House of Commons Hansard #27 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was institutions.


AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

5:25 p.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK


That this House support the creation of an environment in which agricultural producers make their own decisions on how their products are marketed.

Mr. Speaker, it is good to be in the House when everyone is in such a good mood. I hope that mood continues as we discuss agricultural issues.

Mr. Speaker, you read the motion but I want to put it on the record again:

That this House support the creation of an environment in which agricultural producers make their own decisions on how their products are marketed.

This is a motion, because it deals with a principle rather than with specific legislation, in which case it would have been a bill.

I want to quote from Reform's agricultural broadsheet which was printed prior to the 1993 election and which also supports this principle. It states: "The Reform Party believes that producer organizations, including marketing boards, commissions and co-operatives, should receive their direction from producers who should structure their organizations in any manner in which they believe will best serve their interests. In consultation with producers, Reformers will seek to provide for a viable, self-reliant market driven industry to create an environment in which producers make their own decisions on how products are marketed".

This was the policy our party membership approved in 1992 prior to the 1993 election. It was these principles and others like them on which we campaigned and on which we were very successful in many rural ridings.

This is an issue today with regard to the Canadian Wheat Board. It is an issue in supply managed industries. It is an issue pervading much of agriculture.

This principle was one Reform took before there were any plebiscites of producers such as the one in Alberta, before some of the data that is more scientific was done by polling organizations. It proves that Reformers have their ear open to the public, have their ear open to businesses and in this case, have their ear open to what those in the agricultural sector are saying. We have been proved to be correct by recent developments in the industry. Therefore I would hope that the speakers that follow me will endorse the principle I have put forward in the motion.

The industry sectors which producers are debating are about having more input and influence over the marketing of grain and also in the supply managed sector. This includes the matter of pork marketing. It has become an issue in Manitoba whether producers should have new marketing options and who actually calls the shots when it comes to marketing pork in that province.

Far too often the operations of marketing boards and commissions become removed from the individuals they are meant to serve. As a result the decision making process is left in the hands of individuals who do not necessary have the best interests of the producer at hand or share the need for good timely decisions on marketing that are required. Many producers feel that they need more options for their marketing. I want to focus my comments primarily on the Canadian Wheat Board. One of my colleagues will follow and spend a bit more time dealing with the supply managed area.

There has been controversy regarding the Canadian Wheat Board during the past few months even though the controversy in general has raged on for as long as I can remember. It seems to be increasing in intensity and often even makes the news today.

A plebiscite was held in the province of Alberta last year. The results of that plebiscite on the marketing of wheat and barley clearly indicates a growing trend toward a system in which producers will have the opportunity to decide how their products will be marketed.

In the Alberta plebiscite 66 per cent of barley growers voted in favour of having the right to sell barley to any buyer. That is two-thirds of the barley producers in Alberta. Sixty-two per cent of wheat growers voted in favour of having the option to sell wheat to any buyer. That is a substantial majority and must be taken heed of and not cast aside. It is an important factor.

The producers were asked: Are you in favour of having the freedom to sell your barley to any buyer, including the Canadian Wheat Board, into domestic and export markets? Are you in favour of having the freedom to sell your wheat to any buyer, including the Canadian Wheat Board, into domestic and export markets? The answer was a resounding yes. Participation in the plebiscite was extremely high with thousands of voters taking the time to cast their ballots because they felt the issue was important.

That is Alberta and Alberta may not represent the views of all of Canada. I know that Albertans' views are important but I happen to represent a riding in Saskatchewan and so the province of Saskatchewan is important to me. My colleague from Lisgar-Marquette has to have his ear open to what producers in Manitoba are saying.

The Government of Saskatchewan did a scientific poll of its producers, asking their opinions on the Canadian Wheat Board. From this survey some interesting statistics are available to us.

Approximately 80 per cent of Saskatchewan producers indicated some level of support for the board. This does not surprise me because there has always been strong support for the Canadian Wheat Board in the province of Saskatchewan. I happen to be one of those 80 per cent. My party is part of that 80 per cent that supports the Canadian Wheat Board. Some people have indicated otherwise but that is simply not true, and we have not said that in this House. We did not say it in our campaign material and we are not about to change our minds unless our members tell us we are on the wrong ground and our constituents tell us we are not moving in the right direction.

On further study of the survey some very interesting opinions are expressed by Saskatchewan's producers. For example, while a majority of producers believe that the monopoly powers of the Canadian Wheat Board give it market power internationally, producers are divided on whether or not the Canadian Wheat Board gets the highest price. There is a saw-off on that one.

More significantly, 58 per cent of Saskatchewan producers believe that participation in the Canadian Wheat Board should be made voluntary. This is not some cooked up poll. This poll was done by the Government of Saskatchewan, probably the provincial government in Canada that most strongly supports the Canadian Wheat Board. Its survey which it commissioned and paid for suggests that 58 per cent of producers in Saskatchewan want to see selling to the Canadian Wheat Board be more voluntary.

A major of producers were in favour of selling grain to the domestic food markets without having to go through the Canadian Wheat Board. They were about equally divided but a small majority in favour of being allowed to make direct sales into the United States.

A majority of Saskatchewan producers were in favour of the federal government having less control and influence over the Canadian Wheat Board.

