House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was board.

Topics

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8:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Cowling Liberal Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is an incredible difference between this Liberal government and the third party in this House of Commons.

The government is listening and consulting with the grassroots movement of the country. We are awaiting the results of a panel. A good majority of those grassroots people will in fact be coming from the third party of this House of Commons.

It is very easy to sit on the opposite side of the House and pull apart and dismantle a marketing system that works incredibly well for farmers. It is my understanding that the third party is on a crusade to destroy the most effective marketing system we have in this country, the Canadian Wheat Board.

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8:30 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, this is question No. 5. Surveys have been taken in my riding and over 80 per cent of the people want the Canadian Wheat Board. They like the Canadian Wheat Board but they see the Liberal government destroying the board by its inaction.

That same 80 per cent of the people want some very key and important changes made. Reform has been listening and addressing those changes. There is a great suspicion that some of the decisions that are made by the Canadian Wheat Board favour eastern interests and because the wheat board is not open and accountable we have no way of knowing. It is not controlled by farmers.

I will give you one example. Farmers suspect that a lot of the grain is shipped through Thunder Bay and the Lakehead and goes out through the east because it benefits eastern interests and is controlled by politicians and bureaucrats in Ottawa. We have no way of knowing whether that is true. Farmers would like to see the port of Churchill utilized a lot more because it has great advantages. This Liberal government has talked the talk but does not walk the walk in investigating and using the port of Churchill.

The buck stops right with this agriculture minister who refuses to address this issue and open up the wheat board, make it accountable and controlled by farmers. I do not see how they can argue against it. There is a glaring contradiction in the fact that they vehemently defend the status quo of the Canadian Wheat Board and at the same time say we have an open marketing panel that is going to address the issue. You cannot have it both ways.

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8:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Cowling Liberal Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is a group of people in this country that have had more change in the last 60 years than Canadian farmers. Canadian farmers are open to change and Canadian farmers who are shareholders of the Canadian Wheat Board are open to change.

With respect to the question about the confidentiality of the Canadian Wheat Board, the Canadian Wheat Board books are open every single year. What the Canadian Wheat Board cannot do is take it directly to the Reform Party and put it in front of their eyes. It is up to Reform members to make that kind of a decision. It is up to the third party to at least make some pretence to find out the quality of the best marketing system in the world which is in fact the Canadian Wheat Board.

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8:30 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Landry Bloc Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, as you know, I have the honour of representing the riding of Lotbinière. This evening my riding association is gathered in my riding office, and I want to congratulate it on the good work done and the support I have been given. So, I say a big thanks to the whole team.

The riding of Lotbinière is one of the largest agricultural ridings in Quebec. Accordingly, agricultural matters are of particular interest to me because I want to be up on what my constituents are facing. Furthermore, I sit on the House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

That said, although the farmers in my riding are not those most affected, the motion brought forward today by the member for Kindersley-Lloydminster has a much greater impact on farmers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and certain parts of British Columbia. Because of professionalism and my membership on the agriculture and agri-food committee, I consider it important to take part in this debate. When I refer to the prairie provinces, this is the territory served by the Canadian Wheat Board.

I certainly am not feeling a need to defend the Canadian Wheat Board at all cost, but it seems important to look at what it is all about. It may be considered a crown corporation, because it is responsible to Parliament. In legal terms, it comes under the Canadian Wheat Board Act, but in practical terms, it is responsible to the farmers, because it is funded by some 130,000 wheat and barley farmers in the provinces I named earlier.

Let us have a look, if you will, at the board's history. There are in fact two Canadian Wheat Boards. Let me explain. The first, the CWB, was established in 1917 to counter the major economic upheavals caused by World War I. Then, with the economic crisis

of 1929, Parliament had to bring it back definitely. This is what I call the second board.

Since then, there have been numerous changes, some of which I would like to point out, in order to illustrate the board's flexibility and ability to adapt.

First of all, in 1949 the board was given responsibility for marketing oats and barley. These two markets were added to the responsibility it already had for wheat.

It was not until August 1, 1989 that oats were removed from the board's mandate. Furthermore, four years later, on August 1, 1993, barley destined for the continental market was removed from its mandate by order in council. In this particular case, there was opposition, and the matter was referred to the courts.

