seed Growers Association, the Saskatchewan Seed Growers Association, the United Grain Growers, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers and Keystone Agricultural Producers.

I do not think the hon. member has anything to worry about concerning the Canadian Wheat Board in the future.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, I have a question for the member opposite. He spoke about the support the bill has from all of the different organizations. I believe he went on to list 12 organizations that had indicated support.

Would he also have enough confidence to seek direct support from producers by making it possible for them to say when they apply for a permit book whether or not they support this type of check-off? I suggest to the member opposite that although there is a lot of institutional support, these people may not speak for the majority of farmers. The fact that they have to continually reapply to get this check-off back if they do not support it is very cumbersome.

Let us give producers the option of indicating whether they support this when they apply for their permit book. Would he support that?

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.


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

Madam Speaker, the key here-we have to take a look at what is being discussed in the bill-is the word voluntary. That is exactly what we are discussing here.

As a poultry producer, I have a lot of faith in my industry. I know what research and development means for the chicken industry. I hope that wheat and barley producers have that same commitment to their industry and that they want to put money into research and development.

In looking at research and development in this industry, if the researchers see they have the backing of the people who are involved in the industry itself, they will go a lot farther in the development of wheat and barley for the world market.

Let us face it. Canada is an exporting nation. If we have the best quality wheat and barley product to put forward on the world market, I know we can go farther. I will cite members an example in the chicken industry.

In the 1960s, it took us 14 to 16 weeks to produce a four-pound chicken and we said: "Wow, that is as far as we can go". I do it in 36 days now and through research and development, they are also talking about a 30-day chicken. Wheat and barley is no different.

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1:20 p.m.


John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in favour of Bill C-50, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act.

I commend the minister of agriculture for the work he is doing to improve the prospect of the Canadian farmer. My riding of Oxford has a large variety of agricultural production. The north end of the riding is dominated by livestock, mostly dairy. Just north of Woodstock is the Western Ontario Breeders Incorporated which collects, tests, stores and sells semen around the world for the artificial insemination of cattle. Toward the south end of the riding, we have a predominance of tobacco production. Over the past decade as tobacco has decreased, these producers have looked for alternative crops to grow on the sandy soil of the tobacco belt.

We have found that not many crops are successfully grown in this soil. As one moves throughout tobacco areas, one can see the occasional farm growing ginseng or peanuts. However not all farmers can afford to make this change, nor can we have these markets flooded by new producers.

Another experimental crop which was successfully introduced this year on a limited acreage by Mr. Joe Strobel of Tillsonburg was hemp. This crop was harvested last month and will be used in the production of hemp clothing.

This is why this bill is important to my region. The provisions in the bill for research and development of new crops is good for all Canadian farmers. It is hoped that this research may even develop a new wheat or barley variety that could be successfully grown on lighter land such as that formerly used for tobacco.

We sometimes forget just how competitive the agricultural industry is world wide. With our shorter growing season in Canada, we must take full advantage of improvements in crop and livestock variety and quality in order to finish ahead of the competition.

If research can develop new and better crops that can be used for human and livestock consumption, then we can forge new markets around the world. These new markets will not only develop income for our farmers but will generate employment throughout Canada.

As this country has moved from a primarily agrarian economy to our present industrial and information age economy, we sometimes forget how important agriculture continues to be not only for the food it produces but for the jobs it creates. Jobs in our transportation networks, packing plants and food processing plants are all dependent on agriculture.

As every farmer knows, the greatest resource we have is the land. This land is a farmer's capital. It is our basic resource and our goal has to be to preserve the land and to make it as productive as possible. The research that is called for in this bill is good for all Canadian farmers.

I would like to address a few remarks to my hon. friends from Lethbridge and Peace River. I had the pleasure last week to sit with the advisory committee of the Canadian Wheat Board. This is an elected body of grain farmers from the various regions of the grain provinces of Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta.

To a man these elected representatives supported the Canadian Wheat Board largely because of its success in marketing our grain and because of its pooled selling. There was some discussion about the possibility of some entrepreneurial ventures regarding barley. I am sure that will be discussed by the board. There are farmers elected who give input to this board. I was pleased to meet with them and to know that they were satisfied with what was being done.