There was a breakdown of the demographics with regard to this survey. It indicated that younger producers were more open and in fact even requesting change than were older producers. It tells us

that those who will be farming in the future are in the majority in wanting to see changes to the Canadian Wheat Board.

It is interesting that they want to see structural changes to the board. They talked of discussing a dual market, domestic versus export and how that would be handled. The primary focus during the last election campaign was that the Canadian Wheat Board needs to be made more accountable and it needs to be more responsive to the producers it is supposed to serve. There is overwhelming support in this survey for the Canadian Wheat Board to be made more accountable to the producers that it is supposed to serve.

Currently the Canadian Wheat Board is controlled solely by the federal government. It is answerable to the minister of agriculture and, by extension, to the Privy Council. The commissioners are appointed by the Privy Council. Their term lasts until they reach the age of 70. Their benefits are extremely luxurious and in their jobs there is little for which they can be held accountable. It is not what the producers are calling for.

Two-thirds of the respondents to the survey said that the federal government should have less control and influence over the Canadian Wheat Board. That aligns perfectly with the motion I brought today. The producers should be able to make their own decisions on how their products are marketed.

Farmers may recommend that certain alterations be made to the Canadian Wheat Board, but the decision to implement those changes is still solely at the discretion of the federal government. Farmers are powerless. The wheat board advisory board is powerless to make changes to the board, even though it is supposed to be the elected body which has influence over the board.

The board is a crown corporation and the government retains the power to direct the board with respect to the manner in which any of its operations, powers and duties are performed.

More recently, a number of occurrences involving the Canadian Wheat Board have called into question the ability of the board to represent the interests of all producers. I could talk about its mishandling of the fusarium disease in southern Manitoba, its mishandling of frozen durum in southern Saskatchewan and its mishandling of the export of barley in the last crop year, just to mention a few.

This has created a lot of unhappiness in the farming community. A few farmers want out from under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Wheat Board. However, the way the wheat board act is written they are not allowed any freedom whatsoever.

A group of farmers called "The Farmers for Justice" has been formed. I am not in the House to condone some of the things which that group has done. However, I would say that the reason we have a group of farmers in the prairies that goes under the banner of "The Farmers for Justice" is because they feel they would like to have the ability to market their produce outside the board. Currently, the way the wheat board act is written, they are restricted. They cannot export their wheat into the United States without a Canadian Wheat Board export permit even though they might not have a wheat board permit or a contract with the board.

I am not suggesting that farmers should break contracts. If a farmer contracts with the Canadian Wheat Board, they should live up to that contract. Farmers across the country accept that. When farmers make a deal, for the most part, they stick with it. However, these farmers have no choice in this matter. If they choose not to contract with the Canadian Wheat Board, their wheat is not their own. They have no choice in the matter but to apply to the board for the right to market their wheat.

These farmers are asking that this be changed but they are not getting any co-operation from the government. They are taking steps that are beyond what we would like to see. They are doing things I cannot condone. However, they are frustrated, simply because there has not been any movement either within the board or within the Liberal government to correct the situation.

I belong to a political party. Many Canadians support my party. If they want to get involved they can buy a $10 membership and they will have a voice in the way my party functions. They can have an equal vote on the policies which my party espouses and they can have a choice in the selection of candidates. If they are not happy with the Reform Party and they want to join another political movement of lesser quality, such as the Liberal Party, they have the right to buy a membership in that party. If they are not happy with my party I would rather they were in the Liberal Party because I would like to see them involved in a way in which they are comfortable.

The farmers in western Canada do not have that choice. They are bound by the Canadian Wheat Board Act to market through a board in which they have no voice. They have no ability to assist in the formulation of the board's policies. They have no ability to select the commissioners who sit on the board. There is no democracy in the board. It has become a very political institution.

There have been some reports and studies done on the Canadian Wheat Board in recent months. One was recently commissioned by the board, the Kraft report. This report is called the performance evaluation of the Canadian Wheat Board. It was commissioned by the board and paid for with the farmers' money. It was apparently given confidential information to determine whether the Canadian

Wheat Board was doing a good job. That is fine. The board should be looking at itself internally and evaluating itself. I do not find fault with that.

However, the problem is there was another study commissioned by the board, the Deloitte & Touche evaluation, which was kept under raps and never revealed to farmers until a copy was made available through Reform a few weeks ago. This was a 1992 study which found many serious deficiencies in the Canadian Wheat Board.

I hear the member for Kingston and the Islands agrees with me. He is also concerned about these deficiencies in the board because he seems to be very interested in the matter.

As a result of the hiding of this study, we have no idea whatsoever whether the board has acted on the recommendations made by its own auditors.

We had another study commissioned by the Government of Alberta, pushing for dual marketing in wheat. It is the government which launched the plebiscite and did a study called the Carter study. It comes to an opposing position to the Kraft report. The Carter report suggests the wheat board is a more costly institution than it has been letting on and it costs more to market through the wheat board than we have been led to believe.

Because producers do not have any direct say in the board it is hard for them to determine whether the board is being run efficiently. Because it is not transparent, they cannot tell how good a job the Canadian Wheat Board is doing. They also have no option to market outside the board.

It is good to do these studies but it is much more important to give this board to the producers it is supposed to serve.

The Ontario Wheat Producers Board serves much the same function as the Canadian Wheat Board expect that it is controlled democratically by Ontario farmers. Ontario farmers elect the directors of the board. They divide Ontario up into districts. They have an organization and the wheat producers in Ontario choose the directors who serve on the board.