Following a decision, and subsequent appeal, in which the government's decision was declared ultra vires, the board was left with responsibility for barley. The problem lay in the fact that barley had been removed from the board's mandate by order in council. And the Federal Court had to rule that the Canadian Wheat Board's mandate could only be modified by Parliament and not by mere order in council.

In conclusion, barley is therefore still under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Wheat Board. The board relies primarily on the system of pooling. This system allows all producers to receive an initial identical payment year round. The final payment supplements the initial payment in order to reflect the value set by the market during a crop year.

In other words, the pooling system is used to level out price fluctuations. The pool price is representative of the price variations. The way the pool price is calculated results in each category of grains within a pool gaining neither advantage nor disadvantage from various factors.

It must be kept in mind that, although a pool system may attenuate the fluctuations that are inherent in any commercial transaction, the asking price remains subject to outside competition. Remember the strong downward fluctuations in grain prices in the second half of 1980. Some pools recorded marked deficits and these were absorbed by the federal government.

In normal circumstances, the Wheat Board balances its various pools, and this was a definite advantage during that time in the Eighties. It seems to me that memories are short on the Reform side about the advantages the Canadian Wheat Board has conferred in the past. It seems that the wind has changed, in that the present market offers advantageous prices, and that is what has prompted a group of barley and wheat producers to want to take advantage of greater flexibility in marketing their grains. Some will accuse the CWB of being timid in its actions and in its offers to develop new outlets, new markets. They focus on this in demanding changes, forgetting the advantages of the system. In fact, for them, it seems more advantageous to pull out of a rigid system that is focussed on long term stability.

The hon. member for Kindersley-LLoydminster and his Reform colleagues are trying to make political hay with this motion. They too are feeling the gusts of electoral winds, which may well get stronger this fall.

The Reformers, lacking popularity and visibility, want to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act to include a special 2 year opting out provision affording prairie producers the flexibility and choice to market their products outside the jurisdiction of the board.

When we look at the motives of the Reformers, we see they are working for themselves and not to really come to the aid of barley and wheat producers in the west. This motion raises a lot of questions in addition to those about the real motives and intentions of the Reformers.

I can understand, obviously, that certain barley and wheat producers want to get out of the CWB, but do they all? Should we give up a system that works relatively well for all wheat and barley producers for a small group?

They want to make money. The current economic situation is in their favour. I understand they want a special clause to opt out for two years. After that, will they have to return to the ranks of the Canadian Wheat Board? Who will keep track of things? The system proposed by the Reform Party is impractical. The new system will make the job of the Canadian Wheat Board difficult, I should say perilous.

In fact, this House should debate the whole existential issue of marketing boards such as the Canadian Wheat Board. Which is better, to stabilize the prices received by barley and wheat producers on a median basis, or to ride out market cycles? In general, everyone is seeking security and stability, both financially and materially, as well as emotionally.

Few people would like to see their salary drop, and yet three highly respected economists from western Canada took a look at what it would mean for western producers if the Canadian Wheat Board were to disappear. According to them, the loss of the pooling system would be accompanied by a loss in revenues for western farmers.

Try to imagine the scene. Things are fine, for the Canadian Wheat Board is no longer wanted. I spoke to you earlier about the present situation. Do you know that there was a decrease in world stocks of wheat in 1993-94, that there was a drop in production in the former Soviet Union countries, that there was a drought in Australia in 1994? These are all factors that influence price.

We are headed toward the global village foretold by Marshall McLuhan, a native Albertan. McLuhan thought that people had to be constantly clear-headed and aware of what was happening to them. Today, no one can deny what is happening on the other side of the planet, even from the point of view of climate, because we

feel the effects in our own environment. When money is not involved, it is another story. I am thinking here of the volcanic eruptions of Mount St. Helen.

The proposal by the Reform member is designed, in the medium and long term, to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board. The Reform tell us today that they want only to allow farmers not to lose any business opportunities by offering them flexibility and marketing choices for wheat and barley.

