It is with trepidation that I speak to Bill C-4 perhaps for the last time, unless the government in its wisdom allows the legislation to go back to committee for further debate.
Quite frankly the legislation before us at the present time is not what I and certainly a number of my constituents would consider to be a good piece of legislation which deals with and resolves the issues of the Canadian Wheat Board. I say that to my colleagues on the Liberal benches and plead with them not to stop the ongoing debate that is happening currently with Bill C-4.
I would like to speak on a number of issues in a number of areas. First, I am not a producer. I am not a farmer. A number of my relatives gain their living from agriculture and in certain cases grow a substantial amount of wheat and other products including products which are not included in the Canadian Wheat Board. Also, I represent a community that with great pride announces itself as the wheat city. It has been known as that particular city since its inception in 1982. The wheat in the wheat city is the backbone of our economy and is reflected in the Canadian Wheat Board legislation.
I want to talk about my philosophy, that of my party and the reason I ran for this party. Our philosophy is fairly simple.
We believe in free enterprise. We believe in choice. We believe in a free market system, as was seen by the NAFTA legislation which was brought forward by the last Progressive Conservative government. We believe in less government and less government control. We believe in more individual freedom for people and people's responsibility for themselves. I say that because I can make the connection between that philosophy and the philosophy of producers in the Canadian Wheat Board.
For those people who are listening I would like to make an analogy. There has been a lot of ranting and raving, rhetoric, flailing of hands and gnashing of teeth over this particular issue. The fact is this is a very important issue for producers in western Canada. I would like to make the comparison as to what we are talking about here.
A farmer, a producer, an agriculturalist or whatever we want to call that individual is in fact a small business. In lots of cases it is more than simply a small business and is a very large business. The producer capitalizes and buys land, a substantial amount of land in some cases because the more land he has, obviously the more he can produce. There is a large capital cost for that.
The producer then accesses what is referred to as inputs. He accesses pesticides, herbicides, seed and fertilizer. He plants the seed in the land which he has purchased with in some cases substantial capital. He then nurtures that seed until it grows and it produces and then it is harvested. When he harvests the crop and he puts it in his bin, he has produced the product.
Unfortunately while the crop is in that bin, if it is wheat or barley, that producer does not have control or ownership of that product. He must be at the whim and unfortunately the nature of the Canadian Wheat Board. The Canadian Wheat Board will tell that producer what price he can sell his product for and to whom he can sell it. And he can only sell it to one purchaser, the Canadian Wheat Board and no one else.
When the producer puts that seed in the ground he is given an initial payment based on what his cash flows are going to be over the next crop year. Sometimes those initial payments change and sometimes they do not. There are adjustments. The fact is he can only sell to one purchaser and that purchaser is the Canadian Wheat Board. If he does not sell it to the board, that crop will sit in that bin forever or until it rots because he cannot sell it to anyone else.
I will use the analogy of a manufacturer whether he is in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick or Newfoundland. The manufacturer makes a product, controls the capital to produce that product and controls the inputs. When he has that final finished product in his hands he can sell it to whomever he wants.
If it is below the cost of production, the manufacturer will not be making that product very much longer. If he does not have competition here in Canada to purchase his product, he can sell it internationally. He can sell it to the United States or to Europe. When the manufacturer makes the product, he has the option to sell it to whomever he wishes.
Very simply, that is the free market system, being in business and selling to whomever one wants. Unfortunately today with wheat and barley the producer does not have the same options.
Let us talk a little bit about the history of this which is very important. I will get into my philosophical beliefs with respect to the Canadian Wheat Board. The Canadian Wheat Board is a very good institution, make no mistake about that. The problem is that it is not prepared to deal with the 21st century, nor is government today prepared to deal with the 21st century. Let us talk about history.
There is a reason the Canadian Wheat Board came into being a number of years ago. In the early part of the 20th century a lot of producers who were growing that crop I talked about felt they were not getting a fair return for the product they were producing. They voluntarily, and I stress the term voluntarily, got together and said they would have a much better opportunity to sell their product at a higher price if they pooled it. They felt that if they put it all together it would be a bigger commodity and they would be able to go out and sell it to the best buyer.
This was done on a voluntary basis with the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, the Alberta Wheat Pool and the Manitoba Wheat Pool back in the early 1920s. It worked because they felt they were being taken advantage of by the corporations.
Unfortunately in 1943 the voluntary sale of that product to a pooling system was made mandatory. Now the producers had no choice. When it was voluntary they could do what they wanted. They could pool it with their neighbours or they could go somewhere else and sell it. In 1943 for any number of reasons and probably very good reasons for the times, it was made mandatory. Make no mistake about that, it was probably done for the right reasons in 1943. I was not around as I was not even born yet. However, it was probably for the right reasons and probably was the right thing to do at that time.