House of Commons Hansard #96 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was grain.


Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, as usual, we hear exaggerated rhetoric from the member for Malpeque as his obsession with this issue continues.

The job of the Wheat Board is to market western Canadian farmers' grain, which is what the minister asked it to do earlier this fall. He told the Wheat Board that it should get out of the political advocacy role and go out and market western Canadian grain.

The reality is that the market is improving. It has come up a lot in the last few months. We expect that western Canadian farmers will benefit from that. We hope the board has not missed the sales opportunities that have been there, as it did a couple of years ago when it ended up running a deficit in the pool accounts because it was not paying attention to the market when it came up nor when it also dropped off and were not able to take advantage of the highs.

We are asking the Canadian Wheat Board to get out and market western Canadian farmers' grain into this rising market so western Canadian farmers can take full advantage of the market as it is improving.

The member for Malpeque wants to bring out original notices of meetings for the committee meetings. It is interesting that Mr. Measner's name was not on the original notice of meeting either. However, we sent in an amended witness list and Mr. Measner and Mr. Chatenay were both put on the list and both were brought here to appear at committee. Apparently the member for Malpeque found it was important that Mr. Chatenay not be heard.

We are a little tired of those intimidating and threatening remarks and trying to embarrass witnesses who do not have the same position as the member for Malpeque.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:05 a.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to this debate with fascination. The parliamentary secretary talks about intimidation and harassment from our friend over there in Prince Edward Island. I sat on the committee with him and I have to say that he has been relentless in his attack on the Wheat Board. It is not a vision of dual selling. It is an attack on the Wheat Board. It is an attack on a farmer-run operation.

Every time we ask a question, we are being told that because we are from Prince Edward Island or from Ontario that we do not represent all western grain farmers. I have been receiving hundreds of pieces of correspondence from western Canada and I have been phoning people in western Canada.

I would like to read a typical letter from someone in east end Saskatchewan. The letter is addressed to the parliamentary secretary, the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands. The letter reads:

You claim you are being open and transparent about things, well, hiding behind closed door meetings, with handpicked invited guests, and issuing gag orders to anyone who speaks out against you, is being transparent all-right, anyone can see right through you!

Canada is a democratic country, and sooner or later I will get a chance to vote, be it on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board or the future of the member for Cypress Hills Grasslands, one thing is for sure, I will never support you!

That is just one of the hundreds of letters I have received.

I would like to hear the member's comments on how he interprets the fact that in the latest Wheat Board elections his cabal of enemies against the Wheat Board were soundly trounced. They were soundly defeated because western farmers do not support them and they do not support that member's relentless attacks on the credibility of the Wheat Board and on anyone who defends the notion of the Wheat Board.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, we can see the kind of rhetorical flourish that we have on this whole issue from people who really do not understand it.

What I have been relentless in is my interest in giving western Canadian farmers the same opportunities that farmers in other parts of this country have. It is interesting that in one part of this country people could be sent to jail for doing something that is perfectly legal in other parts of this country. That is ridiculous.

Western Canadian farmers want the same opportunity to participate in a rising market. We see right now that we are paying a penalty of about 50¢ a bushel to our American counterparts, and that is not fair. We want western Canadian farmers to be able to take full advantage of the market.

The member for Malpeque constantly refers to the former report he made that talks about farmers not having power in the marketplace. When we want to give them some ability to respond to the marketplace and to take advantage of opportunities, he and the NDP do everything they can to stop that.

I will continue to work toward giving western Canadian farmers the same opportunities as farmers across the rest of Canada have as they attempt to make their farms profitable.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.


Ken Boshcoff Liberal Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago, at the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, the president and CEO of the Wheat Board and the chair of the Wheat Board made some interesting statements to which I believe the House would like to have a response.

The first statement was made by the CEO, Mr. Adrian Measner. He states:

The government's actions are also going to cost farmers money. You cannot make wholesale changes to the board of directors of a corporation with $4 to $5 billion worth of sales, gut its management team and restructure the grain-handling system without causing major upheavals and concern throughout the grain trade and most notably among buyers. I want to echo Ken [Ritter]'s comments about process and how it is most unfortunate that the government has chosen this precise moment—when some prosperity is finally returning to the grain sector—to create this degree of chaos and uncertainty both domestically and in the international marketplace.

Mr. Ken Ritter, the chair, said:

Western Canadian grain producers have just been through what could easily be called a “perfect storm”: a cycle of low commodity prices, severely curtailed crops and high input prices. We are just rounding the corner. The 2006 crop, for the most part, was favourable both in terms of quality and quantity and prices have rebounded.

As a grain producer myself, I can say clearly and unequivocally: now is not the time to foist major changes on our industry. We need to catch our breath, we need to recover from the crisis we've just been through, we need to make sure that in growing and improving our industry, we do not take a step back into the abyss.

I would ask--

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:10 a.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, again we hear fearmongering and exaggeration.

Canadian farmers, and western Canadian farmers in particular, grow high quality grain that will be sold around the world whether the Canadian Wheat Board markets all of it or if people have the opportunity to market their own grain.

I find it interesting that the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River stood today to defend the Canadian Wheat Board because when the Thunder Bay Port Authority was in committee we heard that it could actually experience more growth through its terminal if western Canadian farmers had more options available to them.

We have been told that the Canadian Wheat Board is insisting that a vast amount of wheat be put on lakers rather than on shippers. The wheat is being loaded onto one ship and it bypasses Thunder Bay and is loaded onto another ship. Thunder Bay could actually benefit from western Canadian farmers having marketing choice.

I wonder why the member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River is not representing his own constituents.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:15 a.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Malpeque for raising this issue in the House today. There is no doubt that the Canadian Wheat Board is currently in jeopardy as a result of certain actions taken by the Conservative government for some time now.

Regardless of their party colours and whether they are federal or provincial, governments are often accused of acting off the cuff. I heard the parliamentary secretary say earlier that this government was being accused of acting hastily in this file. I agree with him. This was not done in haste. This was not off-the-cuff. It has been a long-time goal of the Conservatives to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. This was not off-the-cuff.