Taking note of their arguments, and faced with the imminent possibility of the PM calling a general election before long, one wonders if the Reform members are not making political hay with this. Yes, political hay. No one need fear calling things by their right name.

The Bloc Quebecois position is clear. We are opposed to the motion the Reform is proposing today, for it is our opinion that the Canadian Wheat Board must, if it is to remain efficient, stay as the only body empowered to market barley and wheat overseas and in the United States.

Let us not forget that the CWB exported wheat to 69 countries in its last crop year. Nothing to be sneezed at. You know, in a trade negotiation situation, the Canadian Wheat Board with its monopoly is the only possible contact for anyone wanting to purchase Canadian wheat. We cannot play ostrich, with our heads in the sand, thinking that this means it can demand higher prices than would be asked if there were several suppliers. The CWB, if it had no monopoly, would find itself in direct competition with the other sellers of Canadian grains, and the market price would be in danger of plummeting rapidly.

Finally, let us not forget that the CWB can, at any time, set different prices according to the markets, without eating into revenues from preferred markets.

The Reform motion would also undermine the level of price pooling and risk reduction. In a sense, what is being said is: "The heck with the security and stability that the current Canadian Wheat Board provides". The Reformers, with their inappropriate motion, are simply trying to set up a parallel system wheat and barley marketing system. This new system would only limit the actions of the Canadian Wheat Board.

There is another not insignificant aspect. As you know, the Canadian government supports the funding of the Canadian Wheat Board when it borrows on international markets. Can you imagine the rate of interest the CWB would be able to negotiate allowing producers to withdraw for two years? Would it be able to negotiate rates as advantageous as those it gets now?

In all loyalty, we owe it to ourselves to challenge a motion like the one by the member for Kindersley-Lloydminster. Even Prairie Pools, the strongest pressure group or lobby among western grain producers supports the continued existence of the Canadian Wheat Board.

As you know, there is no such thing as a perfect system or a perfect member of Parliament. Nevertheless, I am convinced that the board is by far and away the best marketing tool and an excellent partner for barley and wheat producers.

In another area, are you aware that the milk producers in my riding of Lotbinière, in Quebec and in Canada still prefer to live with the inflexibility of a system that provides for a stable income rather than challenge it.

I have a really hard time understanding the Reformers. They either head upstream in an effort to make political mileage or they divert attention from more important events that we as Parliamentarians should be paying attention to.

This is not the first time that Reformers have struck at the Canadian Wheat Board. They already called for a plebiscite to elect producers to the board of directors of the CWB. You know, allowing producers to choose whether or not to take part in decisions will always be an option when barley and wheat prices are high, but it is a much less attractive option when markets are saturated and prices fall because of production costs. Remember the second half of 1980 I was telling you about earlier.

Right now, there is an advisory board of producers elected by their peers that makes known its ideas, although it has no actual power.

The marketing of barley and wheat is an huge undertaking. Canadian Wheat Board sales are approximately four billion dollars. Operating costs alone are $41 million, approximately one per cent of total sales. Over 500 full-time and temporary employees and some 16 regional representatives work daily on behalf of barley and wheat producers.

People may say that the Canadian Wheat Board is not perfect, but to scuttle it in this underhanded manner through the motion the Reformers are presenting today borders on Reform mania. After Liberal mania, we know what the new one is.

The Canadian Wheat Board is the institutional embodiment of a marketing system developed to truly help producers.

It rests on three fundamental pillars. The first is its exclusive authority in foreign sales of wheat and barley. In the case of the United States, it is for wheat only.

The second pillar is the pooling of resources with respect to prices. When we pool resources, we can do interesting things. Here, I am thinking of the Mouvement Desjardins.

The third pillar of the Canadian Wheat Board is the partnership between producers and the government. Grain producers individually have little leverage to sell their products and a lot less weight to penetrate foreign markets, where market forces are more or less fair.

In short, this is the essence of my opposition to the motion of the Reform Party member.

Do you know how the Petit Robert defines a reformer? It talks of a tendency to reform. Under the definition of the adjective, it provides ``advocate of political reform, individual wanting to improve capitalist society through reform''. Parenthetically, it provides that such people are the opposite of revolutionaries.

