House of Commons Hansard #43 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was water.


Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

moved that Bill C-300, An Act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act (direct sale of grain), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to start off the week with a great private member's bill.

The genesis of the bill goes back a number of years. When I first started farming in the early 1970s and attended some of the Canadian Wheat Board meetings, and of course there were its allies in the NFU, a lot of the excuses and arguments they are using now were used then, such as the argument that we cannot have this type of thing, that it would weaken the core of the Canadian Wheat Board, and of course that it could not survive if it had any kind of competition, even from the producers that it purports to save.

Let us set the stage. Why this private member's bill and why now?

I guess what it comes down to is the strength and viability of rural Canada, especially in western Canada. We see the statistics. A third of all Canadians live in rural Canada. Twenty-five per cent of our jobs are anchored in rural Canada and that number is sliding. Some 22% of our gross domestic product and some 40% of our exports and trade are generated out of rural Canada, and we are a trading nation. At the same time, 75% of the farmers within the Canadian Wheat Board area must have an off farm job in order to support that nasty habit we call farming.

What the bill seeks to do is add to the options, so to speak, for Canadian primary producers in the Canadian Wheat Board area only, because that is who is feeling the hurt at this point. The bill seeks to add to the options those producers will have to add value to their own product.

At this particular time and place under the Canadian Wheat Board Act, any product in grains, durum or malt barley that is designated for the foodstuffs line has to go through what is called the buyback procedure. That sounds innocuous enough, but what it entails is not just a percentage by the Canadian Wheat Board, in order to administer the fact that it goes in and out of its books, but the freight and elevation charges. In many cases now, these charges are horrendous and add some $30 to $50 per tonne to the basic cost of a product that has not yet left the farmer's yard.

That takes the feedstocks and puts them out of sight as far as getting any kind of positive bottom line is concerned when we are talking about a risky venture, let us say, in the eyes of the financial institutions. Now let us add to that the fact that the board likes to collect the world price at any given time on that buyback as well and again the problem is exacerbated in making those feedstocks for producer processing completely out of line.

We have seen groups come and go. We saw a group of 650 farmers from southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and even into North Dakota, who were wanting to build and supply with their own product a durum facility, a pasta plant attached to the Weyburn Inland Terminal. That idea bubbled and percolated along for four or five years, but the group could never get a deal with the Canadian Wheat Board to do away with this buyback provision, which made their feedstocks drive the viability of that system into jeopardy. It never did happen.

We have to address those types of things. We are seeing the advent of the value added side of agriculture, the agrifood side, and it is doing very well. It has seen huge increases. It is controlling the vast majority of the exports and domestic use in this country now. Over the last 15 years there has been a paradigm shift. The primary producer, as a hewer of wood and drawer of water, has been left behind. That is where we are seeing all of the trade injury hurt, with the market costs, the input costs and of course all of these extra charges on their product taking the primary producers away from any segment of viability.

This bill seeks to rectify some of that. Certainly we have to address this in the near future.

We do have some naysayers with regard to this particular perspective. I had lunch a week ago with some of the Canadian Wheat Board officials. I was pleased to buy lunch for Ken Ritter, the chair of the board, Adrien Measner, the CEO and president, and Victor Jarjour, the Ottawa coordinator for the Canadian Wheat Board. We discussed this particular issue along with others that are very pertinent to primary producers at this time.

They are not against the premise of the bill. They are not against the idea. In fact, their own polling numbers, which they just got back, show that some 80% of respondents said that the board needs to move this way. That is 80%, with 67% in that same survey saying the board is not doing its job and 49% saying they just want out from under the board so they can do this. So we know this is percolating out there, and while a lot of folks say that producers must have the final say, I would say this polling number just did that.

We can go back and argue that when we campaigned on a dual market in the last election, a lot of us were elected on January 23. In fact, other than the former minister of the Wheat Board who was elected within that trading area and another member from northern Saskatchewan, there is no one in this House who speaks for farmers. Also, we all know about the problems the former minister of the Wheat Board had in ordering farmers arrested, and in having a complete revamp of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, that saw farmers jailed, shackled and strip-searched, all for running an auger over the international boundary.