When the bill becomes law we will be able to say to our farmers that we have passed a law that will improve the ability of the Canadian farmer to compete in international markets. This is a strong step forward for Canadian farmers and the Canadian agri-food industry as a whole.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


Jean-Guy Chrétien Bloc Frontenac, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Oxford, who represents his riding so well, just told us once again that he wishes western producers would pay 40 cents and 20 cents per metric tonne for R&D; he also expressed in the same breath the hope that tobacco producers who can no longer grow tobacco will benefit from research spin-offs.

I wonder whether the hon. member for Oxford is not a little dependent on Western producers for his region's development. If it is good for his region, he should urge his government to rack its brains to find a way to make everyone-or at least those who may eventually benefit from agricultural R&D-pay.

In addition, I would like to ask the hon. member for Oxford, who also seems very happy with the Canadian Wheat Board, to enumerate some improvements that would make the board more active, vigorous and democratic. I must tell you, Madam Speaker, that the Canadian Wheat Board is far from enjoying unanimous support in the west. Most producers want to keep it, but most of them also want the Canadian Wheat Board to make major changes, in particular at the senior management level.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.


John Finlay Liberal Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, my hon. friend raises some interesting points. He might be encouraged to know that the wheat farmers of Oxford county and of other parts of Ontario are already paying a dollar a tonne into a fund for research.

Probably he is also aware that the Flue-Cured Tobacco Growers Marketing Board takes a certain amount from each pound of tobacco that is sold through their marketing agency. The money is used for exactly what he is concerned about,

research into varieties and improving the production of tobacco in Oxford, Norfolk and Elgin counties.

I am not sure that Frontenac is any closer to western Canada than Oxford. I am sure that all farmers are interested in maintaining the best possible production in all parts of the country. Research is essential.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Madam Speaker, I was looking for question period. I thought I would get out of this before that started.

It is a privilege for me to address the bill and I am going to address it more or less in a way that a Reform farmer does, not a Reform politician.

I thank the hon. member for Malpeque for all the free publicity for Reform he is giving us. We really appreciate that. It is good advertising.

The spirit of Bill C-50 goes in the right direction. The spirit is good. The increase in private funding for research, pretty well every farmer supports. I am starting to wonder who drew up the bill. When I look at the body of the bill it looks very sick, very old and very decrepit. I do not think it is going to provide the incentive this money is supposed to give.

To me it looks like it must have been a Liberal lawyer drawing it up, not a Liberal farmer because I am sure some of the clauses would be different.

We take a look at clause 31(3) and all of a sudden I realize we have another agency. The agency is called the western research fund and if we look at the track record of federal agencies we know that they usually have deficits, not surpluses. When we look further on we will see that is exactly what the next clause says. It says the cost of collecting these moneys will be deducted from distributed moneys. What have we left over?

I am becoming very suspicious that there will not be very much money for research which we originally intended.

We go back down to the other clause, and all of a sudden we find out we have another fund, a reserve fund, more administration. How much cost is there going to be to the administration of this 20 cents a bushel levy? It does not end there.

Then we go to clause 33(2) and it says there will be provisions made that certain projects are not eligible for this funding and certain research projects that do not pertain to research on these products could be funded. There is no clear direction in the bill.

We go down further to clause 33(3) and we are talking of an annual report that will have to be made to the minister but there are no guidelines that say what kind of a report. It will be at the minister's discretion what kind of report. Is it going to be a report saying it is minus or plus? Or is it going to show us which projects were funded? Why is there no body to the bill? I want some body in the bill.

Then we go further down and we find the door is left wide open to whatever we can think of. If it is at the minister's discretion to call the report, why call for something when there are irregularities in it, especially if the government of that day would not like the irregularities.

Why not put out a bill that is simple and will direct these funds to the research that we want to target? It is very simple. As I mentioned the other day, give farmers the choice. In the next federal election the hon. member on the other side would be really provoked if he were forced to mark his ballot Reform and then ask for it back because he did not agree to vote for Reform. Let us try it and see what they will say. Maybe they all will vote Reform. Maybe it is going to be that impressive. If we want democracy let us have it everywhere.