They do not have to go to the Government of Ontario or come to Ottawa because they can choose those directors themselves. Prairie producers do not have that opportunity. They have no voice whatsoever in selecting the commissioners.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

They have a wonderful minister of agriculture.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

I can tell the member for Kingston and the Islands does not understand prairie agriculture one iota. He probably would not even know what a sheaf of wheat looked like or which end of a combine the grain entered.

However, these are issues of vital concern to prairie producers.

There was the experiment with the continental barley market that was taken at the end of the Conservative term. A very interesting thing happened. The Canadian Wheat Board members said they can function under this scenario, a form of a dual market. They said they were happy because they knew the regulations had been changed. They were not about to fold up their tents and go home. They were prepared to compete. That opened a lot of farmers' eyes to the fact that perhaps the Canadian Wheat Board would not disappear under a dual marketing system. That again increased their discontent with not having a voice in how their products are marketed.

We could argue for quite some time whether a single desk seller is better than an option or a dual market system. I do not think members on the Liberal side should be making that decision. To be quite honest, I do not think members on the Reform side or the Bloc side should be making that decision. The producers should be making that decision.

It is very interesting that prior to the last election and prior to the reversal on the continental barley market the Prime Minister and his key agriculture people said the producers should make that decision. The Prime Minister said there should be a plebiscite. Suddenly the tables are reversed and a plebiscite is out of the question. "Well, the farmers may not be able to understand the question". Imagine the insult of the Liberals saying farmers would not understand the question. I would like members opposite to know farmers are very intelligent and would not have survived this long in Canada under some of the burdens they have faced had they not been extremely intelligent. Give them a chance a the tools to do the job and they will do extremely well.

The western grain marketing panel is the tool the minister of agriculture has set up to review all the marketing of western grains. The panel members are supposed to look under every rock and find out what course of actions to recommend to the minister of agriculture.

Much of the work has already been done and measured through the plebiscite, the polls and the surveys done by the province of Saskatchewan.

The member for Lisgar-Marquette did a survey of his constituents and found the majority of them wanted a plebiscite, no matter which side of the issue they were on. In the riding of Kindersley-Lloydminister over 70 per cent of respondents wanted a plebiscite. That coincides with the scientifically accurate poll done by the province of Saskatchewan which lends credibility to the survey we are doing of our constituents.

That survey really bothers the member for Kingston and the Islands. He does not like to deal with the facts.

I ask the House to seriously look at the motion. I would be extremely disappointed if any member of the House would not agree we should support the creation of an environment in which agriculture producers make their own decisions about how their products are market.

I appreciate the time to speak on behalf of Canadian farmers.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Essex—Kent Ontario


Jerry Pickard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to Motion No. 176 on behalf of the government.

The hon. member for Kindersley-Lloydminister moved:

That this House support the creation of an environment in which agricultural producers make their own decisions as to how their products are marketed.

It is not clear from the wording of the motion exactly which commodities or marketing systems he is referring to. However, through his comments now and through his statements in the past we can assume it is wheat and barley he is targeting in western Canada.

The debate over the Canadian Wheat Board and current grain marketing systems has been going on for many years, with a wide range of opinions from status quo to the abolition of the board. Some are saying farmers are better off dealing with the single desk of the Canadian Wheat Board while others say farmers would benefit from being able to market their grain when and where they want.

The assumption that dual market and Canadian Wheat Board could co-exist has not been proven. The board says dual marketing cannot work because it must make an initial payment. If initial payments are too low compared with spot price, it will not get any wheat or barley. If the payments are too high, farmers will try to deliver all of their product to the board.

Furthermore, the free trade agreement and NAFTA both rule out re-establishing single desk marketing after an experiment with dual marketing unless United States interests are not hurt.

As the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has said, you cannot put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. If we move off on an experiment the Reform Party is suggesting, we may endanger the marketing system throughout the rest of history in Canada.

Those who favour dual marketing want the wheat board to behave like a grain company. The Canadian Wheat Board cannot be a grain company like any other. It is a marketing agency. It does not buy grain from farmers, it sells grain on their behalf. It does not make a profit. All the revenues from sales are returned to the producers. If markets fall, the board does not take the loss, farmers do.

There have also been public demonstrations against both options. In general, the demonstrators have been shouting at each other, not trying to persuade each other of the rightness of their views.

What has been missing from the discussion is a thoughtful, face to face, factual examination of the issues. There has been a lot more heat than light spread on the issue. There have been calls for the federal government to hold a plebiscite. The problem with that option is that complex questions on marketing structures or compatibility of different systems is difficult to address with a simple yes or no that a plebiscite would only allow them to say.

For example, while an Alberta plebiscite produced a vote in favour of dual marketing, many producers said they would have voted differently if it meant the end of the Canadian Wheat Board.

It must be recognized that making significant changes to a marketing system to accommodate the wishes of one group of individuals may damage the financial returns and continued operation of a preferred marketing choice of the majority of farmers.

To help focus this debate, last July the minister put a grain marketing panel in place to look at all facets of grain marketing in Canada. That panel has now completed its town hall meetings and formal hearings and is now preparing its written report. One of my colleagues will have more to say on this subject later in the debate. This process is providing grain farmers, industry and other stakeholders an opportunity to participate in a number of grassroots discussions. I believe this is far more productive than passing a vaguely worded motion on this decision.