That particular farmer in that case farms on both sides of that line. It is an arbitrary line on his farm. He augered a barley that the Wheat Board was not handling and would not sell for him because it was a niche market. The officials arrested this fellow. They impounded his trucks. They went further than that under the Customs Act. They impounded the trucks of a lot of farmers who took a bag of something across the line, donated it to a 4-H club or dumped it because it was wood shavings. No one ever checked what it was they were hauling, but the minister, in his exuberance, came down with a heavy hand. He changed some of the rules arbitrarily and retroactively so that he could go ahead and do that, all to save this wonderful government operation, because it is controlled by the Canadian Wheat Board Act.

That goes to the next group of naysayers. The only other real voice out there against this type of provision is the voice of the grassroots farmers, the National Farmers Union, which says it speaks for those grassroots farmers. I am just amazed at how the NFU could be against this. Those farmers are taking the side of the multinationals they hate because of the profit margins for their shareholders and they are saying that farmers would then partner with these terrible bastions of enterprise in this country and start to circumvent the board.

This bill does not really allow that, because the bill says that a majority of any processing facility has to be producer owned and Canadian based. So unless the Cargills of the world are going to sell a flour mill to farmers, which is not necessarily a bad thing, that could not happen.

The NFU members have some specious arguments. They made three or four points in a letter that they circulated, none of which have any validity. I think the flat earth society that is running the NFU had better look in the rear-view mirror because the free marketers are overtaking them. It is just not going to happen in the way they are talking about.

There are other people who speak against this type of thing but at the same time put forward a report. I am talking about the former parliamentary secretary from Malpeque. I know he is the House today. He is very interested in agricultural issues. Again, he is probably going to talk against this bill because of the Canadian Wheat Board and how he wants to see that solidified in the fortress that it is, but in his report he made several recommendations from the airport tour he did in 2005.

Let us talk about those four recommendations. I want to get them on the record so that when he stands and speaks against this, he will have to tell us why he is being a hypocrite. The first recommendation, which is a general one, states: “That all governments place a priority on measures that will enhance farmers' economic returns from the marketplace”. That is what this private member's bill seeks to do.

Another point is on consolidation and market power: “That governments work with farmers to support, develop and maintain collective marketing initiatives, particularly through assisting New Generation Cooperatives and other farmer-owned corporate structures”.

Those are great points. I tend to agree with them.

The third point is on international trade. The member for Malpeque talks about “recognizing the legitimacy of the right of primary producers to market their products how they want”. That goes a long way to supporting this particular private member's bill. I am happy to see this.

The last point is on innovative marketing and product development. He talks about “addressing issues that restrict the production, distribution and retailing of organic agricultural products”. This group of producers is one that has a terrible time out there right now. We have one member of this group on the board of advisers of the Canadian Wheat Board, a fellow named Rod Flaman from southern Saskatchewan, an organic producer who says the board does a tremendous job for him, but he is the only one who says that.

There are some 50 members of a co-op based in Maymont, which is just outside my riding, who have built themselves a little mill. They clean and process to international standards, but they are forced to do this buyback. They have identified the markets. They have developed a niche market and have developed the product to fit it, through innovation and tenacity more than anything, and they are being punished with an extra $50 or $60 per tonne, or whatever it is, added to their commodity for absolutely zero services rendered by the Wheat Board, or by anyone else, for that matter. They have done it themselves. Good for them. That speaks to the future viability of rural Canada. It speaks to innovativeness and the niche markets that are available to us.

There is another group called FarmPure. It talks about making some positive changes like this. It is a group of certified seed growers who have become involved in processing because they felt it was in their best interests. The group is based in Regina, Saskatchewan, which is the heartland and centre of the Wheat Board, but it will not build within the Wheat Board area. It is building facilities outside that area, even if it is a malt plant. It is very big into the beverage industry, with products such as non-alcoholic beers and beverages like that, using Canadian cereal grains and so forth for malt plants.

Jim Venn, who works for the group, made a presentation at committee the other day. Jim spent 15 years with Dominion Malting, one of the largest maltsters in this country. He is very well versed in buying, selling, and the operation of the board and how he can deal directly with producers.

In my own farming operation in my past life, there was a maltster about 40 to 45 miles just north of us in Biggar. It was Prairie Malt. Cargill is now the major shareholder. At that time, it was a private sector initiative. The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool was involved in it. Cargill has now bought out Saskatchewan Wheat Pool. It supplies malt to a lot of the smaller breweries, including some in Mexico and even in China. Saskatoon's Great Western Brewing Company and companies like that buy from Biggar maltsters.