We need only look back to 2002. On an opposition day, the current Prime Minister—at the time, a Canadian Alliance member of Parliament—moved a motion that already referred to freedom of choice. It must be understood that it is pure rhetoric to talk about freedom of choice, when what it really means is to impede the collective marketing system chosen by western farmers.

I will compare this to something happening in Quebec, even though I have been criticized many times for drawing this comparison. However, you will see that people are finding parallels between what is happening with the Canadian Wheat Board and with the supply management system in Quebec.

The last Conservative election platform included their plans to end the single desk model of the Canadian Wheat Board. This really is the culmination. As I said, quite a process has been established to put an end to the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk model.

Since the election, it has continued. They have established a committee whose membership comprises only those who oppose the Canadian Wheat Board. This way, when people from the board were invited to sit on the committee, they discovered that the committee intended to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk model.

In addition, there was the famous ministerial order preventing Wheat Board management from defending the Wheat Board. That is rather ironic. The last time a government used a similar order in connection with wheat was when the Russians invaded Afghanistan, in the 1980s. Since the Canadian Wheat Board traded regularly with Russia, the government ordered an end to wheat shipments to Russia because of the activities in Afghanistan. It was obviously for a valid reason. Today, however, there is no justification for such an order.

Representatives of the board are in fact taking the government to court over the matter. I will not discuss this further, even though we have parliamentary privilege here. One thing is sure: the Conservatives intended to eliminate this single desk. When a member represents farmers, and his minister tells him that he can no longer do so, there is a serious problem.

Bill C-300 was introduced in the House of Commons by the chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food—a Conservative member, of course. The aim of that bill was also, ultimately, to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board.

Just recently, there was the famous letter to Mr. Measner, the president and CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board, which was discussed at length earlier. In the letter, he was told he had to honour the government's position or see his head roll on December 14. He was threatened with dismissal if he failed to follow the line of the Conservative Party. I understand and I am not denying that the Conservatives and even this government are entitled to have objectives and to want to change things. Because it is democracy that decides. However, I have a problem when people are intimidated and democracy is abused.

Furthermore, according to section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, it is clear that the farmers, the western producers of wheat and barley, must decide their own future. If we really put in place, as suggested by the motion of the member for Malpeque, a democratic process enabling people to vote and recognizing the result of that vote, democracy will prevail.

However, that is not at all what the government is doing in this case. As I said, I have no issue with the fact that the Conservatives, in their election platform, in their election promises, in their way of doing things—in certain cases—say that they want freedom of choice, that they want to offer this or that to farm producers. So be it.

However, there is a way of going about things. At present, in the case of the Canadian Wheat Board, democracy is being denied.

Furthermore, this denial of democracy will continue because a large number of farm producers will be excluded from voting if there is a plebiscite. We know that the minister announced that there would be a plebiscite or referendum for barley producers, who do not represent the majority of producers in the west; wheat producers are in the majority. We do not yet know why wheat producers will not have the right to a plebiscite. However, one thing is certain—a number of farm producers will be excluded from the vote, according to the government. They are lining up their ducks to ensure, or at least attempt to ensure, that they take the vote. I find that this government's way of doing things is absolutely unacceptable.

On December 5, the president of the Canadian Wheat Board, Mr. Measner, held a press conference to denounce the Conservative government's position on the Wheat Board's future. Earlier, I said that Mr. Measner was the CEO, but he is the president. He maintains, and rightly so, that the government should hold consultations on the future of the Canadian Wheat Board as soon as possible. That is why we are discussing this issue today.

In fact, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food has passed a motion introduced by the member for Malpeque, calling for a plebiscite on this issue and demanding that producers themselves determine the future of the Canadian Wheat Board, their collective marketing tool. That is what we are discussing today in this House.

Mr. Measner says that he has to defend the interests of producers over those of the government, and that is his job. He could also lose that job because he is doing it well. That is what is happening. He said, “I find it quite ironic that I have been asked to pledge support for the government's policy of marketing choice, which is not the law. In other words, if I continue to obey the law, I will be fired”.

For its part, the government is maintaining that all government appointees are expected to go along with the government's position. If the approach to this issue is not tantamount to dictatorship, then I do not know what is.

The majority of members of the CWB's board of directors, who are elected by producers, want to keep the single desk model set out in the Canadian Wheat Board Act. Moreover, on Sunday, four out of five board members were elected. They are in favour of maintaining the Canadian Wheat Board as is. I think that the message to the Conservatives is clear.

In previous discussions in committee and in the House, it was said that the Conservatives were doing what they pleased, that they should not flout section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act and that they should not ignore the opinion of producers. To that, the Conservatives replied that, on January 23, they had been given a mandate that entitled them to do what they were doing.

Imagine, Mr. Speaker, according to the Conservatives, everyone who voted for them on January 23, was in favour of later dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board, when we know that people choose to vote one way or another for a number of reasons. You, yourself, are an MP, Mr. Speaker. I believe that in your own riding—and you have been there for some time—people surely have voted for you in one election and not in another for their own reasons because a party promised something that, in their work or family life, was very important.

In my opinion, we have to look at a party's entire platform and not just one topic, in order to say that since people elected us it is entirely acceptable to act a certain way because it was their choice. Well, wait just a minute. We are talking about the Canadian Wheat Board here and wheat producers. I do not think that all these people voted for the Conservatives. And even if they did, they voted for a government. This was not a plebiscite, like we would have on a specific issue. There is a difference between voting in an election and voting in a referendum on a very specific issue.

I do not think it is correct to say that we can do whatever we want because people voted for us in the last election. I could do the same. I too was democratically elected on January 23 and in 2004. In my riding, I am not about to say that I can do whatever I want or whatever I think because the people have spoken and that is the end of it.

I still have to go meet people, talk to them and discuss things with them—as I do every weekend—to get a feel for what the population wants. I know my region well and I have to represent what the majority of people in my region want. That makes perfect sense, and the government should do the same.