In a previous debate in the House the hon. member complained that producers had no say. He also made that complaint today, that producers have no say in how solutions would be reached in this problem. The grain marketing panel has given them that input. It has also allowed other interested parties to be heard.

He appeared before the panel on March 18. I was at the panel the day he appeared. Usually people take part in a process only if they believe it is valid. I congratulate the hon. member for recognizing the minister has the right to appoint a panel and explain his viewpoints at the table.

I wonder why the member is not prepared to wait for the panel presentation when it makes its report. To pass this motion would be to repudiate the grain marketing panel before it is finished its work.

I urge my fellow colleagues and members of the House not to support this motion. Instead they should allow the grain marketing panel to complete its hearings and produce its report. Then the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food will be able to make a decision on the future of grain marketing. Then we can all be

confident in the knowledge that producers have spoken and have been heard.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Réjean Lefebvre Bloc Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today on Motion No. 176 put forward by my colleague for Kindersley-Lloydminster, who is urging this House to support the creation of an environment in which agricultural producers make their own decisions as to how their products are marketed.

First, let me point out the vagueness of the motion. Its purpose is not easy to identify but I will nonetheless try to bring out what, to me, are its most important features.

First, I am very proud to quote the example of Quebec where farmers are largely responsible for the marketing of their products. Obviously, this is possible because they are well organized and well represented.

That is why there are, in Quebec alone, 34,600 agricultural producers who are members of agricultural co-operatives. I think we, Quebecers, get a great sense of pride from this. The Coopérative fédérée and Agropur, to name but a few, have a turnover that is more than 50 per cent of that of all non-financial co-operatives put together, that is, more than $3 billion. The mandate of the Union des producteurs agricoles or UPA is to organize and represent all Quebec agricultural producers, whatever the size and structure of their farms, the nature of their production and the place they live.

Obviously there is no problem as far as representation is concerned and members of these cooperatives seem satisfied with the mandates of their organizations. We could mention as an example the dairy producers of Canada and Quebec who, after evaluating changes in international trade, felt compelled to put in place a market sharing quota for exports in order to take advantage of new opportunities. This is a good example of producers making their own marketing decisions. This was made possible by the fact that the marketing board gave these producers a powerful marketing instrument: supply management.

Another advantage that marketing boards give the producers is that not only do they control marketing decisions, they also control the cost of inputs since prices negotiated for the marketing of their products are based on production costs.

The motion certainly has the merit of recognizing that producers must have a say in the marketing of their products but, as I have demonstrated, it is already the case in Quebec. Therefore, I wonder if, by bringing forward this motion, my colleague from Kindersley-Lloydminster wants western producers to be given the same environment that dairy, egg and poultry producers enjoy for the marketing of their products. If so, I have to congratulate the member for recognizing that the Quebec model could be applied to agricultural products in western Canada.

In this context, it is easy to understand the criticism expressed in western Canada with regard to the Canadian Wheat Board, for example. Members of the board are appointed by the government without producers having anything to say about it.

It has often been proposed that the advisory committee be composed mainly of producers, and that applies to both elected and appointed members. Maybe it would be interesting to propose that the appointments be submitted to the standing agriculture committee. It would certainly give some independence to the appointment process.

Western producers feel uncomfortable with the Canadian Wheat Board. Indeed, some argue that the commission does not advocate farmers' interests anymore because it refuses to change an obsolete management system that is more than 60 years old. Moreover, the recent plebiscite in Alberta has shown that more than 60 per cent of farmers think their ideas are not taken into consideration or are bluntly disregarded by the commission. That could easily be explained.

The farmers' concern is easy to understand, considering that the commission controls or greatly influences all aspects of grain marketing, transportation and handling, that it controls the price and sale of wheat and barley, the allocation of cars, the decisions on storage and shipments by grain companies, the value added processing and resource allocation. I believe we have reason to be concerned because the commission, which is not accountable, could make an improper use of its power. The risk is that an organization which exercises so much regulating control could be accused of patronage.

Do not get me wrong, we are not accusing the Canadian wheat board of incompetence and of misuse of power; rather, we are trying to show that the risk of abuse exists and that it might be preferable to review the process of appointing commissioners, who are designated by the gouvernement, and of members of the advisory board, who are designated by western farmers, in order to ensure a more equitable representation of the interests of western farmers.

Unfortunately, the interests of farmers and producers are often neglected, and not only in the west. We need only to look at the consultation process of the government to realize that, more often than not, the government consults only for show. Take for instance the recent cuts in dairy subsidies. Of course, the government consulted dairy producers in Quebec and Canada, but they were nevertheless faced with a done deal. No more subsidies, period.

Now, what arrangement would be the least painful to you? Decision: spread the cuts over five years. Conclusion: the government consults, fine, but does what it wants anyway.

Another more recent example is the issue of raw milk cheese. I cannot resist this little aside, given my background. The government is preparing to propose that the food and drug regulations be modified to improve the protection of public health. The proposed change involves unpasteurized cheese made from raw milk.

This would involve requiring all cheeses intended for sale to be pasteurized. This would mean that the specialty cheeses would no longer be available in our stores. Do you see how absurd this is? Just from the health point of view, if raw milk cheese were as dangerous as that, why would we have authorized its sale since 1991? The only case of poisoning linked to a dairy product in Canada dates back 61 years.

