This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, there is nothing in the comments from the hon. parliamentary secretary that I would disagree with. I concur 100% with his sentiments concerning rural Canada, however we do not believe that Bill C-26 actually addresses those concerns nor will it take us one step closer to those lofty principles.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill C-26. Our critic for this area, the hon. member for Brandon—Souris, could not be here today so I am taking his place.

I will begin with a little background on the bill. We have divided it into three parts.

On December 4, 1997 the minister of agriculture tabled Bill C-26 in the House of Commons. The bill is composed of three parts.

First it would repeal the Grain Futures Act. In essence it allows for the province of Manitoba through the Manitoba Securities Commission to regulate the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange instead of the federal government through the Canadian Grain Commission. This is related to the Manitoba Commodities Futures Act which was enacted by the Manitoba government.

This was an idea that was suggested by the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange itself. The WCE wants to access the hog industry so instead of working with two separate regulators, the WCE will conduct all its business through the Manitoba Securities Commission.

This is a positive change for the agricultural industry. The PC Party will support this aspect of the bill.

Second it would amend the Canada Grain Act to allow speciality crops such as soybeans to fall under crop insurance plans. This would also permit the separation of licensing and security provisions for special crops dealers.

This government believes that the inability to separate these two activities has been the primary problem in developing an insurance plan for the special crops industry of western Canada. By forcing such a separation in law and by putting the administration of a voluntary insurance plan under the Canadian Grain Commission, Bill C-26 would remove the onus on special crops dealers to post costly security against the possibility of their default in payment to special crops producers. The Canadian Export Development Corporation, CEDC, would be the insurer.

Although the government may feel that this aspect of the bill is positive, there are many people in the farming community who will differ. I will comment on the insurance program later.

Third, the bill will also incorporate the Canada Grain Act within the agriculture and agrifood industry, thereby allowing the Canadian Grain Commission to impose fines for most violations of the Canada Grain Act and its regulations. This aspect of the bill also needs a closer look when the bill is sent to committee.

There are a number of aspects of this bill that must be looked at closer for the House's consideration. Before I do so I must mention to the government that there has been little discussion on this bill thus far in particular in the farming communities out west. There are people in the farming communities who do not know anything about this bill.

It is the responsibility of this government to properly inform Canadians about this legislation, especially when it comes from the House of Commons of Canada. It is the government's responsibility to effectively communicate to Canadians what is about to become law and what is going to affect their livelihood.

That being said, I will comment on some of the aspects of the bill before this legislation goes before committee. I will comment on some of the thoughts expressed by the farming organizations out west.

A resolution was passed at the Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association annual meeting. Similar motions were also passed at the Western Canadian Wheat Growers convention, the Western Barley Growers convention and the Saskatchewan Pulse Development Board. The motion reads as follows:

Whereas the majority of Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association members also are growers of specialty crops; and

Whereas the proposed Special Crops Rural Initiative Program would appear to favour the Canadian Grain Commission and not necessarily special crop growers; and

Whereas the Special Crops Rural Initiative Program is promoted as being voluntary, it is in reality a form of negative billing which all consumers reject (i.e. cable TV companies); and

Whereas the scheme has questionable support at the farm level; and

Whereas the Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association rejects the compulsory nature of the Special Crops Rural Initiative Program; and

Whereas the special crops industry has flourished without such a program;

Therefore be it resolved that the Saskatchewan Canola Growers Association inform the federal and western provincial ministers of agriculture of their concerns and at the very least that the Special Crops Rural Initiative Program be truly voluntary for both the growers and the special crops dealers.

This resolution aptly describes what Bill C-26 fails to do. It fails to give farmers choice, not unlike what the government did with Bill C-4 which failed to give farmers choice in how they sell their wheat.

The compulsory nature of the special crops insurance plan is a form of negative option billing. Today's producers run large operations and should not have to apply to opt out and then receive their money back if they do not wish to participate. Farming businesses should have the right to decide themselves if they want to be bonded or licensed and if so, pay the bill themselves.