Bloc Québécois members have no desire to endanger a collective marketing tool used by 85,000 wheat and barley producers in the west. I talked earlier about comparing them to Quebec producers. We were also accused of knowing nothing about this because we are from Quebec. Earlier, I heard people tell folks from Prince Edward Island and Ontario to leave them alone. I am sorry, but as the NDP member said just now during questions and comments, I get hundreds and hundreds of letters from western producers asking me not to forget about them.

Obviously, I do not represent people from the west. As my party's agriculture critic, I think I have a responsibility—as do all members of this House—for all of the issues that come before us. If we do not take a stand, or if we do not pay attention to all of the issues that come up, how can we look in the mirror every morning and tell ourselves we are doing our jobs and accomplishing the work for which we are being paid?

Like Quebec producers, I—as agriculture critic and defender of the interests of Quebec agricultural producers—fear that the Conservative government will go after another one of Canada's very important collective marketing tools: supply management. We know that 40% of Quebec's agricultural economy depends on supply management. I am talking about dairy, egg—for eating and for hatching—poultry and turkey producers.

So, these people are very concerned about what is happening at the moment. We know exactly why the other countries criticize us during WTO negotiations. They are critical of these two collective marketing tools, which are not, however, subsidies. We in the Bloc Québécois even invited the ambassadors of various countries to come here in order to explain to them just what supply management means. Increasingly, people understand and are interested in what is happening in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada where supply management is used.

Despite all that, during negotiations, these two tools are always blamed for all the ills. They are tools that countries wanting to take over our markets would like to see destroyed. If the Conservative government approved or arranged the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board, other countries would be delighted and would want to know about the state of supply management. This is why this matter is of such concern to us.

Let us consider the comments by the minister, who told us in committee that, no matter what happens, if there is an agreement at the WTO, the government will have to sign it. It is the “no matter what happens” that sets off an alarm bell for me. I tell myself that, if we have to make concessions on supply management, the government will simply dismantle it and thus throw the entire farm economy in Quebec into disarray.

We can certainly not allow such a message to go out . When the minister says this in committee, his remarks are public and heard by people throughout the world following the proceedings of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. We are in the age of globalization, with the Internet and so on. With such technology, people are well aware of what goes on, of what the minister and members are saying, and we must weigh our words carefully when we say that Canada will sign an agreement in the end, regardless.

Furthermore, the Director-General of the World Trade Organization, Pascal Lamy, said that concessions will have to be made sooner or later by both the Canadian Wheat Board and the supply management system, because that is what other countries are demanding.

I am sorry, but we were elected and we are here to defend our gains, especially when it is entirely reasonable to do so. As I said, there is no government subsidy, at least, none concerning supply management. As for market access, perhaps we could begin discussing that once the other countries are on a level playing field with us. In fact, the average Canadian market access for other imported products is approximately 5%, while in other countries, average market access is 2.5%

Once these individuals from the United States, Europe and elsewhere achieve the levels we have reached here, perhaps then we can begin discussing or looking at what we can do.

For now, I think our market is open enough that we can maintain the system as it is.

Of course, there is the attitude taken by Canada's chief negotiator at the WTO, which is why the Bloc Québécois moved a very important motion before this House, to ensure that no concessions would be made concerning supply management during these negotiations. The negotiator himself said that his hands were tied. Personally, I think that is very good news. Indeed, farm groups thank me every time I meet them. The Bloc Québécois and every member of this House all deserve their thanks, since the motion was passed unanimously.

I receive expressions of thanks from all over, whether from New Brunswick, where I recently met with farmers, or from Ontario, or from a woman farmer in Calgary. I point this out because, of course I receive thanks from Quebec, but I would like to emphasize just how important it was to farmers everywhere that we unanimously passed here in this House the motion to protect supply management. This must be recognized.

Collective marketing is very important in Quebec. As I mentioned, we have supply management, joint plans and cooperatives. All of this serves to protect farmers’ income. Farmers have an absolute right to organize the marketing of their products, and that includes organizing to join forces to obtain the fairest possible market. That is what western producers did. They decided, all together, that they would put in place a marketing tool known as the Canadian Wheat Board.

As I already stated in a previous speech, I do not believe that we should say that is the way it is and nothing should ever change. However, there is a way of making changes and that should be with the agreement of the producers themselves. It is up to them to decide.

That is also what the members of the Fédération des producteurs de cultures commerciales du Québec did. One of the few times that the minister was angry with me was when I spoke about the Canadian Wheat Board. I imagine that he was quite irritated that someone from Quebec talked about this issue. The minister wondered what we would say if that were imposed in Quebec. There is no need to do so because the Fédération des producteurs de cultures commerciales du Québec decided to set up a collective marketing board. Granted it is not the Canadian Wheat Board, but it is nonetheless a marketing tool. If people want to sell their grain for human consumption, they must belong to the board. That also goes for milk producers.

I have been told I am comparing apples and oranges. Not at all. A Conservative member told me that if he wanted to produce milk, he would. Careful, it does not work that way. First, one has to be a member of the Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec, which is a collective marketing system since it is all part of supply management. A producer has no choice but to comply. He has to buy quota and follow those rules as well. It is all a collective. No one can just do what they want. We cannot take our milk and go sell it in New Brunswick, the United States or something like that. Not at all. Someone comes to collect the milk that has been produced. The producer has a quota, which has to be respected, but at least the producer is sure to have a stable income. The consumers will be assured of stable pricing. These are the advantages, or some of the advantages, of supply management.

As I was saying, last year, these cash crop producers created the Agence de vente du blé de consommation humaine in Quebec. This new agency ensures that the Fédération is the only agent authorized to market wheat for human consumption in Quebec. It was inspired by what is already happening in other types of farming in Quebec, whether it be with milk, maple syrup, pork, beef, etc. It is through a democratic process that such sales agencies come to be. Producers are called on to vote on their creations. That is how we do things in Quebec.

The same is true when one decides no longer to participate. It is also up to the producers to decide on ending these sales agencies. Contrary to the Canadian Wheat Board, the Fédération des producteurs de cultures commerciales du Québec does not own the production and has no tie to the government. That is the difference.