What they are after is in fact a step by step revolution. The first step is to destabilize the Canadian Wheat Board. The next is to claim the difficulties it faces as the result are a sign of its illness and to use this to demand nothing less than its abolition. Why not go directly to Go? Well, no, they will not, because basically they know the board plays a very important role.

Once again they are only after political mileage. I think it is shameful to go after it on the back of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Western producers need protection, and for years it has been provided. I have to say it must not be abolished. I said earlier that they want to abolish it for two years. But how, at the end of the two years, will they pick up again? I see the Prime Minister indicating his agreement with me. It is not easy. For sure nothing is perfect. But to go from there to knocking everything down and not providing an alternate structure or some other means is going too far in the opposite direction.

What I can say is that my party supports the Canadian Wheat Board and we will work hard to keep it and to have it continue to help western producers.

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8:50 p.m.

Dauphin—Swan River Manitoba

Liberal

Marlene Cowling LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell the House that I have had numerous letters from a number of farmers in my riding requesting that we enhance the powers of the Canadian Wheat Board by adding other commodities to the board.

My question for the hon. member is this. Does he believe that the theory behind the motion of the third party in the House of Commons is to destroy, undermine and undercut the credibility of the Canadian Wheat Board as well as undercut the grassroots movement of this country which is Canadian farmers?

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8:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Landry Bloc Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond, because this is a very important question. It raises two points. The first, I feel that there must be solidarity among western producers.

As I was saying just now in my speech, not everything is perfect, but there is a difference between wanting to make improvements and throwing the baby out with the bath water. I feel the Canadian Wheat Board has a place among the producers in western Canada.

I would have been pleased to see the Reform members come up with a motion indicating that they had something better to propose. Having worked in the labour movement, I must admit that I see this as a kind of western association. They want to pull out, but they want to be able to come back. Let us ask this: after they have been out for two years, how will they get back into the Canadian Wheat Board?

I feel that, with the Canadian Wheat Board, things can be added, we can try to modify and to improve, and if that is done, all of the western producers-it is not Quebec that is the big wheat producer, but the west-if we sit down around the same table to try and find solutions, let me tell you, everyone will be happy and peace will have been restored.

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8:55 p.m.

Essex—Kent Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask our colleague why does the American government so strongly argue against the Canadian Wheat Board? Does the hon. member think the Americans are trying to protect Canadian grain producers or would it be possible they are trying to protect their own?

Does the hon. member also think that it is possible that if the Canadian Wheat Board was dismantled they would throw their borders open and allow grain to flow across that border without a problem or a challenge?

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8:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Landry Bloc Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond. I went to Washington when the Farm Bill was being studied, and let me tell you, I had some interesting experiences. We are not the most protectionist, the Americans are.

They protect their markets, and when they can improve things, they do. Let me tell you, the Americans will gain the upper hand if we do not get our act together. What we in Canada have to do in connection with the Canadian Wheat Board is not to destroy everything, but to build it up where necessary.

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8:55 p.m.

Liberal

Georgette Sheridan Liberal Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the comments made by the members of the third party this evening.

It is somewhat ironic that it takes a member of the Bloc Quebecois to explain to the third or fourth party the destructiveness of what it is Reform members are advocating this evening.

The member from the Bloc mentioned, and I quote from some of his comments, that the Reform Party was out of touch. That is abundantly clear when we have many western producers who favour not the dismantling of the wheat board but having a close examination of it to see how it could be improved in a sensible, logical, carefully thought out way. It is anathema to the Reform Party. Carefully thought out is not in the Reform Party handbook.

My hon. friend also mentioned that what the Reform Party is up to is political mileage. The other side of that is short term thinking. I guess if one is the fourth party, short term thinking is about all one can afford to do because one will not be around that long anyway.

The other term that was used by my colleague was Reform mania. I know we are here speaking about wheat and not mad cows, but it occurred to me as I listened that their solution to this is because there some problems with the wheat board and they cannot think their way out of this, so just dump it. That is the Reform Party's simplistic, short term, Homer Simpson-like solution.

Of course the wheat board is not perfect-

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8:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

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June 19th, 1996 / 8:55 p.m.