Alcohol and tobacco are hazardous consumer products, yet they are not banned from our store shelves. Go ahead and smoke two packs a day, knowing that you are likely to eventually get lung cancer, but under no circumstances eat raw milk cheese. There is no sense to this whatsoever, particularly since it hurts a fledgling industry in Quebec capable of developing products that would make our European friends green with envy.

In fact, the bulk of the raw milk industry is located in Quebec, as are most of those who eat raw milk cheeses. We have discovered that there is more to life than Kraft cheese, so this is not the time to take the pleasures of the table away from us.

One wonders if, as the hon. member for Frontenac said recently, some sort of excessive fear of food poisoning, or rather pressures from large dairy producers afraid to lose their share of the market, did not motivate the government to act on this issue. It remains to be seen what results the consultation process will bring.

Who knows, maybe the government will come to its senses and not go forward with its attack against raw milk chees. Today it is cheese, but tomorrow it could be chicken salad or tuna which will be banned. As a matter of fact, there have been in recent years cases of epidemics caused by the same bacteria as the one found in some raw milk cheeses.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of this motion is to give Canadians farmers the right which has been given to others in Canada and around the world to market their products in the way they choose. We would expect the government would not have to be asked by farmers for this right, but that is exactly what is happening.

I will talk briefly before I get into my presentation about one farmer who is in the third week of a hunger strike to get what we would expect would be given willingly in this country. Tom Jackson, a farmer from Fort Saskatchewan, is continuing to try to force the government to change the Canadian Wheat Board Act through a hunger strike.

This is drastic action, but he feels this is important enough that he is willing to take this drastic action to force the government into the change that he and the majority of Albertan farmers and probably the majority of farmers across the country want for the Canadian Wheat Board.

The subject I will deal with in relation to the topic the hon. member for Kindersley-Lloydminster brought forth today is the supply managed sectors of the agricultural industry.

Supply managed sectors must be talked about separately because unlike all other sectors of the agriculture industry many farmers, probably the majority, do not want to have the supply managed aspect removed. They are not as willing to have their industry opened up to competition and to have that freedom to market in any way they want.

I would concede that probably the majority feel like that. They have done very well under the supply managed system. The reality is most likely this will happen anyway. That is, supply managed sectors will be opened up to competition from outside the country. It is very likely that will happen.

It is true there are some discrepancies between some Reform ideas and supply management. Reform members have been saying for some time that they want what is best for the farmers in the supply managed sectors of agriculture.

It is important, at least for me, to have those involved understand what Reform has been saying and what we do want for farmers and others in these industries. It is important to give this message unfiltered by the media and by some leaders in the supply managed sector. So often what Reform MPs actually say and what the media portrays can be quite different, interesting but quite different.

To relieve stress and anxiety, on Sunday mornings a neighbour of mine, a farmer who lives down the road from me, takes his little 5-speed and works through the gears, gets it up to 120 kilometres per hour and accelerates around the curve so he is going out of that curve at 140 kilometres per hour. That makes him feel good and helps relieve his anxiety.

One Sunday morning my neighbour drove out to the end of his driveway and started working through the gears, heading down the road and saw a car on his road. Then he saw the car swerve. He said: "Oh my gosh, a drunk driver on my road on a Sunday morning".

As the car came closer it slowed down, and so he slowed down but did not stop. It was a lady driver. He said: "Oh my gosh, a lady driver on my road on a Sunday morning". The lady stops the car and opens the window. As he goes by he hears the driver say "pig". He was mad. He said "sow" and went speeding down the road into the curb at 140 kilometres and hits the pig.

This farmer because of his attitude problem refused to notice the signals that would have allowed him to miss the obstacles, to miss the pig.

I will talk about some of the signals I sincerely hope farmers in the supply managed sectors of agriculture will not miss. I am talking about the warnings of change which would lead to an end to supply management as we know it, change which will lead to more access to our markets by other countries, especially the United States.

There is the possibility of Canada's losing the NAFTA chapter 20 dispute settlement initiated by the United States. If Canada loses the U.S. challenge our current system of supply management will undergo radical change. Although many farmers and others in the industry are confident we will win the dispute, others are less convinced. In any case they are concerned about their future regardless of the outcome of the panel hearing.

Another threat to the supply managed industry is the Chilean accession into NAFTA and the opening up of this agreement. The Government of Canada has told Canadian farmers again and again they do not have to worry about that. It will not open NAFTA up to negotiation even if it wants to let Chile in.

The government said during the election campaign it would not sign NAFTA unless certain criteria were put into the deal. They were not put in and it signed it anyway. The government cannot be trusted when it comes to promises made about these trade deals. We do not know what will happen.

Looking ahead a little further, what will happen to our current system of tariffication after the next round of negotiations starting in 1999? Will the GATT countries continue to allow Europe, Canada, the United States and others to keep high tariffs on imported dairy, egg and poultry products? I believe this round of negotiations will be much shorter than in the past. We are not looking at a 5 year to 10 year negotiation period, as happened last time.

The world and particularly the United States will have more access to Canadian markets in the supply managed sector than they have now as a result of the negotiations. I believe they will have much more access.

Another signal that I hope farmers are thinking about, which might allow them to avoid the pig, is the possibility of bilateral trade negotiations with the United States. This is a very real possibility.