Quebec has also expressed support for the Canadian Wheat Board. We have only to think of the testimony by the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec before the committee. UPA representatives came to tell us that a comparison could be drawn between supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board. When I was the first to raise this possibility or this concern in certain English-Canadian media, I was described as some sort of hothead and accused of mixing apples and oranges. It is funny, though, that since then, many stakeholders, such as the UPA, have told the committee that this is indeed a danger.

Saskatchewan's Minister of Agriculture and Food told the committee that and wrote to me to say that I was right. Manitoba's Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives also made the same assertion before the committee.

I applaud what they are doing in Manitoba. They are going to hold a plebiscite on the Canadian Wheat Board.

I think that the Conservative federal government should take note of what is being done elsewhere and take a democratic approach. With a plebiscite, people could choose and decide what they want to do. The government should hold a plebiscite of all wheat and barley producers in western Canada.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 12th, 2006 / 11:35 a.m.


Raymond Simard Liberal Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his comments. He had a lot to say about supply management.

Members may remember that yesterday, during question period, I asked the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board if supply management is next on the hit list. The clear response was that, first, we did not know what we were talking about, and second, the Conservative government has no intention of trying to dismantle supply management.

They said that we did not know what we were doing, but last night, I had the opportunity to meet two people who are very familiar with the sector, Laurent Pellerin, whom we know well, and Bob Friesen, the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. These two men are very well respected in the sector we are discussing today. They are very concerned about the Conservative government's next moves. They are concerned because if the government decides to attack the Canadian Wheat Board—which is working extremely well, has been working well for 70 years, is respected internationally and brings in hundreds of millions of dollars more for farmers—what is to stop it from attacking the entire supply management system next?

I am sure that Quebeckers are interested because we depend heavily on agriculture. My colleague was wondering why we should trust the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board, who says that there is nothing to worry about; there is no problem; the government will not attack supply management; it is focusing solely on the Canadian Wheat Board.

Why should we believe the minister when he says that?

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:35 a.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his judicious comments.

When he refers to Mr. Pellerin, he is quite right. When I first talked about the concern expressed in Quebec regarding the actions being taken by the Conservative government against the Canadian Wheat Board, obviously, the leaders of the Union des producteurs agricoles were the first who came to see me and tell me they were worried about what was going on in western Canada at the time. That is why we have spoken out vigorously, in the parliamentary committee together with the member for Malpeque, an NDP member and, in fact, the entire opposition, to start making this government understand the enormous importance of the message they are sending on the international scene.

That is why I just said—and I want to emphasize this for the hon. member—that when the minister says in committee that in any event, no matter what happens, the government is going to sign an agreement at the World Trade Organization, we think: fortunately, the other countries have not signed an agreement. This is unfortunate for the developing countries, because the current Doha round is meant for them. So we are reduced to hoping that the negotiations will fail each time, because we are afraid that our own government will be dropping its most important tools for collective marketing: the Canadian Wheat Board and supply management.

I agree with the member, but I do not have his answer, because it is up to the minister to answer. What is being done at present to the Canadian Wheat Board—why would the minister not do it with supply management?

International pressure has always been heavy, at least since we have had supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board. Canada has always been asked, in negotiations, to drop its two collective marketing methods.

As the member said, if we are going to undermine the Canadian Wheat Board, and ultimately try to dismantle it, in the next stage, the pressure is going to be aimed solely at the supply management system. We therefore have good reason to worry. We are entitled to wonder about this and to be very worried, and we would be irresponsible not to do so, as opposition members, because we have to worry about what will happen to supply management next.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:40 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member for Richmond—Arthabaska said in his remarks that even though he is from the province of Quebec he has a responsibility to examine the issue regardless of where he is from. I want to congratulate him on withstanding the attack that we get consistently from government members, which is that because we do not happen to be within the prairie region, then obviously we should not be speaking on the issue. I think that is unfair on the part of those members, and I think it is because they do not have evidence to defeat our argument, so they can only attack us personally. That seems to be the Conservative way.

I want to expand on the question of supply management, which my colleague asked the member about, because supply management is certainly one of the strong industries in Canada, whether it is in dairy, turkeys or eggs. Supply management is huge in the province of Quebec, where the member comes from. He mentioned in his initial remarks that the key as it relates to the Wheat Board relative to supply management is that the government is moving to prevent collective marketing.

I think my hon. colleague asked if we can believe the minister. I do not think we can. We cannot believe the government. We know how honest the Conservatives were on income trusts; they said they would not do anything, but they did. We know that on the Canadian Wheat Board issue the member mentioned the hundreds of letters that he is getting, as I am, from Conservatives who are saying they never thought the Conservatives would do this. They thought they might make some changes but not set up a structure that would destroy the board.

What would the impact of this be on primary producers in his province in regard to what is truly the government's next step? The ideology of the Prime Minister is to go to the open market. That is what he is doing here. He does not care what producers say. He has not allowed them their democratic rights. He has put gag orders on the board, firing the CEO. What does the member for Richmond—Arthabaska think the impact will be on farmers in his province when the Prime Minister gets to his next step, which is--

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:40 a.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order. The member finally got to a question.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:40 a.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, by referring to ideology he has hit it on the head. This government has an ideology. At the beginning of my remarks, I said that nothing about the Canadian Wheat Board file was off the cuff. The ultimate goal is to obtain the result the government wants and talks about openly. I believe that it is not hiding anything. What it wants is a free market for everything, in all fields, on all issues. It wants the least intervention possible.

I once heard the Minister of Industry in this House, refusing to defend the bicycle industry, right in his own riding of Beauce, where there was a bicycle manufacturing plant. They are washing their hands of it. They want to let the free market do its work. If you cannot keep up, if you are not competitive, it is because you are no good and you should not be doing what you are doing.

They refuse to intervene in any way to protect our markets. Yet, we have the right to do that in accordance with the laws of the World Trade Organization. That is the ideology of our government. So, it is not complicated. The impact on a province like Quebec and for a riding like mine where there are so many dairy producers is that the agricultural economy of Quebec would be run into the ground. It would be finished.

When I say that 40% of the Quebec agricultural economy is supply managed, I think that I have answered the question.