I am not surprised, if I look at the bill, that we have problems in government. If bills about immigration and bills about law and justice are so vague and so unpredictable no wonder we have lawyers having the richest industry in the world today. To me as a farmer if I want to support something I want to have that right to say so. I do not want somebody to tell me you put this money in here and then if you have time, if you feel things are not right you can ask for it back. I want that money to go to research. That is why I suggest very strongly to the government, if it wants my support as a farmer, to give me that opportunity. I will guarantee that if farmers have that opportunity the government will get more money for check-off to research funding than it will otherwise.

I have another suggestion for the government. If we really want to co-operate in the House why not ask some of the Reform members on this side to help draft the bill because I know it can be improved. The intent is tremendous. We want to co-operate. It is always suggested that we do not want to co-operate. Any member on this side could draw up a bill that would direct that money specifically to the research that we wanted.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Prince Edward—Hastings Ontario


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

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed the comments of the member for Lisgar-Marquette. I guess that is about as far as we can say, that they were enjoyable.

I do want to point out to the member from the Reform Party that it keeps stressing that decisions like this by governments should be producer driven. There are already, as he and the Reform Party well know, 12 farm organizations and others requesting addition to the list. I do not really know what more they want than that type of thing. The legislation is producer driven and we as a government are responding to that at absolutely no taxpayer cost whatsoever other than providing a very efficient administrative process or availability to do so.

When I mention that it is clearly stated in the bill that Alberta barley producers will not be taking part. I would ask the member if he has any comments on the fact that since the Alberta barley growers through the Alberta barley commission have their own fund which they voluntarily submit money to, would he consider suggesting to the Alberta barley commission that it become part of this research situation?

When we look at the figures of the amount of money that the Alberta barley commission collects, it collects $1.11 million and spends $270,000 or 24 per cent of the amount of money that it collects on administration. When it is done through the Canadian Wheat Board it will cost 2 per cent.

Would the member for Lisgar-Marquette and his Reform Party colleagues consider suggesting to the Alberta barley producers who certainly want a good return on their dollar that it would be a much better return?

The Reform Party is always talking about administrative costs and wastes. We see 24 per cent used on administration and less than 50 per cent of what it collects used on research, market development, producer servicing and policy development. That same organization is sitting on an annual surplus of farmers' money that it is doing absolutely nothing with after having collected it of $295,839.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Madam Speaker, I do not have all those figures available that readily. I do not know all the Alberta barley producers but I can guarantee the hon. member that if they are not paying their fair share in research, they will.

He says they have representation from all farmers and that the wheat board is doing such a fantastic job for farmers. I remind the hon. member that in 1993 after staff reductions, after tremendous cuts, salaries to the Canadian Wheat Board increased by $1.4 million.

Not only that, the advisory group spent $50,000 more on travel and sold 15 per cent less last week than the year before. They should not try to tell me that it is working for farmers. Last fall the wheat board and the provincial and federal governments told us there was no market for our tombstone wheat.

Farmers in southern Manitoba marketed that wheat within hours. My son sold his whole crop of wheat in four hours. There was a good market for it and a good price. They should not tell me that all farm organizations are always supporting farmers or doing the best job because I get a little riled up.

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Charlie Penson Reform Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, I have a question for the member for Lisgar-Marquette.

I am a farmer in the Canadian Wheat Board area. We have heard a number of speakers on the other side who are not in the Canadian Wheat Board area extolling the values of the Canadian Wheat Board. A lot of these people who have spoken earlier belong to an area called the Ontario Wheat Board in which the directors are elected rather than appointed as with the Canadian Wheat Board. Does the member for Lisgar-Marquette agree that the Ontario Wheat Board model of an elected body rather than appointed is better than the current one we have at the Canadian Wheat Board?

Canadian Wheat Board ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Jake Hoeppner Reform Lisgar—Marquette, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for that question. If I read the Liberal red book on the fairness it is portraying that everybody will get under that government, I am sure the Liberals are going to give the western Canadian farmers that privilege to elect their wheat board just like they do in Ontario. If that is the case I applaud them for doing it. It shows democracy in real style, not democracy by region.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee.)

