Mr. Speaker, I move that the second report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, presented on Thursday, June 22, be concurred in.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Churchill.
I am pleased to stand in support of the second report of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food which has the following in its report:
That the government prior to any legislative or regulatory action affecting the mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board as it is currently constituted under the Canada Wheat Board Act, submit through plebiscite to all those eligible to vote in Canadian Wheat Board elections, a clear and direct question asking whether those eligible to vote support or oppose the single desk selling provisions of the Canadian Wheat Board.
We put the motion today because of the tactics being used by the Conservative government. These tactics that have been taking place in a Canadian democracy are shameful.
The questions concerning the Canadian Wheat Board and the Conservative government really are: What will the Conservatives not do to destroy single desk selling under the Canadian Wheat Board? What will it not do to take power away from primary producers and give that power to the international grain trade? What will it not do to tear down a marketing institution that has become renown around the world for how it maximizes returns back to primary producers? What will the Conservative government not do in terms of catering to its American friends in the grain trade who have challenged the Canadian Wheat Board 11 times and have lost every time under international trade law?
From its actions to date, it would appear that the government is prepared to use any device up to the very line of legality in an effort to undermine the Canadian Wheat Board.
Under the act, producers should determine their marketing future. I was shocked and surprised by what I heard from the Prime Minister today during question period. What we heard in the House just 30 minutes ago was absolute arrogance from the Prime Minister. He basically told farmers that he would decide what was best for them.
It does not matter whether it is the law of the land or not, he was going to decide what was best for primary producers even though under the Canadian Wheat Board Act they have a right to determine the Wheat Board's future. The government opposite is not only by its words showing its true colours but its actions are even worse.
Earlier on in this exercise we heard about a secret meeting in Saskatchewan, that became public, and the only people on the invitation list were those who were opposed to the Wheat Board. In the final analysis, after Saskatchewan and Manitoba kicked up a stink, they were allowed to go as observers. Imagine this happening in Canada.
Four provincial governments are duly elected to represent their citizens on the Wheat Board and two of those provinces were denied the right to participate. They were denied the right to take part in discussions concerning a marketing institution that affects their constituents. In other words, duly elected governments were denied the right to speak on behalf of their citizens at that one-sided meeting.
The Minister of Agriculture set up a task force which is stacked with only those who oppose the Canadian Wheat Board. We cannot find its schedule. We cannot find out who this task force is meeting with, although we have had a few little brown envelopes slipped to us. This task force is holding secret meetings for invitees only and participants are not talking to those who believe strongly in single desk selling under the Wheat Board.
We know as well that there is word of a fake letter writing campaign, encouraged via the email from a communications firm in Saskatchewan, which said “encouraged by government, MPs and others”. We know they are catering to a propaganda campaign from the other side as well. However, the worst of all was an order in council from the minister himself directed toward the Canadian Wheat Board, which is absolutely nothing short of a gag order.
What we are seeing now is not only has it stacked task forces, not only has it denied democratically elected governments the right to participate in a meeting, but it is also taking away freedom of expression for those Wheat Board directors who have the most knowledge and experience in this industry. They can tell their primary producers, who elected them to their positions, what the pros and cons of various proposals relative to the Canadian Wheat Board really mean to those producers on the ground.
It is unbelievable that this could happen in a democracy like Canada. Those with experience are being intimidated.
The minister will say that it is not really a gag order, but this is what the Library of Parliament has said on these orders in council:
It appears that several activities could fall within the purview of this Order in Council. For instance, electronic and print publications, information on the CWB website and information sessions/meetings held by the CWB, may be prohibited under the order, if it advocates the retention of monopoly powers and involves the expenditure of funds. Further, the term “advocating the retention of its monopoly powers” may itself be subject to very strict interpretation. It is possible that publications prepared following the Directive (and therefore involve the expenditure of funds), which do not necessarily advocate the retention of the CWB's monopoly, but discuss the single desk selling capacity, from a positive point of view, may also potentially violate the Order in Council.
It goes on to say:
Similarily, advertisements sponsored by the CWB, containing information about the advantages of the CWB monopoly may also be considered to violate the Directive.
That is pretty serious stuff. I never thought that a Government of Canada would deny freedom of expression in our country to primary producers, to elected producers to the Canadian Wheat Board who have the information and the knowledge to talk to their fellow farmers.
There are many other factors as well.
Let us look at the economic losses that would occur if we lose that marketing power through the Canadian Wheat Board. I will give summary, and this comes from the Wheat Board itself in terms of independent studies.
The Summary of the annual Canadian Wheat Board, benefits and services for single desk marketing approach for wheat are: the net benefit to producers, $146 million to $255 million per year; the value of single desk marketing approach for barley, $59 million per year; the value of single desk marketing approach for durum, $92 million to $103 million; tendering and railway and terminal handling agreements, $38.1 million per year; net interest earnings, $66.2 million; approach to managing the delivery system, giving farmers power within the delivery system, a benefit of $115 million per year; terminal blending, $7 million to $10 million per year; and farmer access to producer cars, $6 million per year.
The net total loss to primary producers, if they lose single desk selling, which the Prime Minister is doing everything in his power to take away from them, right up to almost illegal means, is $530 million to $655 million per year. Why would the Prime Minister want to take marketing power away from western grain producers? I just cannot understand it.
He will go on. He tried this today in the House by the way that the Prime Minister tries deception, tries to confuse people about the real issues. The Conservatives are using the words “dual marketing”. There is no such thing. We either have single desk selling or we have an open market. Let us not be fooled. If we lose single desk selling under the Wheat Board, then we have an open market in which the multinational grain trade controls. It will take control and gain those profits and those benefits now accruing to primary producers.
Under the law, the Government of Canada, under the Canadian Wheat Board, is supposed to give primary producers a vote on single desk selling in our country. That is what the government should do, even though, at the head depots, it is trying influence producers in many ways with fake letters, manipulation of the press, gag orders in the Wheat Board itself and so on. Producers deserve the right to decide their own destiny on single desk selling.