It is strange because the people who have the same ideology as the Conservative government, the Montreal Economic Institute, which is where the Conservative Minister of Industry comes from, often tell us that from time to time they conduct studies that show supply management does not make sense; that we should put an end to that practice and that we should open our markets to everyone.

They quote the example of what has happened in Australia. I am sorry, but what has happened in Australia in terms of dairy production has meant that, first, there are many fewer dairy producers than there used to be because they no longer have supply management. Moreover, because of the opening of markets, those dairy producers are making a lot less money than they used to. It must also be said that large processors have now taken the place of small family farms. That is not what we want in Quebec.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Malpeque for making this debate possible. These are difficult times for farmers, not only in the west but throughout Canada. This calls for rational thought and a spirit of cooperation.

For example, the threat to fire Adrian Measner, a proven CEO of the Canadian Wheat Board, because he happens to disagree with the Conservative government's platform, is wrong. It is equally wrong to stack the Canadian Wheat Board's board of directors with two new appointees, one who was fired from the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and the other who has demonstrated an open hostility to the very idea of a Canadian Wheat Board or to any kind of government assistance to farmers.

We have seen the results of the Canadian Wheat Board elections. Farmers have spoken. Four out of five directors are strongly supportive of a single desk Canadian Wheat Board, with only 20% voting against it. Interestingly enough, the largest margin of victory for Canadian Wheat Board supporters came in the district overlapping the riding of the Parliamentary Secretary (for the Canadian Wheat Board) to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board.

In District 1, Art MacKlen, a strong Wheat Board supporter, lost his seat by only 205 votes. There has been some suggestion that this may have happened because of the minister's interference in the elections; approximately one-half of farmers found themselves out of this election. In fact, the gentleman who was successful in District 1, Mr. Henry Vos, was himself not happy with this government interference.

As Mr. Ken Ritter, an elected director for District 4 and chair of the Wheat Board stated in his letter to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food last week, “Since the [Canadian Wheat Board] last appeared before the committee in the month of June 2006, the relationship between the federal government and the CWB has unfortunately not improved”.

This is due to a number of reasons: first, a July 27 meeting to which the CWB was not invited; second, an unbalanced and anti-Wheat Board task force; third, the minister's order in council restricting the Wheat Board's right to openly communicate with the farmers in the way it sees fit; fourth, changing the director election process in mid-stream; and fifth and most recently, the intention of the minister to fire Adrian Measner.

As Mr. Ritter states in his letter, “there must be a better way”. Why can the minister not meet with the board of directors and have an open and frank discussion on the board's future? The Canadian Wheat Board is not some kind of stagnant, top heavy bureaucratic monster, as some critics would have us believe. It is willing, in Mr. Ritter's words, “to grow and stretch and accommodate farmers who want more flexibility”.

For example, at a recent meeting the directors looked at changes that would actually allow small processors to purchase wheat and barley, for human consumption or export, directly from farmers. They also looked at the CWB's policy toward farmer-owned new generation cooperatives that are involved in value-added processing.

The Wheat Board, as we know, also offers a wide variety of producer payment options. Over 17,600 farmers are availing themselves of the opportunity to price their grain themselves through options such as the fixed price and basis payment contract. For this crop year, according to Mr. Ritter, the CWB is putting in place a pilot program called the delivery exchange contract, which would enable participating farmers to match delivery opportunity with their own individual business needs.

The point Mr. Ritter makes in his letter is that change should be a gradual process. These types of changes build on the strength of the Canadian Wheat Board without putting the organization at risk and, most important of all, appear seamless to customers so that the Canadian Wheat Board can be counted upon to continue the high level of service to which they have become accustomed. In effect, Mr. Ritter is calling for an evolution, not a revolution.

All we need to do is take a look at history in general to see that, in many cases, revolutions make life harder and sometimes completely unbearable. Our farmers have been through enough of the difficulties caused by the market and our competitors’ subsidies, especially the United States and the European Union. Up to now the economic effects of such a change have not really been studied or analyzed. However, it is more or less agreed that the Canadian Wheat Board, as we know it, will cease to exist if the single desk is taken away.

Let us take Murray Fulton’s report, for example. What are his conclusions? Here are a few of them.

First of all it will be extremely hard, if not impossible, for the Canadian Wheat Board to survive without a single desk mandate, and it will disappear in the end.

Grain handling and transportation will be comparable in Canada and the United States. But in the United States there is the U.S. Farm Bill, which shelters farmers from market forces. Our farmers, however, would be vulnerable on an open market.

The changes would also be irreversible. It would not be possible to have a free market and later decide or ask to restore the Canadian Wheat Board.

The government often talks about this new Canadian Wheat Board II, which will continue to exist.

Let us recall the facts though. The new Canadian Wheat Board will not automatically have access to the technical resources and personnel of the current CWB. It will be impossible to find the quantities of grain necessary without a grain-handling system. Independent farmers will thus be at the mercy of the grain companies in place. Furthermore marketing power will be transferred to the grain and railway companies. So the farmers will lose their political clout.

If there is no more Canadian Wheat Board, the rail rates will increase. At present the Canadian Wheat Board negotiates the best conditions with the railway companies, but they are not likely to be granted to farmers, and this will give rise to higher transportation costs for Canadian farmers.

Any changes to the present system must be well thought out and based on valid studies that deal with the economic impact on farmers and to Canada, and not political ideology. It is imperative that this takes place before any changes to the Canadian Wheat Board single desk marketing system be made.

As was pointed out earlier, we are in a very competitive international environment. It is no secret, and I and my party have said this before, that our competitors would like to see an end to the Canadian Wheat Board, just as they would like to see an end to supply management.

Underlying this debate, however, is a question that we often do not talk about, and that is of individual rights or the rights of the minority. The question is, should a small group of farmers have the right to bypass the Canadian Wheat Board and sell their wheat and barley on the open market? Knowing that this signifies a possible end of single desk marketing in Canada or the Canadian Wheat Board as we know it, or agriculture as we know it, does this group of farmers have the right to jeopardize the collective system put in place to sell grain on the world market, which the majority of farmers agree to? In my opinion and the opinion of my party, we believe that they do not.

