Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to talk about report stage of Bill C-4, the Canadian Wheat Board bill.
I suppose members opposite may wonder why a member of Parliament from the west coast, an area not covered by the Canadian Wheat Board, would want to come forward and speak, and I hope speak very forcefully, about Bill C-4 and the amendments proposed by the Reform Party to try to fix a very flawed piece of legislation.
I guess I could categorize them in different ways but let me start by saying this. Bill C-4 ignores too many farmers in this country. I have mostly dairy and chicken farmers in my riding but they are farmers nonetheless and when they speak up and speak forcefully I hope that the members of Parliament would listen.
The sad fact is I think one of the reasons Bill C-4 is being rammed through in an unamended form is there are virtually no rural prairie farmers represented on the Liberal side of the House. If ignorance is bliss then they are the happiest people in Canada right now because they represent not the Canadian farmers but maybe the bureaucrats who sent them here.
Here are the kinds of quotes from various papers from across the country that go with this bill. This is one quote. Here is what farmers are supposed to do to market their grain: deliver grain to the board specified elevator, sell it, buy it back, turn around, truck it all the way back to his own mill for processing and then get a wheat board export permit before shipping abroad. That's enough to promote entrepreneurship. No one can do that because no one can afford to do that. This is a quote from the Globe and Mail . What does the Globe know? It is a Toronto paper so let us pretend it does not exist.
How about an Edmonton paper? It is talking about the case of Clay Desrochers who is 24 years old. I would think he is a very cynical Canadian at this point because he just spent a bunch of time in a Manitoba jail. The article reads that if he had sold a similar amount of cannabis to a school child, he would have received about the same time in jail as selling less than $1,000 of wheat across the border.
As it states in the article, the reason this is such an affront to the government is Mr. Desrochers had the gall to commit a crime, according to the minister of the wheat board, against the Government of Canada.
The article goes on to state Desrochers is the third Manitoba farmer to be sent to jail since 1996 for what Communist countries used to call economic crimes such as butchering a hog without a permit or selling a cabbage on the black market. Shame.
Imagine a farmer who grows something. Imagine, a farmer buys a piece of land with his own money. He buys the seed, the fertilizer and the equipment with his own money. He takes the risk. He looks at the weather and all things considered. He is like the little red hen. He plants the seeds and takes all the risks. There are no risks associated with the Canadian government, Canadian taxpayers or any other Canadian farmer. The wheat grows. He fertilizes it, cares for it and sprays it. He does all the work. He harvests that wheat and what happens? The government says that is not his wheat. He does not have the right to do as he sees fit with that wheat. That wheat is under the control of the Canadian Wheat Board.
Here is another article from the prairies again. Having federal agents spy on ordinary citizens using tax audits to harass opponents, predawn police raids, arbitrary arrests, property seizures, no doubt an enemies list or two. What am I describing, the Nixon White House, Brezhnev's Kremlin? No, federal Liberal agriculture policy. That is what is wrong with this bill.
Why does this bill not place the onus on the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board to put the interest of farmers first? It does not do that. The way this bill reads is that the wheat board's judiciary responsibility is not to the farmers, it is to the board. I have to admit I am stealing this idea from an hon. member of mine who spoke earlier. Imagine if we had changed the system a little bit and we were not talking about farmers.
Imagine if we had a board for the lawyers. I am not talking about the Canadian Bar Association. I am talking about a board that all lawyers must belong to, the lawyers board. The lawyers board is controlled by the government. It appoints the CEO of this board. It will not let the lawyers do it because, after all, who do the lawyers think they are? To sell their services, the lawyers must first come to the board and say “can I sell my services through you to this agency?”
The government may or may not, but regardless the lawyers are cannot hold the board accountable for its actions or cannot sue the board for improper actions because the board is only responsible to the minister of lawyers. It is kind of like the minister of silly walks.
If lawyers want to go outside the board to sell their services, they are charged with breaking the law and they could be thrown in jail. So lawyers have no choice about how they sell their services and no choice on how they market them. They cannot go out and market them freely in the town they live in or internationally. They cannot take on clients from around the world or from anywhere. The fortunes and existence of the lawyers depend on the goodwill and graces of the board.
How many people think that would be a good idea? Maybe I should not have used lawyers as an example because there are a lot of people who would like to do lots of unspeakable things to lawyers. That aside, how many people would put up with that kind of control by the federal government? Not many.
I would like to give a personal example from where I come from, the Fraser Valley. There are a lot of farmers but not a lot of wheat farmers. A few short years ago a farmer, a friend of mine, was growing wheat in the Fraser Valley. He was quite an innovative farmer and risk taker. He was going into unchartered territory by growing wheat in the Fraser Valley. He did a good job. He raised a fine quality wheat. He harvested it during one of our infrequent sunny spells and he came off in good shape. He sold it to an Armstrong bakery and made a good dollar.
He could not handle the land costs in the Fraser Valley for this type of farming so he and his family picked up stakes and they moved to better farming country. Where did they go? They did not go to the prairies. They did not go to the Peace River. He would only go as far as McBride. He left my riding and he moved to McBride. He went to McBride for two reasons.
One is it has three or more frost free days than the Peace River. Second, if he went past McBride he had to sell to the Canadian Wheat Board. He could not supply at $2 or $3 a bushel bonus and he could not sell to the bakery in Armstrong. If he had gone a few miles further the Canadian Wheat Board would have come down and said “You have a little niche market and you are making a profit. You cannot do that. You have to sell to us and we will sell your wheat at $3 or $4 a bushel less than what you can do it for yourself”. So he would only go to McBride. That is where he lives today making a good living, being an innovative, hardworking, risk taking farmer. But he is only willing to go that far because, like he says, to go further is to embrace government monopoly and government control of the worst kind.
They gave up on that kind of control in most of the east block countries. They gave it up when they gave up on communism.
In this country for some reason it is okay to have the farmers told what to do, when to do it, how much they are going to get and if anything goes wrong, the board is not accountable because it does not have any responsibility to the farmers themselves.
These amendments today would make the board more accountable. They would put the responsibility on it to be accountable to the farmers, get the best price for them and do the job for the farmers themselves. It would give them choice. That is what these amendments would do. I just hope that the government will support them when the time comes for a vote.