There are several different factors that could spark these bilateral negotiations. It could be the result of a panel hearing. It could be the result of negotiations with Chile getting into NAFTA. It could be that the Americans finally are willing to reduce protection in some of the protected areas, like peanuts, sugar and coffee.

If the U.S. agrees to make changes in its export enhancement program, will the government agree to lower our protective tariffs? Who knows? I can honestly say I have more questions than answers. In the more open trade environment which is building around the world, I can be quite sure that the change will come sooner than many would predict.

When I mentioned these possibilities at a meeting in Richmond, Quebec, the first question was what about another possibility? What about the possibility of Quebec leaving the country? That would lead to the end of the supply managed sector overnight.

In closing, I ask the question, what have I left farmers with here today? Nothing really very positive but that is because I have made the same mistake that most people make when they talk about the possible end of supply management. I focused on the threats resulting from the change. What about the new possibilities and the new opportunities that farmers in the industry will have? They will have more competition in products coming from the United States. However, on the other side they will have the huge American market open to them. I know Canadian farmers in the supply managed sector can compete very well with their American neighbours. They will do well.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Bernie Collins Liberal Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on the private member's motion of the member for Kindersley-Lloydminster. It is a pleasure because I know my counterparts from Saskatchewan and Alberta have farming backgrounds. I am here to represent the point of view of farming communities.

I come from a rural area in southeast Saskatchewan. The concerns they raise are valid. That is why the minister of agriculture set up a mechanism to review that forum. Where are we going? How will we move into the 21st century if we do not understand what are the problems that confront us today?

I set up a panel. That panel was allowed to hold hearings in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The panel is going to come back and report to the agriculture minister.

Let me say to my friends opposite that as I travel throughout southeast Saskatchewan, there are those on both sides of the issue. There are those who would like to see the sale of grains and other commodities put through dual marketing. But there are also those who are saying that they want the Canadian Wheat Board to stay in its present form.

The Canadian Wheat Board has to make some changes. Those changes have to be done through the proper mechanism, that is, through the panel set up to review that.

Let us take a look at some of the proposals that the panel is going to review. They have merit. What are the nature and the requirements of existent potential markets? What do we have? Let us review the commodities and products that could be sold into these markets. Then let us review the marketing systems that are now available or could be available to exploit such markets to the maximum possible benefit of western producers.

We had stakeholders. Who did we select as the chairman? We selected a lawyer from Saskatoon who is well known and well respected. Along with that where did we go? We took people on both sides of the issue. The agriculture minister said: "We want both points of view". Those people are going to come forward with honest opinions. They may not be the opinion which my friends opposite want, but it will be one which is focused, one which is right for the time and one which will lead us into the 21st century.

There was the suggestion that not every member of Parliament takes polls. Every time I go home to my riding I take a poll. I take the opinions of those people who are my farming counterparts and I listen to them.

The folks from Inland terminal have one point of view on how we should handle this. The people in southeast Saskatchewan from the Redvers area look at dual marketing and are concerned. Other groups of farmers are saying: "I am old, I am established and I think the Canadian Wheat Board is doing a reputable job". It is fine to criticize if one does not understand.

However, the Canadian Wheat Board is due for some criticism if it does not change. Does change mean that the whole system should be thrown out? I do not think so. When all is said and done, we will find that the support of the people from across the west will be for the Canadian Wheat Board as the single desk selling agency that performs very well.

Let us not fool ourselves. If we get rid of it and we go to a marketing system where everybody goes on their own, I would venture to say that within five years or less the farmers who wanted to get rid of the system will be marching back to the door of the agriculture minister saying: "What have we done? Let us bring that agency back".

A friend of mine recently visited China. He talked to the agriculture people over there. He said that our producers are to be commended. They produce the best quality grains in the world. They have the quantities which China wants and they are delivered on time. The Chinese people are going to be the largest buyers of our good quality wheat. However, he said: "If you move away from that single desk selling agency, I am telling you now that we will have to take a second look at whether we will buy from you".

That is what is happening in the trading world. There are people who are concerned that we will move away from that single desk selling agency.

I would like to commend my hon. friend from Kindersley-Lloydminster for bringing forward this motion. This is the area in which we want to be able to sit down to discuss openly, in a wise manner, what are the options and where we are going.

I also commend the parliamentary secretary. He brought up a very good point, that is, the vote in Alberta was not really reflective of the question which was asked.

People were asked if they wanted a dual marketing system. They said yes. If it means the end of the Canadian Wheat Board they may very well say no. It is a very serious argument.

I want to say in closing that the results will be reviewed by the minister of agriculture. He will take a look at both sides of the issue and I am sure he will recommend those things that need to be done in the best interests of the farming community right across Canada.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Allan Kerpan Reform Moose Jaw—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity, in the limited time we have left, to say a few words about this motion.

I have been listening for the last 50 minutes or thereabouts to what members opposite have been saying. I guess they did not understand the motion because we have been talking about two separate issues. Members opposite are talking about the merits of single desk selling versus the merits of dual marketing in the Canadian Wheat Board or some such thing. The hon. member for Kindersley-Lloydminster simply states in his motion that the farmers, the producers, should have the right to make the decision on how they will market. We are not here to decide how it is to happen.

The member for Essex-Kent a few minutes ago questioned the ability of farmers to deal with such a complex question. As a farmer I am shocked and appalled that a member of Parliament would imply that farmers are too stupid to make a decision this important.