Liberal

Georgette Sheridan Liberal Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

I know, it is the other side of the story. It is not perfect and that is why the minister has put together a panel chaired by a very competent individual and people representing all the stakeholders involved on all sides of the issue. We can put a thoughtful view on this, as opposed to whatever it is that comes out of the Reform Party.

I wonder if my colleague could explain to Reformers one more time why there is strength in numbers, why 130,000 farmers acting together with an improved board to sell their grain would be more useful than every man for himself. I do mean every man for himself when I talk about the Reform Party.

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9 p.m.

Bloc

Jean Landry Bloc Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must say that the Reformers are a new party. They have just arrived in this House, and they too are learning. We know that we learn from our mistakes.

I remember the Reformers when I arrived here, in the House of Commons. They did not talk about wheat and barley, but I will not mention that. The first thing I heard them talking about was the price of club sandwiches and the shoe shine service. They wanted to see these benefits disappear.

I will tell you that there are more serious matters than club sandwiches and shoe shine services that need to be discussed in this House. I would like to warn western producers. The Reformers had better watch out because they are going to see a fast one pulled, let me tell you.

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9 p.m.

Saskatoon—Dundurn Saskatchewan

Liberal

Morris Bodnar LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, it is quite a lively crowd at nine o'clock. It sounds like the French party is having a French festival on the other side.

It is a pleasure for me to join the debate today on an issue which is of vital importance to tens of thousands of Canadian men and women, the Canadian grain marketing system. This is not a debate to be entered lightly or frivolously. This country's grain industry is a vital, prosperous and growing sector, a sector where farm receipts alone totalled more than $8.5 billion last year. It is the economic backbone of Canada's prairie region.

Though based in the prairies, the influence of the grain sector is felt across the country, from the flour mills of Montreal to the ports of Vancouver, to the fertilizer and farm equipment dealers in my native Saskatchewan.

I believe it would be fair to say literally hundreds of thousands of Canadian men and women depend on the grain sector, either indirectly or directly, for their livelihood and well-being.

Today's debate is not just about party politics or about an opposition party's attempting to score political points at the expense of the government. It is about institutions that helped to build the prairies. It is about the thousands of western Canadian grain producers and their families who have a very real and basic stake in what we are discussing today.

The motion we are debating in the House today calls on the government to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act to include a special two year opting out provision permitting those prairie producers who believe they are missing market opportunities the flexibility and choice to market their wheat and barley outside the jurisdiction of the board.

I find it quite interesting that members of the party opposite have waited so long to introduce a motion on an issue about which they claim to care so deeply. Anyone who has followed the ongoing debate on western Canadian grain marketing would know that within a matter of weeks there will be a report from the prairie-wide consultation process the minister initiated.

The nine members of the Western Grain Marketing Panel consulted with producers, industry, the provinces and other concerned stakeholders about the future of the western grain

marketing system. Their findings and conclusions will be on the minister's desk within a matter of weeks. Yet members opposite would have the federal government disregard this process, discount the hard work of the panel and the contributions made by thousands of individuals and companies, and unilaterally introduce a major change in the manner in which wheat and barley are exported in Canada. I find this reasoning quite dumbfounding.

What I find even more surprising is that not only did the Reform Party make a submission to the panel, a submission which if the government were to adopt this motion would simply be tossed aside, but the submission was made by the sponsor of this motion. As Alice noted in Through the Looking Glass , it is curiouser and curiouser.

I cannot and would not want to speak for the Reform Party but I am prepared and committed to wait and see what western Canadian grain producers have to say about contemplating any changes.

This motion speaks of giving farmers a choice. It promotes the so-called dual marketing system, a system which in theory gives farmers the option of marketing grain on their own or continuing to have the Canadian Wheat Board market their produce on their behalf. Dual market proponents say they want the alternative to use the current system or not to use it as their choice. Fundamental in their line of argument is that the wheat board should remain. That is the fundamental issue and one that bears largely on this motion. Can you have your cake and eat it too?

