Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand again and discuss Bill C-4, the wheat board bill. As members will know, the New Democratic Party remains the only party in this House to stand four square behind the board and behind farmers who support the board, which is the vast majority of farmers, in total contradiction to what the Reform Party tries to say.
We know from the barley plebiscite that 63 per cent of farmers supported the board there. We know that whenever asked, farmers will support the Canadian Wheat Board. That is because they are rational economic actors. They support the wheat board because the wheat board is being good to them. The wheat board has paid them a premium year over year. As a consequence, because they have benefited from the wheat board, farmers support the board.
There are those, of course, who will put common sense aside and will argue they want to use the open market where they will make less money than they would under the board. We should, of course, not pay too much attention to those who are not acting rationally in this regard. The Reform Party would rather pay considerable attention to those few farmers who ignore common sense, ignore reality, ignore the fact that the wheat board has been of significant benefit to farmers. They want to destroy something which has been critical to agriculture in Saskatchewan and the rest of the prairies and remains critically important to farming, to farmers and to farm families across the west.
As is clear, over and over the Reform Party chooses ideology over common sense, ideology over what is good for farmers, but farmers will not listen to that argument. Farmers across the prairies, as we know, contrary to everything that the Reform Party would want and contrary to what it says, support the board whenever they are given the opportunity to be asked on that.
When farmers were asked about barley and the board, fully 63 per cent supported the board. That is not a number that the Reform Party likes and it is not a number it wants to accept, but the truth of the matter is on that plebiscite farmers supported the board because the board makes sense. The board makes sense over and over again to farmers every time they are asked.
We know it is in the hundreds of millions of dollars a year that the wheat board makes for farmers. Significant studies by the very best agriculture economists here and in the United States point out that farmers make around $265 million a year more by selling wheat through the wheat board than they would by selling through the private grain trade.
Why would the Reform Party be opposed to farmers making $265 million a year more than they would by using the private grain trade? The Reform Party, being ideologues, being neo-conservatives, wants to make sure the private grain traders who support it so well and support it financially and support it in its arguments with regard to the wheat board make more money, rather than the farmers. We know that the wheat board ships that profit that it makes back to the farmers.
It is not just wheat, it is in barley too. Studies show that $72 million a year extra goes to barley farmers than would otherwise be the case. Again, the Reform Party because of its ideology, because of its distaste for any good government program, any program that works, opposes barley farmers' getting that extra $72 million a year.
When ideology does not work it should be discarded. This ideology of the Reform Party should be discarded too.
There are problems with Bill C-4. We know that. We know and farmers know that the Liberal government cannot be trusted with the wheat board either. There are significant problems in Bill C-4 which point that out. They support that rightful concern by farmers.
Bill C-4 proposes cash buying. This is a significant problem and will undermine farmer confidence in the board. Regarding the contingency fund, why does the government want to take $575 million or thereabouts in check-offs from farmers?
It would not be necessary to take that money from farmers were the Liberal government to stand firmly behind the board in the way in which the board was designed to be protected by the federal government.
What about control? It is true that we will have farmers elected to the board. Still, the government will choose the chief executive officer, a critically important functionary, and thereby take away a chunk of the control that farmers would otherwise have.
I should point out, too, a point that I omitted with regard to the support for the wheat board. Not only when asked in plebiscites do farmers support the wheat board, but when asked to elect wheat board advisory members farmers overwhelmingly choose farmers who support the wheat board.
In other words, whenever asked, farmers have stood up for and supported the wheat board. The Reform Party is simply not supporting the views of its constituents when it wants to destroy the very thing that, in short, farmers make the extra profit with on a yearly basis.
What about the inclusion clause? The Reform Party goes on so much about democracy. What could be more democratic than asking farmers whether they would wish to add a grain, a commodity under the wheat board jurisdiction? What would it have to be afraid of if farmers make that decision on a free vote?
Why would it be opposed to that democratic decision making when it goes on so much about democracy with regard to the wheat board in general?
Let us look at who wants to get rid of the wheat board. It is not Canadian farmers, as I have said, because they have consistently supported the board. It is the kind of people, the kind of big business, the kind of anti-farmer interest that supports the Reform Party in all of its endeavours.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the commodity exchange in Winnipeg, Cargill, these kinds of corporations stand to gain by farmers' not having the wheat board on their side.
It is time the Reform Party put its ideology aside. It is time those agribusiness organizations put their self-interests aside and let farmers get a crack for once.
We have known all along that Reformers and Conservatives are fundamentally opposed to the wheat board and will do everything in their power to attack the wheat board and its credibility. They will do everything in their power to enhance the profit making abilities of the private grain trade and those who would oppose the interests of farmers.
We even know that they are prepared to say that farmers are opposed to the wheat board when they favour the wheat board. Nothing is left to chance by the Reform Party. Its members will say black is white in order to pursue their ideology.