Bill C-26 only adds more red tape and paperwork for farmers to be subjected to while placing extra costs on farm businesses already operating on small budgets. Producers should have the choice to decide for themselves if there is too much risk selling to an unlicensed buyer. Special crops producers would be better off having the choice between selling to large licensed grain dealers and small unlicensed grain dealers. That would make sense. I hope the government considers giving farmers this choice.

There are a number of elements of this bill which need to be looked at closer. I expect that the committee will look into the bill in great detail when it does the clause by clause analysis.

In principle the PC Party supports this legislation. However, there are a number of changes that will have to be adopted at the committee stage with respect to choice before this bill is acceptable in full to the PC Party of Canada and to the farmers of western Canada.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a couple of comments.

Earlier the parliamentary secretary in referring to some comments made by my hon. colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain tried to leave the impression with the viewing audience that perhaps there was some division or contradiction in the position that I took versus that of my colleague the Reform member for Souris—Moose Mountain. I can assure the House and those viewing this debate at home today that is not the case.

While we have given this bill some very tentative support at this point, my hon. colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain was merely, as I and others in the opposition have done today, pointing out some very serious concerns our parties have with this legislation. We all have the hope that the government will respond, unlike with C-4, and actually give this bill a good hearing in committee and possibly make some amendments to it.

I note the PC member who just spoke also referred to the need for some amendments and changes before his party will support it any further than the position the bill is at right now, which is to refer the bill after second reading to committee.

The member referred to the compulsory nature of the check-off, the levy that is inherent in Bill C-26. This reminds me of the compulsory nature in the way the Canadian Wheat Board operates where farmers do not have the freedom to choose how they are going to market their wheat and export barley. It is the same case in C-26. Farmers are not going to have the choice of whether or not to have this check-off come off their cheques. The levy will be deducted and then they have to jump through a bunch of hoops before they can get the money back at the end of the year.

It almost reminds one of the inclusion clause in Bill C-4 whereby the new board of directors for the Canadian Wheat Board is going to have the option of expanding the compulsory and mandatory nature of the Canadian Wheat Board to encompass and include other commodities.

I have a question for the hon. member from the Progressive Conservative Party. He may have heard as well as I that there is some concern among farmers about comments made by the Canadian Grain Commission. There is concern that it may expand this levy not only to those designated special crops, but at some point in time to include wheat, barley, canola and flax which are all major commodities, thereby removing the government's responsibility for ensuring bonds and insurance coverage by the grain companies and putting added financial burden on to the farmers.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, those are some excellent questions from the member for Prince George—Peace River.

There have been a number of sticky points in this piece of legislation. Bill C-26 offers some promise, but as the hon. member already mentioned, the inclusion clause, as it exists in Bill C-4, the fear of such a clause being utilized in this act and the fear of other grain commodities coming under this legislation are all very important issues for the Progressive Conservative Party.

This has tentative support. The bill has merit. If we go through it clause by clause it has a perfect chance of becoming a good law of the Government of Canada. However, several serious changes need to be made to the bill before it gets to that point.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Charleswood—Assiniboine Manitoba

Liberal

John Harvard LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, I want to make two very short comments. We have made a very good start today, an excellent start. We have tentative support from the official opposition. We have support in principle from the Progressive Conservative Party. That is a pretty good start. This would be a very good juncture to move the bill to committee.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Pursuant to order made earlier today the question on the motion is deemed to have been put and adopted on division.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

For our friends in the visitors gallery and those who are watching on television, I am about to ask the House for permission to see the clock at 2.30 p.m. which is our normal time of adjournment. What we are doing is allowing the House to adjourn at its normal time. This is because Private Members' Business has been deferred.

Do we have unanimous consent to see the clock as reading 2.30 p.m.?

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It being 2.30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1.02 p.m.)