Department Of Natural Resources ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Edmonton Northwest Alberta


Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

moved that Bill C-48, an act to establish the Department of Natural Resources and to amend related acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on second reading of Bill C-48, an act to establish the Department of Natural Resources and to amend other related acts.

I would like to take this opportunity to describe to my colleagues and all Canadians how this bill is consistent with this government's agenda for Canada's natural resource sector.

As well I will describe the importance of the natural resource sector to Canada's economic strength and job creation and the role of my department to ensure that the natural resource sector continues to be a cornerstone of our economy, of employment and of Canada's progress toward sustainable development.

Bill C-48 will establish the Department of Natural Resources under one act. At the present time authorities for the minister and the department are set out in two acts, the Department of Forestry Act and the Department of Energy, Mines and Re-

sources Act. According to the bill natural resources incorporate all of the resources covered in the two departmental acts. Specifically, these resources are mines, minerals and other non-renewable resources, energy and forest resources.

While we recognize the provincial responsibility for the management of natural resources in Canada, the federal government has the responsibility in partnership with the provinces to maintain and enhance the contribution of the natural resource sector to our economic growth and job creation.

In essence, Bill C-48 provides a legal framework for the federal Department of Natural Resources to provide a national perspective on mining, energy and forestry issues and to provide leading edge expertise in research and development to help the natural resource sector meet current and future challenges.

One of those challenges is Canada's progress toward sustainable development. Bill C-48 respects the federal government's commitment to encourage progress toward sustainable development.

For example, the bill states that to carry out the minister's assigned powers, duties and functions the Minister of Natural Resources is required to have regard to the integrated management and sustainable development of Canada's natural resources. While this requirement is contained in the present Department of Forestry Act there is no such reference in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources Act. This provision will now be clearly stated and applied to all natural resources.

Canada's natural resource industries are not sunset industries. Let me make that point today very emphatically. These industries provide a major portion of Canada's gross domestic product. For example, in 1992 the value of energy, forestry, mineral and metal production totalled $69 billion or 14 per cent of our GDP. In 1992 net trade in energy, mineral and forest products amounted to $40.5 billion and provided much of the basis for Canada's $15 billion trade surplus.

One in every 13 members of Canada's workforce is employed in the energy, forest and mining sectors in all regions of this country. In fact natural resource activity provides the economic backbone for over 500 Canadian communities, many of them in remote areas.

As well, our natural resource industries are high tech industries. Canada is a world leader in the development and application of technology to improve productivity and competitiveness of our mining, forestry and energy industries. This effort to develop new technology has resulted in the emergence of new industries and therefore new jobs.

For example, Canada's requirements for accurate information about our resources has stimulated a new industry known as geomatics. This high potential, $1.3 billion industry employs over 12,000 Canadians. Furthermore Canada's geomatics industry contributes $100 million a year in exports.

Economic challenges face Canada's natural resource industries. Improved productivity and efficiency are essential to our country's ability to remain competitive in the natural resource sector. However the environmental challenges facing the sector are equally important. As a result, I believe that Natural Resources Canada will be a vital bridge between industrial and environmental concerns as we move to meet the challenges of the future.

Fiscal restraint affects all orders of government in Canada. Therefore we must find new and innovative ways to work together. I believe that our ability to encourage the integration of economic and environmental demands will be enhanced through co-operative ventures and partnerships which involve all stakeholders.

Throughout the years the department's research and technology expertise has built a solid reputation throughout the world. Its work has been geared to improving resource sector competitiveness and environmental performance. Natural Resource Canada's scientific and technological expertise has focused on all aspects of natural resource management.

For example, in forest management the Canada forest accord and its action plan, the national forest strategy, represent a commitment to sustainable forest development in the country. Through partnerships between federal and provincial governments, environmental and aboriginal groups and other forest users, we are working together to test and apply new approaches to manage forests as ecosystems.