I grew a lot of malt barley as a certified seed grower. When I wanted to sell that malt, I found my market in Biggar or in Alix, Alberta, or at Calgary Brewing and Malting or wherever it was, and I trucked it there. There is no railway between Rosetown and Biggar. It had to go through Thunder Bay at that time because of the Crow rate. When I trucked it up there with the B-train or my own trucks, I paid freight and elevation charges to tidewater at either Thunder Bay or Vancouver. Guess what? I had never used either system. I was out $40 to $50 a tonne already, plus I had the cost of trucking it myself to Biggar.

I used to sit and have coffee with the fellow who happened to run that plant at that time. He is a great guy. He is a good operator and is now in Alix, Alberta. He said the reality is that he can buy cheap barley through the board, but he would just as soon pay farmers $10 a bushel for it as opposed the $3 it was going for at that time. He was not allowed to do that.

Now there are some changes. The board has tinkered with it a bit and will allow some incentives. It speaks more to trucking so that we are not double paying, but not so much to the price of the commodity. If a buyer gets offside and tends to distort the buying power of the Wheat Board, it comes down on the buyer very hard.

A good friend of mine, a fellow named Bob Nunweiler, took over a portion of an abandoned armed forces base in Alsask, Saskatchewan. He actually farms at Rosetown and Eston. He grinds every bushel of wheat that he produces. He creates his own flour. He goes through the buyback, this arcane punitive system, because he has to do that. He buys it back from the board and runs it through his mills. He has created Grandma Nunweiler's pancake mix, bread mix and so on. He exports worldwide. He went out there and found the markets.

However, in the meantime he is harassed on an almost monthly basis by the board going through his books and checking his plant to make sure he is not slipping in a bushel from somebody else. That is ridiculous. Alsask needs every job it can get. Bob needs to be able to buy from other producers because his markets are growing. He can no longer supply them on a quantity basis because he cannot get enough grain and he is not allowed to buy it from anybody else. Those types of things have to change.

My time is flying by, but I am just scratching the surface. There is a lot of concern being pumped up by certain groups that my bill, which is very short and succinct, does not have a proper definition of the word “producer”. The word “producer” is very well defined in the Canadian Wheat Board Act and that is what we are seeking to do. If people think it is too broad, I note that it is the same definition used for the voters list, which a lot of us think is too broad. Let us change that. I am willing to make those changes at committee.

As well, what exactly do we mean by processing and percentage of ownership the producers must have? Let us talk about those things in committee and get on with this.

Tremendous numbers of folks are waiting for this type of thing to happen. Rural Canada, as I said, is on the cusp of change. We must have this. Our farm safety nets are nowhere near able to keep up with the hurt at the primary production level. Allowing producers to value add and to seek out all of the niche markets and the innovation they so badly need is all addressed in this particular private member's bill.

I will close with a quote from the Wheat Board itself, in its own production called Grain Matters: “The only way farmers could get more for their wheat and barley in a multiple-seller environment is if end users like millers and maltsters would pay more for grain”. If primary producers own those mills and malt houses, they will certainly pay more for the grain.

It has been raised again by the NFU, the Flat Earth Society, that somehow it could circumvent this by buying extra, producing it and sending it out. That would not be in the best interest of producers. The bill seeks to backstop producers. I look forward to its speedy passage and movement on to committee.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member used a lot of strange names during his remarks but I will keep my question to the subject at hand.

The bill states that while a purchasing firm has to be “engaged in the processing of grain”, which would allow for the bypassing of the Canadian Wheat Board, it does not state that the firm has to process the grain itself. What would prevent a group of producers from establishing a milling or processing operation, purchasing more grain than it requires and exporting the balance of any unprocessed grain to the United States, in other words, using it as a vehicle to bypass the Canadian Wheat Board and its single desk selling agency operation which is used to maximize returns to primary producers?

The bill is not very specific and it is very short, which opens it up to a lot of problems. What is to prevent a group of Canadian farmers from setting up a processing facility in the United States and using that facility as an operation to transport the grain to the United States?

