Below cost, of course. We lose money on each pig that comes out of the hog house.
This is how the Liberal government of the member for Saint-Maurice manages our affairs.
The distinguished Reform Party member who spoke before me was right when he said that Bill C-4 has the effect of uniting grain producers, not in support of the legislation, but against it.
I received hundreds of letters. Even yesterday evening, before the vote, I received telephone calls from Manitoba grain producers who urged me to vote against Bill C-4. They asked me to go and talk to some Liberal members and tell them to abstain from voting if they did not have the courage to oppose the legislation. The arguments against Bill C-4 were different, but grain producers were united in their opposition.
If the Minister of Natural Resources and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board truly intends to co-operate with producers, he should leave Ottawa and visit farms in western Canada, in Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Peace River. He would see what producers think of his bill. The minister is out of touch with reality.
Some object to the inclusion provisions. Others to the exclusion clauses. Others still to the reserve fund or the appointment process. Some would even like another election as soon as possible.
I know of very few people who agree with the bill in its present form. If the good minister intends to work on behalf of the grain producers, he ought to call a halt to Bill C-4, possibly returning it to the Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food with the definite intention of making major changes.
I would like to review some of the amendments we in the Bloc Quebecois proposed. First of all, as I pointed out, the appointed president will, to all intents and purposes, be the one directing the Canadian Wheat Board. Our proposal was that his appointment go through the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. That was rejected, because the minister told his MPs, whose time in committee is often wasted: “Vote against it. You have no business being involved in this”.
Who will make the appointment? The governor in council. And who is the governor in council? In this case, it will be the minister responsible, and he will tell his cabinet buddies: “You will appoint Mr. or Ms. X.” The salary will be $144,000 plus a few odds and ends. And that is how it will take place.
I asked some of my Liberal colleagues who sat on this committee with us “Why did you vote against it? You are not acting in your own best interests. For once, the agriculture committee would have had a role to play. You would have gained back some self-esteem”. Anyway, it is a known fact that the chair of each committee is a Liberal. There are eight Liberals, and six opposition members, and then sometimes even the opposition is divided, since there are four recognized parties.
So, had they had a bit of gumption to stick to their guns, they could still have appointed their protégé, but at least there would have been an opportunity to ask that protégé some questions. I have even seen some appointments where a person who knew absolutely nothing, someone who could not tell wheat from oats or barley, was appointed to a position as important as this one. The prerequisite was to be of the right colour politically.
I am talking about the Liberals. However, when the Progressive Conservative Party formed the government before the Liberals, things were not much better, as we well know. On the subject of appointments, was it not the Liberal Party that appointed the famous Senator Thompson? He was good at the time. He headed the Liberal Party in Ontario. He led his troops to electoral disaster. In appreciation of his work, they appointed him at a very young age to the other House with a salary of $64,000 and $10,000 in allowances. Today he is the embarrassment of all the other senators. He was expelled from the Liberal Party for trying to boost the family fortunes. Now they are trying various ways to expel him from the Senate.
When we put the question to the Prime Minister in the House, he says we have to change the Constitution, because he was appointed to age 75. How many of my constituents have wondered why we do not abolish the Senate? They say the $45 million we would save could go to maple producers, whose sugar bushes were destroyed.
I had another proposal concerning access to information relating to the Canadian Wheat Board. I told you that sales for 1998-99 will be over $7 billion. Not $7 million but $7 billion. That is a lot of money. This $7 billion must at all costs be administered by and for grain producers.
In 1935, when the Canadian Wheat Board was created, there were a lot of bankruptcies. Eight out of ten people lost their farms. Some torched their crops. It was more profitable to burn them than to harvest them. It was less costly not to harvest their crops. At the time, the Canadian Wheat Board helped a fair number of producers get out of trouble.
Earlier, an hon. member said that some producers are thrown in jail for bypassing the board. As you know—and as the member for Trois-Rivières reminded me earlier—some producers located close to the border load their grain on big trucks and deliver it directly to American buyers. This way, they get up to 12% more than what the Canadian Wheat Board can offer them.
Whenever one of these producers gets caught, he is charged and taken to court, because the law says there is a monopoly and grain can only be sold through the CWB. The producer ends up in jail. The hon. member may have exaggerated somewhat when he said that the producer was thrown in the same cell as a rapist or a drug addict, adding that, unlike rapists and drug addicts who are often paroled, the producer could not enjoy such treatment.
I will end by giving you a scoop and telling you that, primarily because the auditor general will not be able to go and audit the books, that responsibility will be given to a private accounting firm. This is worrisome; it stinks. One thing is for sure: the process will definitely lack transparency. We have some doubt, because neither the producer nor anyone else will be able to check the information. The public interest is not protected, and this puts another doubt in our mind.
Since the whole issue seems to create a lot of uncertainty and discontent among grain producers, the Bloc Quebecois will vote against Bill C-4 at third reading.