He says "I will make the decision for you. I know what is best for you". Farmers have been living under that system for far too long and they will no longer accept it.

Let us talk about democracy. Let us look at the history of the Canadian Wheat Board. It was established without a vote. The wheat board commissioners are appointed by government without a vote. The wheat board took barley out of the wheat board and brought it back in solely without a vote. Producers could only market their canola and other special crops outside the wheat board, without a vote.

In the 1993 election campaign the government claimed it would uphold the high principles of democracy. The minister of agriculture promised a plebiscite on barley. It is now two and a half years later and nothing has changed-without a vote.

There is no democracy in the Canadian Wheat Board. I believe there is a strong place for the Canadian Wheat Board, but by doing nothing, this producer funded board may well self-destruct from within without pressures from outside.

I support my colleague from Kindersley-Lloydminister on his motion. My only disappointment is that the government has deemed it should not be a votable motion. It has seen fit to stifle even further democracy by not allowing the House to vote on the motion, let alone allowing farmers to vote on an issue that has a tremendous impact on their destiny.

When will the government wake up and realize producers will no longer accept this kind of dictatorial attitude toward their industry?

A few weeks ago I was travelling to Moose Jaw and I heard a talk show on the radio featuring Nettie Wiebe, the president of the National Farmers Union, a strong supporter of single desk, orderly marketing. I have no problem with that.

She said this is a democracy and the majority of people should rule in a democracy. I fully support that. When has the majority had the opportunity to make a decision on these types of things?

I could go on and on about the importance. Let us keep in mind we are not talking about the value of single desk marketing versus dual marketing. We are talking only about the issue of producers having the opportunity.

AgriculturePrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Shall we call it 6.30 p.m.?

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

AgricultureAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.


Jean H. Leroux Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, on March 21, I put a question in the House to the Prime Minister regarding events which had taken place in Gagetown, New Brunswick, and which included distasteful hazing rituals. These events showed once again that Canadian forces commanders have lost control over military ethics: the series of events that occurred in Somalia, in Petawawa, and at the Citadel in Quebec City clearly demonstrate that high ranking officers always manage to get away with things and wash their hands of anything that could prevent them from being promoted. Being promoted is what matters, often to the detriment of the truth, even.

Today, in light of all these events, we are wondering who leads the forces. Why, when there are unfortunate events such as those of late, is no one responsible at the top of the chain of command? If this is the case, is there not cause for concern about the success of armed forces' undertakings at home and abroad?

As you know, before the sad and unfortunate events in Somalia-I remind you that people died-Canada enjoyed a spotless reputation in the area of peacekeeping. In a peace mission, our soldiers represent us. They are our ambassadors and should behave in a dignified and professional manner. Their behaviour must be exemplary. They are not allowed to let us down.

Another event that surfaced was the Quebec Citadel manoeuvres, which were authorized by military leaders and which could have turned into a blood bath. As elected representatives, what should we think of such improvised manoeuvres?

At this point, Canadians are increasingly losing confidence in the integrity of the chain of command of the armed forces. I would remind you that $10.7 billion will be spent in fiscal 1996-97. That is an awful lot of money.

I invite the minister to assume his responsibilities. He must do everything in his power to restore the credibility of the Canadian armed forces. He must do everything possible to shed light on the unacceptable behaviour of certain members of the forces and cure the ills plaguing the army. He must have the courage to go right to the top of the chain of command. If he fails to fully restore the forces' reputation, he will have no choice but to leave.

Nothing, as I speak, indicates to me that the minister is going to succeed.

AgricultureAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Perth—Wellington—Waterloo Ontario


John Richardson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member opposite has demanded accountability in the Canadian forces. This is one of the cornerstones of the Canadian forces.

The Canadian forces have a policy of zero tolerance for hazings and other related activities which cannot in any way be considered soldierly. The policy exists and has been disseminated and Canadian forces members are to act accordingly. Like all Canadians, they are responsible and accountable for their actions.

If a Canadian forces member chooses to ignore the very clear direction provided, actions appropriate to the transgression in the question will be taken. I assure the hon. member that violations of Canadian forces policy are dealt with firmly and effectively.

As a result of this incident a number of Canadian forces members face administrative and disciplinary measures. Those who witnessed the incident will be dealt with administratively, receiving formal warnings that they should never again be found to be involved in any activity of this nature and severe career action will be taken.

The remaining Canadian forces members who are found to be participants in varying forms and degrees in the events at Camp Gagetown will be charged under section 129 of the National Defence Act for conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline. A number of punishments are available to the officer responsible for trying the accused.

The trials of soldiers who were charged will likely be finished in the very near future and any actions taken as a result will be made public immediately thereafter. I will not comment any further on the cases in question, as it is imperative that due process be allowed to take place.

On numerous occasions opposition members seemingly want to taunt the government into bypassing due process in the name of political expediency. While the member opposite has stated in the House who he believes to be responsible for the incident in question at Camp Gagetown, justice will be better served by allowing due process to run its course.

ImmigrationAdjournment Proceedings

April 17th, 1996 / 6:35 p.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, on March 11, I asked the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration a question concerning the alleged payment of what the investigator, Roger Tassé, calls "accommodation fees" and what I call bribes by removal officers of her department to foreign officials so that they would let their own nationals back in. The minister never took action on these very serious allegations, despite our call for a special inquiry.