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite answered his questions in his own report that was tabled here a year ago, which his government never saw fit to implement or even discuss. It is sitting on the shelves of the Library of Parliament gathering dust. The report contains some good things. The genesis of this private member's bill could lead back to those four recommendations that I talked about.

The member is quite concerned that somehow farmers will make extra money. What he read was right out of the dogma of the National Farmers Union, which is his background and he will remain anchored there, but I cannot for the life of me understand why he would be concerned with producers making an extra dollar on their product. The bill seeks to address production and producers based in Canada.

He also talks about--

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Answer the question, Gerry. It is a simple question.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

He will get his time. He will make it seem like a half hour but it will only be 10 minutes.

The member says that we should not be allowed to open facilities in any other part of the world. That is actually done now. The Canadian Wheat Board just invested $1 million of farmers' money in China. If he believes in the Canadian Wheat Board, it already has a facility over there. There is no reason in the world to stop Canadian producers from owning facilities anywhere in the world. If there is a niche market out there and a way to get the product there, then let us do it.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The member said that the report was gathering dust in the Library of Parliament. In fact, it is on the minister's website as a discussion and consultation document. The member should keep his information straight.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

That appears to be a point of debate and not a point of order.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Wheat Board is a democratically elected group that is 100% controlled by farmers. If this change is so important for farmers, I would imagine all farmers would make the decision through an election or plebiscite.

The hon. member probably would not want a top down solution from the federal government if he is of the firm belief that farmers should control their own destiny. What part of democracy are we afraid of? Why would we not let the Canadian Wheat Board make its own decision, instead of this top down, we know better kind of approach?

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, the one thing we hate worse than a farmer from Prince Edward Island telling us what we should do in Saskatchewan is someone from Toronto telling us the same thing.

The Canadian Wheat Board purports to be farmer controlled. The unfortunate part is that we could elect all 15 members of the board, which I am sure is the way we will move, but they are still confined. Under the definition of the Canadian Wheat Board Act it does not allow this type of thing.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, the Canadian Wheat Board's own poll is saying that 80% of producers want this, while 67% said that the board was not moving there fast enough. I guess that would speak to the answer that the member is looking for.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat saddened by the last remarks of the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster. This is a serious issue and it is serious legislation. It is pathetic and it is wrong to try to disqualify myself or the member opposite from entering the debate because of where we reside. I spent 17 years of my life in western Canada as a farm leader.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

David Anderson

You did not. Tell the truth, Wayne.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

I did too. I spent 17 years of my life in western Canada as a farm leader, travelling across western Canada, indeed, all of Canada. I have great familiarity with that area. It is disgraceful for a member to cast aspersions on people in terms of the debate because of where they live.

Let me get to the issue. As the agriculture critic for the official opposition, I do have serious concerns about Bill C-300. During my remarks I will outline those concerns. I might say as well that quite a number of prairie farmers are notifying our office and raising their concerns as well. I will mention a few of those concerns later.

In my opinion and, I would submit, the opinion of the majority of grain farmers in western Canada, through a plebiscite approved by the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board, the grain farmers should be the ones who determine if a bill, such as the one before the House now, is acceptable and should be acted upon.

If the member opposite and the government were certain that the provisions of Bill C-300 were acceptable to producers, why has the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food not proposed such a measure to the board of directors for their approval and through the board a vote by producers?

The reason is evident. This measure is an attempt by the government, through the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, to begin the process the Conservative Party has long advocated: the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board and with the objecting being that the single best selling feature of the board is eliminated. That is the real objective of the members opposite.

The Canadian Wheat Board Act is very specific with respect to the measures required by which the activities and the mandate of the board can be altered. The minister, according to the provisions of the act, must first consult with the board of directors and, subsequent to that, any significant initiative must demonstrate by a vote support for those changes.

The other course is that changes to the board, changes that I would submit have not been voted upon by the farmers affected, is through a private member's bill, such as the one before the House.

I would challenge the member who introduced the bill to withdraw the legislation and have its contents submitted by the minister to the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board and, through them, to the grain producers of western Canada. If he supports the democratic right of the majority of producers to address his proposal he would do so.

With respect to the contents of Bill C-300, I have three areas of concern. First, the bill states that while a purchasing firm has to be engaged in the processing of grain, which would allow for the bypassing of the Canadian Wheat Board, it does not state that the firm has to process the grain itself. It should be noted that the member opposite would not answer that question.