It is easy to go to market choice, which most agree will see an end to the Canadian Wheat Board as we know it. This is why we need good, valid research to look at the effects of such an approach. In other words, to look at a long term vision. Will our farmers be able to compete on the world stage with prices, transportation and markets controlled by the major multinational grain companies, or will they be thrown to the wolves, so to speak, completely at the mercy of the major world players, with no one to stand up for them as they try to negotiate fair prices?

These are thoughts coming from someone who has thought about this, not some kind of left-wing radical talking against the multinational corporations. These are valid questions that I think all of us need to answer. That is why we need a gradual evolution that involves close cooperation between government and the farm-based Canadian Wheat Board.

Mr. Ritter and his board of directors have indicated a willingness to work with the minister to come up with a workable plan. Once this plan is formulated and shows the Canadian Wheat Board's vision for the future, farmers should then have a say. This is what we need, not another revolution.

With the time left, I would like to quote a bit from a letter that was written to the chairman of our agriculture committee by Mr. Ritter. It states:

At the CWB, we have followed the committee's work with great interest. Unfortunately, some of the information that has been placed before the committee has been less than accurate. The CWB would therefore respectfully submit the following for the record.

1. The president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers' Association (WCWGA), Ms. Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel, indicated in her testimony that the CWB is not offering farmers the opportunity to capture the rally in wheat prices that is currently lending strength to markets. This is not the case. Opponents of the single desk like Ms. Jolly-Nagel often like to compare spot prices in the U.S. in a rising market with pooled values in western Canada. They raise this issue far less often when markets are falling and pooled values are above spot values...If opponents of the CWB's single desk compared the price of select winter wheat with appropriate protein levels to U.S. values, they would see that the two are close, especially when prices available under the CWB's Producer-Payment Options (PPOs) are would follow that farmers would be using the Producer-Direct Sales (PDS) process to access those values.

Another point was raised. The witness stated in her presentation:

We consider it unjust that farmers in Ontario are free to sell their wheat and barley to whomever they please, including the export market, whereas any western Canadian farmer who attempts to engage in the same activity is considered a criminal and sent to jail.

This statement is wrong in two respects.

First, prairie grain growers are not discriminated against. They have as much right as Ontario farmers to decide how to market their grain. The Ontario wheat growers chose a free market through the elected members of their board. This decision was not made by the government. Western Canadian farmers, on the other hand, have always elected a majority of single desk supporters to represent them on the board. We saw that just a few days ago. In addition, the wheat producers in Quebec have decided to sell their milling wheat through a single desk system. Prairie grain growers would not be discriminated against unless they were unilaterally denied this right by the federal government.

Second, grain growers who want to sell their product themselves can do so through the direct sales process. This enables them to take advantage of all the premiums available in comparison with the prices that the Canadian Wheat Board could get on similar markets.

It was also claimed that the Wheat Board deprives western Canadian farmers of the opportunity to take full advantage of their skills as good marketers. This is a statement that is quite hard to defend in light of the growing popularity and extensive use of the Wheat Board's PPOs, 3.5 million tonnes committed to the program so far. Grain producers in western Canada now have the opportunity to lock in prices for their crops based on U.S. commodity prices.

The Western Canada Growers' Association often points out that a record number of wheat acres were planted in Ontario in 2006 and then makes the inference that the elimination of the Wheat Board single desk would somehow reverse the trend toward less wheat acres in western Canada.

A farmer's planting intentions are actually determined by a whole host of factors, including: soil conditions, the price of inputs, the price of alternative crops, and management considerations like crop rotation and availability of storage.

It should also be noted that, while it is true that the average wheat acreage in western Canada has decreased 18% from what it was 10 years ago, American farmers who have another system, who do not have a wheat board, have reduced the number of acres they seed to wheat by 21% over the same time period.

Other submissions attempt to blame the CWB for a total lack of investments in value-added infrastructure. Yet in summary, malting capacity in western Canada has tripled since 1985 and 75% of domestic malting capacity is now found in western Canada.

It is clear from the documents provided by the Wheat Board that the Canadian Wheat Board does not impede value-added processing and that it has actually supported real growth in both barley and wheat sectors at rates which compare very favourably to what is happening in neighbouring jurisdictions.

I have read some of the statistics and I have seen that our malting capacity is actually increasing, as is pointed out here, and that our malting capacity is not suffering. There are other reasons why a plant may want to locate in the United States and it has nothing to do with the fact that we have a Canadian Wheat Board.

Witnesses were asked how often oats and canola growers had been the subject of trade complaints from the United States. They claimed that crops not under a single desk system are safe from trade actions. This is definitely not the case, as the pork and beef industries know very well. The lack of complaints about crops like oats and canola has nothing to do with how they are marketed. The real reason is that these crops are not grown very much in the United States and there are no special interest groups pressing Washington to block Canadian imports.

An organic farmer from Saskatchewan complained about various aspects of the producer direct sales process. He said, for example, that he received a bill for having filled a direct sales order that was three times as much as what he had been told initially. The bill that he had received was an interim bill. Although the bill did not mention it, there were still interim payments and the final adjustment to consider.

As we move on and we look at these reasons and counter-arguments presented by qualified professional people in the Canadian Wheat Board, we can see that maybe we are moving too quickly. Maybe we have to stop, think and sit down with the democratically elected board of directors and go over some of these points.

We mentioned studies by the George Morris Centre, by Sparks and by Drs. Carter and Loyns, which were invoked by the House of Commons. We can see that the growth in the wheat processing industry as compared to expansions in oilseed processing. The former is a mature industry with several long established players. Therefore, it is not valid to compare it to the oilseeds sector.

The growth in value added processing in western Canada is said to be lagging behind expansion in other parts of the country or in the U.S., when the opposite is true. They say that the CWB is accused of distorting the domestic prices, when in reality prices to domestic mills are directly linked to U.S. milling prices. There is a failure to recognize that domestic mills, most of which are located in proximity to the U.S.-Canada border, are free to get their wheat from U.S. origins if the CWB wheat prices are too high.