Can the Canadian Wheat Board continue to operate successfully side by side with a free and open market? I do not know the answer to that question. I am not inclined to jump to any conclusions but my instinct would be that it is pretty tough to have both systems equally successful. Let us reserve judgment until we see what the panel has to say on the issue.

The issue of grain marketing in western Canada is one that has stirred emotion and debate for quite some time. There are farmers on both sides of the issue, some of whom are very strongly supportive of the Canadian Wheat Board system and others who hold different points of view.

In order to bring some logic, focus and coherence to the debate rather than having people shout at each other through bull horns from the back of pickup trucks, last year the minister established the Western Grain Marketing Panel to investigate on behalf of all grain producers in western Canada the issue related to the broad subject of grain marketing, one of which is obviously the marketing system of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The panel has been hard at work for many months. It held 15 public town hall meetings across the prairies to provide information and to receive input and feedback from farmers and farm organizations. It conducted three sets of formal hearings in Winnipeg, Edmonton and Regina to provide a formal opportunity for all of those with differing views to come forward with their best arguments, their best evidence for one system or another, to be subject to examination and cross-examination, and to weigh the benefits and the consequences.

The panel is now in the final stages of preparing its report. The minister expects to have that document the first week of July and he will make it public soon after. Once we have the report we will be in a much better position to make whatever future decisions are necessary with respect to grain marketing.

The Western Grain Marketing Panel review has been a process of the utmost integrity and it is a process we are committed to seeing through until the end. We wanted input from grain producers. We will not dishonour that commitment by agreeing to such a monumental change before considering their views.

I know that some individuals within the sector, possibly some within this Chamber, have criticized the panel process as being too long and too time consuming. They applaud the efforts of a small fringe group which calls itself Farmers for Justice. I prefer the name which was bestowed on that group by a letter written by one of western Canada's larger farm newspapers, Farmers for Just Us.

This group has for many months staged protests in which convoys of Canadian wheat and barley cross the border into the United States without having the required Canadian Wheat Board export licenses. These individuals may see themselves as freedom fighters or some kind of latter day Robin Hoods, stealing from the big Canadian Wheat Board, but in reality the situation is far different.

By illegally exporting grain on their own, by circumventing the Canadian Wheat Board and its pooling system, these individuals are not pooling or sharing their profits from these sales with other producers from across the prairies. What is wrong with that, some might ask.

Through the use of pooling the board ensures all western Canadian producers, whether they farm in the Red Deer Valley of Manitoba or the Peace River region of British Columbia, share and share alike in the revenues generated by their sweat and toil. This is the co-operative spirit that helped to build the prairies and it is a tradition of which all prairie residents should be justifiably proud.

A recent ruling in Manitoba has created a certain degree of confusion within the industry and has given rise to false claims and charges by some, including those on the opposite benches, that the court ruled against the Canadian Wheat Board. If I may be

permitted to quote from the judge's formal written decision it will become quite clear that nothing could be further from the truth:

This is not a case about the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly over interprovincial and international trade in grain. This is not a case about the powers of the Canadian Wheat Board to control the export and sale of grain and to grant licences therefore. This is not a case about free enterprise in a democratic society nor is it about the benefits of marketing boards versus the benefits of free enterprise. This is not a case to resolve the apparent debate between farmer and farmer or between farmers and the government as to which is the best method to market grain. This is not a case about David versus Goliath. This is a case about a man who is alleged to have exported grain to the United States of America and, at the time he crossed the border with the grain, did not show a licence to export the grain to the appropriate customs official.

Some have criticized the government for the action it took to respond to this court ruling, action taken to restore certainty in the wake of the decision. The situation the federal government and the entire western grains industry found itself in following the judgment was intolerable and could not be left alone.

There were two apparently conflicting rulings from courts in Manitoba with respect to export procedures on wheat and barley. Producers, exporters and industry needed a degree of certainty. In order to restore that certainty, in order to make crystal clear the requirements to export wheat and barley, the federal government clarified the relevant Canadian Wheat Board regulations. Industry needed to know clearly what the rules were and that is what the federal government achieved by clarifying the regulations.