The question was: What would prevent a group of producers from establishing a milling or a processing operation, purchasing more grain that they require and exporting the balance of any unprocessed grain to the United States? This could be a way of circumventing the board.

Second, what is to prevent a group of Canadian farmers from setting up a processing facility in the United States? The bill states that Canadian based producers must hold the majority interest in the purchasing firm and its facilities. It does not specify where those facilities must be located. There is nothing to assure western grain producers that the processing facilities must be located in western Canada, eliminating any claim this bill will increase western processing facilities.

The provisions of Bill C-300 may extend legislative advantages to some processors while excluding others which could result in trade challenges. The Library of Parliament's assessment of Bill C-300 made this point:

Currently, Part IV of the Canadian Wheat Board Act expressly prohibits the export and interprovincial or international sale and purchase of wheat and barley, as well as wheat and barley products, by any person except the Canadian Wheat Board. The scheme of the Act is that all wheat and barley entering interprovincial or foreign trade is to be purchased and marketed by the CWB.

The act is designed that way for a good reason. In order to be a single desk seller and thereby maximize the returns back to primary producers, the board must retain control over those products that it will be marketing. As well, the Library of Parliament makes this argument:

Some might argue that under the Bill, it would be possible for a producer to sell grain to a processing plant in the United States, if the majority interest of the plant is held by producers in Canada. The processing plant in the United States may then process to the grain or may even sell it in bulk to a third party. The Bill does not specify what the end use of the directly sold grain should be. This problem is further compounded by the fact that the Bill allows for the transportation of grain for the direct sale specified in the Act. The bill does not impose any territorial limits on such transportation.

I would make that argument. The bill also seeks to encourage value added processing in Canada, notably in the biofuel sector, and I agree that we should be increasing it. The member opposite mentioned the four recommendations in the report that I drafted. The Canadian Wheat Board is looking into that area. The board of directors is reviewing its value added policies in light of the importance which farmers have told them they attach to creating more value added processing in the prairies. The board, in its survey, states that 85% of farmers want the Canadian Wheat Board to work with producers to create more value added processing in the prairies. That is a good thing.

The board, in its remarks on the bill, say that it is looking at that, that it is willing to work with the farm communities and that it is willing to find solutions. The board also believes “that all decisions that affect the CWB's marketing mandate, whether overall as a single desk selling marketing agency, in the value added or the organic sectors, should be made by farmers”. That is what should be happening. Farmers should be making the decision by a plebiscite and then recommending changes to Parliament. However, the member and the government opposition is trying to circumvent that process by not giving producers their democratic rights. They are trying to do what they can to undermine the single desk selling agency concept of the Canadian Wheat Board.

I would like to quote Reg and Beverly Stow, producers from Manitoba. In a letter directed to Mr. Ritz and copied to myself, they state:

If passed into law, this short and seemingly innocuous piece of legislation would gut the CWB mandate and eliminate any remaining trace of Western farmers' power in the transnational-owned marketplace.

They conclude by giving a message to members opposite:

It is alarming to us that a party which owes its mandate to the rural vote evidently can't wait to erode further the economic power of the very group whose brought it to government.

I strongly urge to defeat Bill C-300.

I will be urging members of this House to think about the impact of this legislation clearly, and yes, to defeat the bill at the end of the day. Let us see what producers have to say rather than, as the government opposite is trying to do, undermine the single desk selling concept of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in today's debate on Bill C-300, which was introduced by the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster, who is also the chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, and with whom I truly enjoy working.

That said, today we are talking about a different issue. We will not necessarily be on the same wavelength about his bill, which is no doubt the product of his very serious and thorough effort. He truly believes in the arguments he has put forward. However, it is not because one believes in something that one is right. We, the Bloc Québécois, have some concerns about this bill that I will discuss during the time I have been given.

The purpose of this bill is to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act (direct sale of grain). If this bill were to be adopted, it would authorize grain producers to sell grain directly to certain specified associations or firms engaged in the processing of grain, and transport grain for the purposes of those sales, without having to pay a fee to the Canadian Wheat Board.

