Madam Speaker, my colleague who spoke just prior made the statement that it is a sad day on the prairies with the passing, as it of course will, of C-4, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act, and of course it is.
In the 35th Parliament, we had Bill C-68, the gun control legislation. It was a sad day then especially for Western Canada. Of course, we know where that particular bill is now insofar as four or five governments are concerned in taking the federal government to court.
Already in this term with not even a year gone by, we have Bill C-4, which is going to be disastrous to say the least for a lot of Western Canadian producers, and it is going to do some harm.
I want to quote a little bit from a column in the Western Producer. It is written by Reverend J.A. Davidson and this is what he has to say when he quotes T.S. Eliot in the play, The Cocktail Party:
“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important”.
Then of course Reilly, who is the psychiatrist in this play, and I can see Reilly already being a psychiatrist and the minister of the wheat board lying on the couch, further explains that quote:
“They don`t mean to do harm—but the harm does not interest them. Or they just do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves”.
Harm is done by a lot of people. Just what harm is being done with the passing of Bill C-4, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act? I suggest there are going to be a number of harms done. In fact there were harms done to Canadian western farmers away back in 1943 when the Canadian Wheat Board became a monopoly.
Of course, the history goes back prior to that. The Canadian Wheat Board was actually established in 1935, but it was a voluntary wheat board up until 1943 when the government invoked the War Measures Act and passed the Canadian Wheat Board Act and made it a monopoly in Western Canada. Already back then, more than 50 years ago, what happened was this: the Canadian government made a deal with Great Britain—it was during the war—to supply Great Britain with 600 million bushels of wheat at a set price to be delivered over a four year period. This wheat was all sold at below market price to Great Britain, all 600 million bushels. The extent to which it was sold under market price ranged between $1 and $1.50. In late 1940 dollars, $1 and $1.50 below market price, accumulating actually almost $1 billion that western farmers lost in four years due to the monopoly of the wheat board.
Imagine those dollars in terms of today's dollars. There would be tens of billions of dollars lost to their prairie economy because of a control mongered government here in Ottawa. But it does not stop there.
Economists right through the wheat board's history have come up with this figure that over the 30, 40, 50 years, in addition to these four years that I have just talked about, western Canadian farmers have lost on average about a dollar a bushel on all the grain they have sold over those years, and of course we cannot get it. This is so ridiculous that we cannot know for sure because of the nature of the Canadian Wheat Board. Nobody can get into it. It operates in secrecy and this bill does nothing to open it up at all. It is still in the control of the minister and executive council.
We have over the 30 or 40 years hundreds of millions of bushels a year, about a dollar a bushel, billions of dollars that the centralist government here in Ottawa has taken out of the prairie economy. Imagine where the western provinces would be today if all those dollars could have been reinvested back in western Canada. Imagine that.
So that is how they have lost. It was about a dollar a bushel over all those years. There is going to be harm done democratically as well. Not only will the wheat board be not operating democratically, but also in the greater context the other provinces are all bound to honour the Canadian Wheat Board Act.
Alberta has voted to opt out, to set up a dual marketing system. We cannot do that. Even though Alberta has voted to do that, we cannot do that because of the Canadian Wheat Board Act. It is undemocratic. It does not matter which way you slice it or dice it. Regardless of this law, it is still undemocratic.
It will continue to be undemocratic in spite of the amendments. The government would not accept our amendments, none of them. Shame on the government.
It has already harmed a number of western farmers. It has made criminals out of grain producers. The act has and I suggest it probably will continue to make criminals out of western grain producers. Already 219 charges have been laid against western producing farmers. What did they do? They must have raped their neighbour's wife or stolen or murdered. They must have done something like that to be charged, some of them shackled and thrown into jail.
What did these western producers do to warrant a trip to jail? They did the absolute unpardonable, they sold their grain to the Americans. Prairie farmers cannot sell grain to the Americans, that is not acceptable. They pay way less in taxes down there. You cannot sell grain into a country like that, a capitalist system where they can move grain back and forth freely. Of course they cannot into here but they can around the world.
They are charged under a law that is absolutely confusing. Some are charged, some are not. Others are convicted. The charges are stayed. You wonder really where we are at. I suggested already that it is going to keep young people from going into active farming in western Canada because of Bill C-4.
Why should young people go into wheat or barley production? After they have invested all the money, went out in the spring, did all the work, invested in fertilizer, in seed, machinery, land, the sweat and the stress of putting the crop in, taking care of it and of course harvesting it, why should they go into that when the government is going to control it?
They do not even own it, really. If they want to export milling wheat, they do not even own it. The government owns it, for heaven's sake.
Why should they go into a sector of our economy when it is the only sector in Canada's economy where the producers do not have control over where they market? It is absolutely a shame. This is a sad day for western Canadian farmers.
I have already mentioned that it will hurt the western economy because of the diversification that will not occur in so far as the processing of wheat is concerned. If people who want to add value to wheat have to buy it first, sell it to the Canadian Wheat Board then buy it back at greater price, there is a good chunk of their profit gone.
It is a bill that should be withdrawn. I plead with the members across the way that they not support it in the vote tonight.