In responding to the calls from the opposite side of the House for drastic and immediate change to the wheat board, I simply ask them to urge caution. We do not change an entire grain marketing system on a whim. That is not what good government is all about. Good government is about listening to the people, listening to all sides of a debate, weighing the pros and cons, then taking action based on the best long term interests of the vast majority.

Given the current international trade agreements Canada has signed and the new rules under which we now operate, once we change the board we are stuck with the new version. We cannot change our minds if we decide after a couple of years that we do not like the new system and revert to the old way of doing things.

Any decision the government makes will be a profound and serious one requiring a thorough and serious approach and evaluation. This is a multi-billion dollar industry and its future is not to be taken lightly in the way the third party is doing. Farmers and their families who depend on the marketing of grain are depending on us.

None of what I have said should be taken to mean that the status quo is good enough. Everyone agrees there is need for some type of change and there may be change. First I simply appeal to everyone with an interest in western grain marketing to hold their arguments and their fire until the grain marketing panel is released. Unilateral action by one group or province at this stage could have far reaching consequences and a final magnitude which nobody could now possibly estimate.

Change may be coming. Make no mistake, it may be coming. But it will be considered and thoughtful change by a government that has consulted with the people who will be most affected by that change. It will not be the sort of change driven by editorial headlines and dictated by a small vocal fringe group concerned only with its own self-interest.

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9:15 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, as usual I listened with great interest to the member from Saskatoon-Dundurn. Why? I am not too sure. Perhaps it is the lateness of the hour and I do not have anything better to do this evening so I listened.

I noticed he said the Reform wants to change this on a whim. Nothing could be further from the truth. This motion is well thought out. I do not know whether he has taken the time to read the motion.

The member wants to cling to the past. This is quite unusual because normally that is what the Liberals accuse the Reform Party of doing, but in this case they want to cling to the past. He said he did not know whether the two systems, free marketing and the Canadian Wheat Board, can operate jointly. Well neither do we. That is the whole point of the motion.

We heard tonight about the unfairness that Ontario corn producers can market their product wherever and whenever they want yet western wheat growers cannot. We heard that Quebec wheat growers can market their product into Ontario yet western wheat growers cannot.

I would like to take a couple of minutes to recount my personal experience with this. My brother and I were farming up until the time I got elected to the House of Commons. We were farming 3,000 acres, producing wheat, barley, canola and grass seed in the Peace River country of British Columbia, not Alberta as a colleague said earlier.

We got into an effort to market some of our barley directly into the Caribou, to truck it ourselves through the Rocky Mountains and market it in the Caribou region. It was feed barley. When we did that we learned of a situation in the remainder of the province of British Columbia involving the wheat growers in the Creston valley and other areas of B.C. Bear in mind that the vast majority of the arable land in British Columbia is in the Peace River country on the east side of the Rocky mountains. Although that was small acreage, they could market their wheat directly to Rogers Flour Mill in Armstrong in the Okanagan interior but I could not. The same province, the same country. We were in tough times then.

Most farmers were just barely getting by. Grain prices were in the basement. Is that fair? That is what I want the member to answer.

Is it fair that some farmers in this country depending upon where they live can take advantage of opportunities and market their wheat directly to a flour mill? It is still going on today. Farmers in another area, because it is under the umbrella of the Canadian Wheat Board, are prevented from taking advantage of that opportunity. That is what we are talking about tonight. We are talking about freedom, choice and fairness.

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9:15 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Mr. Speaker, when we speak of fairness I simply ask the member to look at a few facts. One of them is just plain ordinary common sense.

If Reformers only looked at the Americans who want to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board, they are not doing it for the benefit of Canadians. Then there is the leader of the third party who in March 1995 talked to the Americans about this being an irritant to the Americans. He talked of getting rid of our Canadian Wheat Board. Their own leader talks against the Canadian farmer. Their own leader does not care about the western Canadian farmer. He is more concerned about removing an irritant for the Americans. He is running on the wrong side of the border. That is what they want to do.

That is the party that has thought everything out so well including this particular motion, as he is indicating. He wonders whether I read the motion. I read it in my speech. It is obvious he was not listening as closely as he indicated. He indicated that it was so well thought out. If it was so well thought out, why was it not in the brief presented by the member opposite who sponsored the motion? It was not in the brief. This was really well thought out.

