Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise at this late date to speak to Bill C-4. I have a few comments to make. I would like to inform the Chair that I will be sharing my time with the member for Elk Island.
Two things I am going to open with and I am also going to close with were mentioned just a couple of minutes ago by my colleague from Prince George—Peace River. If the government is convinced that farmers support Bill C-4 then put it to a binding referendum, straight and simple. There is no question.
When we look at Bill C-4 and the farmers and farm groups I have talked to about the bill over the last few months I do not see anybody on either side of the debate who likes the bill. The people who are solidly in support of single desk monopolies do not like the bill. Neither do some of the other people who would like the choice of a dual marketing system or any other type of system.
When nobody likes a particular piece of legislation it kind of reminds me of Bill C-68. We have a government which is saying “This is what is good for you people. Do what we tell you to do and be nice little children out in western Canada. Do as we say and we will get along just fine”. It does not work. It cannot work. It is the same type of arrogance we saw in Bill C-68 from the government in the last parliament.
I remember particularly one day in June 1996 that we held a debate on the wheat board in the House. That was in the last parliament. I looked across the way and we counted 15 lawyers who were Liberal members and 12 farmers on the Reform side in the House at that time. It struck me as ironic that there would be 15 lawyers, most of whom had never been to a farm in Saskatchewan, telling farmers from Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta how they should do their business. I do not understand that kind of thinking. It is something that I just cannot accept.
I look at this bill and I see tinkering around the edges of the wheat board. I think the minister knows full well that unless he makes some changes, the wheat board will most likely explode from within rather than from without. He knows of the tremendous pressure from farmers and farm groups on the Canadian Wheat Board and yet he has failed. He has a very good opportunity here to make some changes that farmers can accept, yet he has failed to do that.
The two things that farmers tell me most is that they would like to have the opportunity to look at the books of the Canadian Wheat Board. They also tell me that they would like to elect all of the wheat board directors. Quite simple.
I think if you had those two basic fundamental steps, a lot of the pressure on the wheat board would be taken off. There is no question about it.
I think what Bill C-4 is about, almost as much as it is about the right to market grain, is basic rights in this country. Again, as I said before, we have seen over the past number of years the inability of this Liberal government to recognize the basic fundamental rights of Canadians on a lot of issues.
Another one that is before the Supreme Court is the right of Quebec to decide its own future. Our government fails to recognize the need for Canadians to have those particular rights and the rights of property, as I mentioned before, Bill C-16, the right to own a gun, the right to sell that bushel of wheat that you grew on your farm, yet you have no right to sell it in your own best interests.
A fellow came into my office when I was the member for Moose Jaw—Lake Centre in the last parliament. He said he had a pile of durum on his ground in his yard, about 10,000 bushels. He said he could take that durum across the line and get $8 a bushel for it. In Canada there was no market at that point in time to sell that durum. He asked what he was supposed to do. He said he was going broke, that if he did not sell the durum he would most likely lose his farm. He asked if he should take it across the line.
What is anyone in their right mind going to tell this man? You have to tell him that he has to do the best that he thinks is right for him. Nobody could argue that. I have no idea what the man did but if it was me and it was my durum, I would be hauling it across the line to save my farm. I would just do that.
I want to touch on the arrogance that we see from this government. I have listened to the debate today about how farmers support Bill C-4. I would like to ask the government how many Liberal MPs have been to Saskatchewan, how many have been in the communities of Dundurn, Val Marie or Smuts, gone to the coffee shop and asked the farmers what they think about C-4.
I do not recall one Liberal MP being in Saskatchewan. Of course, we have to remember there are very few Liberal MPs in Saskatchewan. The parliamentary secretary said he believed farmers were fairly intelligent people. They are. They did kick out four Liberal MPs in the last election. Yes, I think they are relatively intelligent.
The question is how can you make a statement saying that farmers support this bill when you do not listen to the farmers in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. You cannot have consensus unless you listen to people. They have not done that. They have taken the advisory committee recommendations and put half measures in place in many cases. The minister said they acted on all the recommendations.
There was one. The advisory committee recommended that farmers be allowed to sell a certain portion of their wheat off-board. I do not recall the minister saying they acted on that one. Maybe I was not in my chair at that time, but I do not think he mentioned that.
It comes down to rights, to democracy and to the ability of any government, whether it be this Liberal government or any other government, to listen to the people, to let the farmers decide how they want to run their business, within certain regulations of course.
In Saskatchewan if you look at the state of agriculture, the NDP provincial government will say that all is wonderful.
That is a far cry from the truth. The fact is that there are 3,500 in my province who are in arrears to the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation. More farmers will probably go bankrupt this year then have in the last two or three years put together. That is what I would consider the edge of disaster for agriculture in Saskatchewan.
One of those concerns is the wheat board and one of those is transportation. We have problems out there. If only this government would take the simple time to listen to what the people are saying, some of those problems could be avoided. Some of those bankruptcies that will ultimately happen, and have happened, in our province of Saskatchewan will rest on the shoulders of this Liberal government. Indirectly, the blame for those bankruptcies can go to this Liberal government. In my opinion that is a shame.
I want to end by saying if this government has so much faith in Bill C-4 and if they believe that the farmers in western Canada who live under the Canadian Wheat Board support that bill by a vast majority, as most of the government members will tell us, then put your money where your mouth is. Let us put Bill C-4 to the test, to a binding referendum among farmers. I tell you, Mr. Speaker, if it comes back and the result is in favour of Bill C-4, I will stand by that decision as well.