The letter by Mr. Ritter states:

In summary, the findings of all three Alberta-backed studies lack credibility. As a result, their conclusion that the CWB does not provide Prairie farmers with added returns must be questioned. The existence of CWB premiums—a conclusion which both the KFT and grain studies reached—is, on the other hand, corroborated by a very unlikely source, namely the United States International Trade Commission (ITC). In its 2001 investigation into the CWB's behaviour in the marketplace, the U.S. ITC found that Canadian durum prices were higher than American prices in 59 of the 60 months that were examined.

Once again I would like to take the opportunity to thank the member for Malpeque for making this debate possible. It is a critical time in the history of farming in Canada. We have yet to form a long range agricultural policy. I know all parties are working on this right now.

In the meantime, I caution that we must proceed with caution. We should not throw something out that has been around for over 60 years because apparently there is an immediate market gain. What if there is a market gain today and tomorrow there is not? As the Fulton study report showed, this is irreversible.

Thank you very much for allowing me to speak on this very important matter.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.


Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member. I understand where he is coming from. What I do not understand is does he really know the results of what would happen if barley were taken out of the Wheat Board.

I believe that happened either in 1991 or 1992. Barley moved to an intercontinental open market. Access to information, of which I have copies, showed that the farmers never saw a better year in their years of farming than they did during that period of time. Access to information showed that the Wheat Board had increased its sales a great deal as well.

It appears to me that a little competition kind of spurred the Wheat Board on to maybe do a bigger and better than what it had been doing, and it was quite successful.

We have heard the member say that unless something is proven, we should never move in that direction. Does he not feel that the period of time in the early 1990s, when we had an open continental market on barley, showed there was a working formula there? It was a great year for all the farmers in my riding who simply wanted to have the freedom of choice.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I emphasize once again that we need to have indepth studies. What happened in 1991 may not be the same situation today, but maybe it is. We need to have indepth economic consultations and studies before we embark on this road. It may be very true that my hon. colleague is right, but it also may be true that he is wrong. Before embarking on this road, we need to be very certain.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, given the fact that producers would have to compete with multinational corporations, which now control the sector, how does he see the single desk being a marketing tool in empowering farmers?

Also, given that we have a highly trained workforce providing market intelligence at the Canadian Wheat Board situated in the city of Winnipeg, many of whom live in our communities, what impact will the demise of the Wheat Board have? It will certainly impact farmers and their ability to market internationally. Another issue that has not been addressed is the impact it will have on the city of Winnipeg, which many of us fear will have a significant impact.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, from what I have read, specifically the Fulton report, it seems that if we go to dual marketing and the Canadian Wheat Board II, there will be a lot of uncertainty. One of the things that will happen is the large multinational companies will syphon off expertise because people will be uncertain of their futures. They may get offers from Cargill or some other company, which means they probably will move if the companies are not based in Winnipeg.

In the end result, my point is it is not logical to assume that the Wheat Board will function as it is. Many people will move and seek other jobs. Some may stay. It is not logical to assume that farmers will invest in a new Wheat Board because of the uncertainty in the future. The fact that there would be another corporation, a farmer controlled organization on the international scene, in other words, the Wheat Board, working on behalf of farmers, offers some stability.

It all seems to point to a lot of uncertainty. One of the points in the Fulton report is that prices will go up for farmers for transportation.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar Saskatchewan


Carol Skelton ConservativeMinister of National Revenue and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I have a comment and then a question for the hon. member.

The member noted he had been doing a lot of reading. I read a blog titled “Small Dead Animals” and I ask him to look at it. There is a comment in the blog about the Canadian Wheat Board by Larry Weber from Weber Commodities in Saskatoon. He is a noted marketing authority. I would like my colleague to have a look at that website and read the comments. After he does, I would be interested in hearing back from him.

How many farmer producers of wheat and barley are in his riding?

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her suggestion to read the blog.

The impression I get from her question is the fact that because I live in B.C.'s southern interior, which has an apple industry, cattle ranching, some vegetable production and grain farming, I am somehow not qualified to speak on behalf of farmers.

The point is, and this was brought up before, I happen to be in touch with farmers. I am receiving hundreds of letters from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I have been talking with representatives of the National Farmers Union and other farmers, and I am here on their behalf. What I say is not a lot of my personal views. It is a reflection of what the majority of farmers are saying in western Canada.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Would the member opposite tell us how many wheat and barley producers are in the riding of the Minister of Agriculture? I believe there are none.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I do not think we can use points of order to ask other people questions other than the person giving the speech.

The hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.


Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his intervention in this important debate today. I, too, support the Canadian Wheat Board.

However, as an urban MP, not many people in my riding have very much experience with this issue. Our experience might be limited to driving by the grain elevators around Vancouver Harbour or watching a train with grain cars, delivering grain to that facility. I also know that many people in my riding understand the adage that farmers feed cities. They want to be supportive of agricultural producers in Canada.

I know this has a really important meaning for the supply management system in Canada, but it also has implications for food security in Canada, and people in my riding understand that. However, they also want to see justice for farmers.

Could the member speak briefly, so urban Canadians can understand, on why the Canadian Wheat Board is as important to them as it is to the people who live in the rural parts of Canada?

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, what is interesting is often we do not bring in the urban community when we talk about this. It is as if the issue is isolated, that it only concerns rural communities. However, we are talking about food security and about the ability of farmers to continue to survive.

I was at a meeting of the National Farmers Union a week and a half ago. One of the presentations dealt with the energy crisis and agriculture.

It is very possible that soon, maybe not in our lifetime, there will not be enough energy to continue the transportation of food all over the continent, that we will have to be more localized, that we will have to revitalize our small communities not with mega-farms but with small family farms and that people will go from the cities back to the small communities to produce food in order to feed the cities.

When we look at the Canadian Wheat Board and the possible destruction of it because of pressure from the multinational grain companies, the European Union, Australia and the United States that want us to dismantle it so there is more competition, we have to look at this as one way, one step to ensure food security for our nation.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.


Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster.