The minister should clearly commit herself to following the recommendations of the Tassé report. The reprehensible methods used by immigration officers for the deportation of foreign nationals must not be allowed to continue. It is inadmissible, and even illegal, for civil servants to alter or forge documents in order to deport asylum seekers or speed up the process.

Moreover, certain removal officers administer tranquillizers to deportees. Yesterday, I was made aware of the case of an Algerian man, Mr. Bedj, who was told he would be given drugs if he made any trouble when it came time to go. The officer opened his travel bag and showed him a brand new syringe and some drugs.

I also condemn the police attitude of certain removal officers. They often use force or unnecessary equipment, without any reason, handcuffing the persons in their custody, for example. They sometimes violate their civil rights and liberties. A lot of these actions are never brought to the public's attention. The CIC should make available all information concerning removal matters.

As for detention and release of persons in custody, the situation is totally arbitrary. Nowhere can we find any precise criteria for detention and release. Sometimes, foreign nationals stay months and months in detention centres without any justification and very often in very poor conditions; men, women, adults and children together. In the Mississauga detention centre for immigrants I met a Kurdish girl, still a minor, who had been there for more than eight months, without any charge being brought against her.

I would like to take this opportunity to criticize the people responsible for the detention centre situated on Saint-Jacques street, in Montreal for their attitude towards me. Despite a pre-arranged appointment, my assistant, a representative from the refugee assistance committee and myself were kept waiting for a quarter of an hour outside, last December, before we were let in. We had to wait outside in very cold weather. I have requested an investigation into that incident. I am not at all satisfied with the explanations of the minister and of the CIC director for Quebec.

Furthermore, I ask the minister to reconsider her decision to move the detention centre to Laval because that site is too far for lawyers, officials and inmates' families.

I would also suggest that the minister review the whole procedure for escorting deported people out of the country, which is costly for the public purse. Why must two or three officers escort an individual who is not a criminal?

For a few years now, the Canadian and American governments have been preparing an agreement in order to control and reduce the number of claimants and discourage people from claiming refugee status. In November 1995, they signed a draft agreement and the final text was to be signed in February, and then in April.

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration held public consultations on that text. Almost all the organizations and individuals, both from Canada and the United States, who appeared before this committee were against this draft agreement.

Now, Canadian and American governments have decided to postpone negotiations on this agreement until next summer, once the United States has passed new and even more stringent legislation against refugees.

I am strongly opposed to this agreement that will keep thousands of persecuted people from coming to Canada, through the United States, to file a refugee status claim.

It must be pointed out that a third of the 20,000 or so refugee claimants go through the United States. The level of refugee protection offered by our neighbours to the South is considerably lower than in Canada.

This about-face by the Liberals is incomprehensible and unjustified. The minister's predecessor, now the environment minister, said in November 1993, just after being appointed to the cabinet:

"But any agreement for me would have to pass the test that the agreement is on a level playing field that respects our standards".

As the first member of Latin American origin elected to this House, I am very concerned about the impact this agreement could have. In practical terms, persecuted people in Central and South America will not be able to come here and ask for Canada's protection. There are hardly any direct flights between Latin America and Canada.

I ask the government to give up and to purely and simply forget this draft agreement.

Finally, I ask the minister to grant permanent residency in Canada to Victor Regalado, a Salvadorian refugee who has been living here for 13 years now without any status, who works here and who, with his spouse, a Canadian citizen, has had two children, born in Quebec.

The minister should settle this case as quickly as possible.

ImmigrationAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Beaches—Woodbine Ontario


Maria Minna LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Lib.

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member put his question as an extension of a question to the minister with respect to the Tassé report and the issue of why it refers to them.

However, the member spent most of his time talking about all kinds of allegations and suggestions of irregularities, in addition to talking about business that is in front of the committee, as the hon. member very well knows since he is a member of that committee. He knows full well that the report is not yet finished and has not been tabled in this House. Therefore, it is rather difficult to be debating something that is not here nor part of this House's agenda. He then brings up individual cases which again are not things one should get into.

I am going to discuss for a few minutes the hon. member's question to the minister in the House which is for what I believe this period is intended. It goes back to the hon. member's concerns, allegations and suggestions about bribes.

The fact is that where there has been sufficient information to identify a case we have initiated an investigation. We cannot do those kinds of things based on general allegations.

The government agrees that the immigration enforcement program must be carried out with a high standard of professionalism, respect for the person and within the law. That is something this government is very committed to. This is why the recommendations contained in Mr. Tassé's report are being given very serious consideration as we renew and revitalize the enforcement function.

As I said the last time we dealt with this issue, any instance of substantial illegal or improper behaviour is investigated and acted on by a departmental official. However, one cannot do an investigation just on the basis of allegations. One has to have some proof. This is why when the Tassé report was released, the deputy minister invited anyone with documented allegations of misconduct to come forward. CIC regional directors general will investigate and appropriately deal with any matter which does come forward, as we have said before.

As I have said before, nowhere in the Tassé report is there mention of bribes of officials or of anyone else. As a matter of fact, the Tassé report mentions a great many things but not those kinds of things.

I would like to talk about some of the very good things which are in the report.

ImmigrationAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry, but the parliamentary secretary's time has now expired.

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow.

(The House adjourned at 6.44 p.m.)