Why is this motion brought at the eleventh hour just before the panel is to release its report? They would not wait until the panel report came down because they are not looking for fairness. They are simply looking for air time so they can present further arguments in trying to show how unfair the system is, a multibillion dollar system.

They talk of a dual marketing system and they have not presented any numbers or any evaluation of their proposal by any professionals to show that their system is beneficial to the farmers. They have done nothing of the sort in a multibillion dollar system. Perhaps they could get a few numbers from H&R Block. They should not be that busy, tax time is over. They have not even done that. They are simply acting on a whim.

SupplyGovernment Orders

9:20 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, one of the questions the member raises is why we are discussing it at this time. He knows very well that the report from the grain marketing panel has not yet been tabled and Parliament will not be sitting all summer. When else do we debate it? We debate it whenever we have the opportunity. That is quite obvious. We pressed for this debate and we finally got it.

Why do we raise this issue? Because farmers do not trust a government which says it is going to support farmers and then as soon as it is elected it removes the Crow subsidy with no inkling at all that this is going to happen. That was one of the problems.

SupplyGovernment Orders

9:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Shut up.

SupplyGovernment Orders

9:20 p.m.

Reform

Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

The member also said he was listening to the people. I want to tell the member the results of a survey which was done in my riding.

Of the people in the riding of Yorkton-Melville, 80.5 per cent think the government should hold a plebiscite of all Saskatchewan farmers and producers regarding the future of the Canadian Wheat Board; 66.1 per cent do not think the Canadian Wheat Board should continue to have a monopoly on wheat and barley sales in western Canada; 73.9 per cent think producers have the right to sell their grain, including wheat and barley, anywhere they want; 96.3 per cent think the operations of the Canadian Wheat Board should be open and accountable to the farmers it serves. That is the people speaking and this government refuses to listen.

Last of all, 51.9 per cent of the people think the government should exempt the wheat and barley shipped through the port of Churchill from the authority of the Canadian Wheat Board because they do not trust the wheat board to handle it properly. They feel it is controlled by eastern interests.

SupplyGovernment Orders

9:20 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Mr. Speaker, I find it rather disgusting in a debate such as this when there are comments being made and the hon. member for Calgary West utters comments to the minister of agriculture to shut up. That is completely unparliamentary. That is the new way that the Reform Party does business in the House.

SupplyGovernment Orders

9:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

SupplyGovernment Orders

9:20 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

There they go again. They refuse to allow anyone to speak because they believe the new way of being in Parliament is to be the loudest, to monopolize time and to call people down all the time.

The hon. member made comments that the reason this matter was raised now is that the report will be filed in the summer. They have had 16 opportunities since last year to have this matter brought up. They never did it until the eleventh hour. This is nothing but gamesmanship on the part of the third party and this will be remembered by the people in the west.

SupplyGovernment Orders

9:20 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talks about etiquette and decorum in this House. He did not even attempt to answer my question.

SupplyGovernment Orders

9:20 p.m.

An hon. member

The minister of agriculture is heckling.

SupplyGovernment Orders

9:20 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Yes, exactly, the minister of agriculture is heckling our speaker and someone tries to tell him to please be quiet. No, we are not supposed to do that. However, the member did not even try to address my question.

I will ask the member again: Does he think that this system is fair after hearing me recount my personal experience? Would he please address that question and tell Canadian farmers that this system is fair? That is what happened to me personally and my family farm and it has happened to countless others in this country.

SupplyGovernment Orders

9:25 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the argument made by the hon. member is one on which he should be sitting on this side arguing in favour of pooling. It would have been beneficial to him. In effect he has destroyed his party's whole argument on its motion but that is not unusual. I am sure if Reformers read the blues for today they will determine that they have these contradictions in their own arguments.

It is interesting to hear the derogatory comments. As soon as Reformers are caught with something, they try to degrade an individual. Now they are referring to my legal background. Unfortunately they have not done their research to determine that I come from a farming background. I grew up on a farm and farmed with my father for a while before proceeding to law school. Maybe it would not hurt them either to get a post-secondary education.