I am a little flabbergasted after hearing some of the comments and speeches this morning. When I first came to this country from the United States in the late 1960s, one of the first conversations I got in on with agriculture producers was with regard to how they market their grain and the Wheat Board. Where I came from as a farmer I used to load up my truck with grain and I would market my own grain and enjoyed doing it very much. It was instant cash. I had choices of marketing it in a number of places. My father and my brother, who were also in the farming business, and I managed to do that on a regular basis.

I was rather surprised when I came to this country that it was not how wheat and barley were marketed, and I began to pay a little more attention to what was going on. I thought it was rather strange. This is always a contentious point with a lot of members in the House.

From my experience as a farmer, when I go out and plant the seed, nurture the crop, pray for rain, hope the hail does not come, sweat, worry about being able to grow a good crop, then come harvest time, it is looking really well, so I am in a hurry to get it harvested and I want to get it into my granary bins. Then suddenly it is not mine. I no longer own it. It is as simple as that. I do not have the right to take that grain out of the bin in which I put it and decide to sell it in whatever fashion that I want and try to get the best price that I can for it. It now is the property of someone else with no guarantees of exactly what is going to transpire and no guarantee of price.

I used to get fluctuating prices when I was marketing my own product, but it seemed that we had a set thing where we were concentrating on getting an average at best, not the top dollar but a good average across the board where all these things could be levelled out.

After I decided to get into politics, I started attending a lot of meetings with various organizations, the barley growers associations and other groups of farmers throughout the riding. It became quite obvious to me very early on that following the open continental barley market that we had in the early 1990s where there was so much success for a great number of farmers and good success for the Wheat Board at the same time, that we did not continue down that path because it was really going well. I could not understand why they would want to bring an end to it until somebody pointed out to me that it was illegal for them to do that according to the Canadian Wheat Board Act and that it had to be changed back.

It is obvious now, after seeing the Liberal government in power for 13 years that it was changed back because that is exactly what the Liberals wanted to see happen. It was after the Liberals were elected in 1993 that the change returned to where barley was back in the Wheat Board with the concession that feed barley would not be, but the top grade malting barley would be under the Wheat Board.

During some of those years, I remember when Mr. Vanclief was the minister of agriculture and I remember when Bob Speller was the minister of agriculture. They spent a couple of days travelling in my riding and spoke at many farmers' meetings. Because I was there, I know exactly the message they got over and over again from the farmers in Wild Rose, where I happen to know there are several hundreds, if not thousands of farmers.

The farmers said loud and clear over and over, with the exception of two or three that I heard, hundreds testified to the minister and to the travelling committee that they wanted choice. Over and over again I hear in this House, particularly from the Liberal Party critic, that the majority of the farmers do not want that. I do not know what majority he is talking about, but in 13 years I have had ample opportunity to keep track of what my farmers in Wild Rose are saying and it is always 80% to 85% of farmers, who are mostly barley growers, who raise a good chunk of the great crop in my riding, they want choice. They consider it to be a matter of freedom.

That should attract attention on the other side of the House because I have heard lots of debates on freedom and protecting minority rights, that under the charter this should be allowed. It puzzles me why we would have the same group of people who would talk out of one side of their mouth in regard to the marriage law that we debated last week, and out of the other side of their mouth say that the farmers should not have that right to a choice, that freedom. That absolutely makes no sense to me. This is Canada. This is where we have freedom. This is where farmers do an excellent job of growing their crops. They put up with the sweat and toil. They want the choice of selling their product, but they do not have that freedom.

Regarding the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the lack of giving that freedom to the barley farmers, because specifically that is what is grown in my riding and the majority of the crop that deals with the Wheat Board is barley, I wonder how they feel. In all aspects of society we continually push and push for the rights and freedoms of certain individual minority groups, but we do not do the same thing for all the farmers who go to the trouble of working hard to try to raise a good crop and make a decent living for themselves and their families.

If the farmers feel they could do that, I certainly believe they ought to have the opportunity. I know no one of that group who would want to dismantle or get rid of the Wheat Board. They simply think that it ought to be part of a marketing choice. Since when has it become a bad thing in Canada to allow choice for a farmer to do what he thinks he can do best with his own product? I am really puzzled by that. Besides, if it is such a good thing, why are the farmers from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Ontario not all lining up to sign up for the Canadian Wheat Board? After all, it is not the western Wheat Board, it is the Canadian Wheat Board.

The Liberals continue to talk out of two sides of their mouths when it comes to that issue. Freedom; they have a right. I remember debating child pornography, but we could not do anything about it because people have the right to artistic merit and they have to be able to express themselves. We could not get anywhere with that issue. Then it had to be the public good and we could not get anywhere with that because they have the freedom and the right to do that.

Tell me, how can it possibly be that a few farmers who grow barley and who would like to have marketing choice do not have the freedom and the right in Canada? They do not have it in Canada because members of the party sitting across the way were in charge and they would never allow that to happen, but I could never understand why.

I also had the opportunity to talk to several members from the Toronto region who confessed loudly that they did not have the vaguest idea of what the Canadian Wheat Board was all about. They did not even know what the issue was about. I talked to them personally. Yet they would stand and vote against giving these farmers freedom. One would think that they would be interested in knowing that what they were doing was voting against a producer who works hard to grow his own crop, the 85% of the people in my riding who want the choice, saying no in a dictatorial fashion, “You will do with your product as we say”. That is just not right. It is just not right.

Agriculture and Agri-FoodCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the comments of the member for Wild Rose. I respect the member very much, but the key question is whether farmers should collectively be able to have the freedom of choice to decide on their marketing institutions and its authorities. That is what we are talking about, the freedom of choice to decide collectively and abide by those rules.

I would correct the member on one point. His interpretation of what happened on the open continental barley market is certainly different from mine. The studies have proven that the open market did not return to the producers the same amount as it would have if they went through the board.

Is the member for Wild Rose suggesting that in Canada we should not allow marketing through institutions or marketing boards collectively? Is that what he is saying, that we should not allow marketing through institutions or marketing boards collectively, that farmers should not have that choice?