Our mining industry is always moving forward, searching for innovations to become even more efficient and more competitive. As a result, the mining sector has one of the highest productivity levels in the world. The department's science and technology expertise has contributed to the development of many of these innovative processes. Many are linked to the challenge of meeting environmental concerns. Examples include acid mine drainage, effluents and promoting the use of metal recycling.

The energy sector will continue to be an important part of the department. There is no question that oil and gas development is important to sustain jobs and to Canada's overall economic strength. We are committed to market based principles. We are committed to sustainable development. Therefore we will work closely with industry, the provinces and others to harmonize economic and environmental goals.

Increased energy efficiency is widely recognized to have the greatest potential for short term contributions to our progress toward sustainable development. Moreover, energy efficiency can help Canada make a positive contribution to the government's goal of limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

Energy efficient technologies also contribute to wealth generation and job creation. Many companies and businesses have discovered that energy efficiency makes business sense. Innovative, made in Canada technologies for new products, processes, systems and services can also be exported to a rapidly expanding world market.

Natural Resources Canada will therefore continue to address the economic and environmental concerns of the natural resource sector. Canada will continue to lead and be a model in all aspects of natural resource management and use.

I will continue to work with the provinces, industry, environmental and aboriginal groups, and other stakeholders in the natural resource sector. The Department of Natural Resources will promote sustainable development practices and will apply its science and technological expertise to enhance our international trade, our competitiveness and the contribution by the natural resource sector to Canada's economic strength and job creation.

The bill will provide the Department of Natural Resources with the legal mandate and framework in which to deliver all these commitments as we move forward to the next century.

Department Of Natural Resources ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois and I understand full well that the purpose of this bill is to ratify what is already a fact; a pure formality, it seems. I dearly hope that our colleagues in the Liberal Party do not expect us to ratify this bill establishing the Department of Natural Resources.

It is easy for us to speak on the subject of natural resources. Quebecers elected us, members of a sovereignist party, both to defend Quebec's interests and to begin the dialogue with the rest of Canada in order to prepare Quebec's accession to sovereignty. It is essential for us to defend Quebec's exclusive jurisdiction over natural resources. We would be acting contrary to our mandate and the will of those who elected us if we did not speak out against this bill.

All governments of Quebec have always demanded respect for provincial jurisdiction under the Canadian Constitution. The Constitution Act, 1982 describes provincial powers fairly precisely under section 92(a) with respect to the exploitation, conservation and management of forest resources, including the rate of primary production.

This position was maintained by the Government of Quebec when the former Minister of Natural Resources, Mr. Sirros, said in the National Assembly on May 25 that the full authority of the Government of Quebec for managing natural resources on its territory-

Department Of Natural Resources ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Order. You can continue after question period, when we resume debate.

It being two o'clock, pursuant to Standing Order 30(5), the House will now proceed to Statements by Members, pursuant to Standing Order 31.

Helicopter FleetStatements By Members

September 27th, 1994 / 1:55 p.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the government took office 11 months ago it immediately took action to stop the waste of taxpayers' money. One of these actions was the cancellation of the EH-101 helicopters. These helicopters were the Lamborghinis of the helicopter world, sleek, fast and very expensive.

They were not what was needed to modernize our helicopter fleet at a reasonable cost. Notwithstanding the commitment to modernize our fleet is something that must be done and be done soon. The present Sea Kings have done a marvellous job over the past 30 years. They are, however, near the end of their life expectancy.

I ask that the government take a serious look at replacing our helicopter fleet with an appropriate made in Canada model reflecting our commitments to our armed forces as well as the Canadian aerospace industry, both of which are so important to the constituents of Erie.

Airport FacilitiesStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Bernard St-Laurent Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport does not care about the problems of our regions. He suggests policies which will adversely affect transport in remote areas. As the national policy on airports is about to be implemented, his department keeps eliminating, arbitrarily, regional airport facilities.

Sept-Îles is the most important airport on the North Shore. The closing of the second of three runways creates additional risks in terms of safety, including for any airplane experiencing

problems. Moreover, this decision will reduce the exceptional potential of the airport facilities in Sept-Îles.

It is unacceptable that the streamlining policies of the Minister of Transport, who seems determined to stop the region's economic development, be once again implemented at the expense of regions.