Madam Speaker, I must thank you for this opportunity to speak in favour of Bill C-4, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Bill C-4 is an innovative bill, which will result in fundamental changes to the relationship between western grain producers and their single window marketing body, the Canadian Wheat Board.
This bill, the result of consultations that were both intensive and extensive, will give grain producers unprecedented power. Not only can they direct the activities of the Canadian Wheat Board, but they can also determine the impact of its future role on their lives. Under the scrutiny of the producers it serves, the CWB will be more open, more responsible, and more attuned to the needs of producers where marketing is concerned.
Under Bill C-4, the CWB will be directed, not as it is at present by government-appointed board members, but by a board of directors. At least 10 of the 15 directors will be directly chosen by western producers. Since the government will continue to provide substantial financial assistance to the Canadian Wheat Board, it will appoint four directors, plus the president.
However, since this is a partnership between the government and the western producers, the directors will set the president's salary and will be entitled to evaluate his performance, and recommend his dismissal if necessary. The directors will have complete control over the activities of the Canadian Wheat Board.
They will have access to complete information on the CWB's sales and finances. In addition, the board of directors, two thirds of whom will be elected by farmers, will decide which information should not be made public for reasons of commercial confidentiality.
Bill C-4 will also give the Canadian Wheat Board's board of directors the authority to use new marketing tools. For example, such tools could be used to offer farmers new grain payment methods and to speed up fund transactions.
For instance, the Canadian Wheat Board could do the following: pay cash for wheat and/or barley; rapidly increase initial payments, if necessary, without having to obtain government approval, as is now the case; and allow farmers to be paid for their participation and for pooling before the end of the crop year.
Some people have expressed the concern that cash purchases will undermine the Canadian Wheat Board. It should be remembered, however, that such measures come under the authority of the board of directors, which is controlled by farmers, and that there is thus a safety mechanism.
Under the exclusion and inclusion provisions of Bill C-4, a democratic process gives farmers full authority regarding which products the Canadian Wheat Board decides to market. The exclusion clause would make it possible for any type or category of wheat or barley to be withdrawn in whole or in part from CWB jurisdiction. Any exclusion would have to be supported by the board of directors, and there would have to be guarantees that the grain would not get mixed with grain marketed by the CWB.
If the directors consider the exclusion to be significant, the exemption should also be approved by the producers in a democratic vote.
Under Bill C-4, the board of directors, controlled by the producers, could make use of numerous innovations in the area of marketing which have been looked at by producers in recent years, voluntary pooling in particular.
Inclusion of a grain in the Board's mandate would not be even contemplated without a request in writing from a legitimate body, the entire membership of which are producers of the grain in question.
When the board of directors has examined and approved inclusion of a grain within the mandate of the CWB, the question should also be submitted to the growers in a democratic vote.
As I have already said, Bill C-4 is the outcome of extensive consultations in all parts of western Canada. Although a strong majority of growers came out clearly in favour of the Canadian Wheat Board, they still wish it to be more accessible and more open, as well as more accountable to growers. Bill C-4 complies fully with that wish.
The government is anxious to get the Canadian Wheat Board into the hands of the producers.
For all of these reasons, I am asking all hon. members of this House to support Bill C-4.