As I said earlier, we cannot support this bill because we have concerns about some things we found out. Many people were involved in this file, but that does not mean there was unanimity. I agree with the member who introduced the bill that there are major differences of opinion. The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food studied the issue. We have concerns that prevent us from moving ahead with this bill. I believe that it would weaken a collective marketing tool used by 85,000 barley and wheat producers in the west.

As the Bloc Québécois agriculture and agrifood critic and a defender of the interests of Quebec farmers, I am afraid to see the Conservative government go after another collective marketing tool. Hon. members will have guessed that I am talking about supply management, which Quebec holds dear and which, as we know, accounts for 40% of farm income in Quebec. I mention this because every time people attack the Canadian Wheat Board at the World Trade Organization, they are also attacking supply management. If we open the door to dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board, I am really afraid that the federal government will prompt other countries—and will itself decide—to dismantle the supply management system. If that happens, the Bloc Québécois will fight tooth and nail to prevent the supply management system in Quebec from ever being modified.

I will talk very briefly about what the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food said about this issue. When he appeared recently before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, he said that in the end, Canada stands alone on supply management. It was even implied that there had been a vote of 148 to 1. In fact, there was no vote.

Clearly, the other countries have always tried to challenge the supply management system. To me, the fact that Canada was alone did not mean that it should give up and get rid of a system it has always defended. The minister implied that he planned to be flexible, because Canada would have to get along with the other countries and eventually sign an agreement.

I was once a union president, and I have also been a grievance officer. When I am not happy with an agreement, I do not sign it. If an agreement is bad, we do not sign it. We have to stand up for what we believe, and we have to defend our farmers. In this case, we have to defend supply management. That is what the minister should be saying.

There were also the comments by the WTO director general, Pascal Lamy. He came to Montreal to bring pressure to bear, saying that we need to start looking at what is going on with the Canadian Wheat Board and supply management, and that concessions need to be made. I do not think we have any lessons to learn from Mr. Lamy. I do not know whose interests he is serving, but he wants an agreement in the end. In any event, he wants Canada to bow to the dictates of the other countries, the United States and the European Union in particular.

He talks about market access and says we need to be increasingly open. That is the goal of every market. When we do business, we want other markets to be open, just as we are prepared to open ours. But in this case, there needs to be a level playing field before this happens. Five percent of the entire market in Canada is already open to foreign products, while on average 2.5% of the markets in the U.S., the European Union and the other countries are open. As far as hatching eggs are concerned, we already allow 20% of the product to come from other countries.

At some point, before holding discussions and making concessions, everyone needs to realize that these figures do indeed exist and that other countries still are not as open as we are when it comes to market access.

Let us also talk about the attitude of Canada's chief negotiator at the WTO. He is still having a hard time living with the motion on supply management passed unanimously on November 22 by the House of Commons. Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois had this motion passed to protect our supply management system.

All these concerns make me worry about a domino effect if this type of bill is passed and the Canadian Wheat Board is dismantled. I fear that the next target will be the supply management system.

Collective marketing is very important in Quebec. I have spoken at some length about supply management. In addition, there are the joint plans and the cooperatives. All of this serves to protect farmers’ income. This is a unique instrument of governments, and is not comparable to a subsidy. There are even some emerging countries, notably in Africa, that are beginning to take great interest in this. It is a very good thing, given the income stability for farm producers, as I was saying earlier, and also because it ensures a fair price for consumers.

Furthermore, 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 producers have done with the Canadian Wheat Board. That is also what the members of the cash crop producers, the Fédération des producteurs de cultures commerciales du Québec, did last year, when they created the wheat sales agency called the Agence de vente de blé à consommation humaine du Québec. With this new agency, the federation becomes the only agent authorized to market wheat for human consumption in Quebec. This is modelled on the way other products operate in Quebec, such as milk, maple syrup, pork and the cattle industry. Such selling agencies are emerging through a democratic process. The producers are called upon to make a decision on their product. That is what the cash crop producers have done. They have asked themselves by what means could they get a fair return in selling their wheat for human consumption. Their interest was drawn by examples in other kinds of crops, and they created this compulsory selling agency.

Unlike the Canadian Wheat Board, the Federation of Quebec Producers of Cash Crops does not own the crop and has no government affiliation. All the same, the Quebec wheat sales agency is disturbed that it is being associated with the criticism directed against the Canadian Wheat Board at the WTO.

To challenge the agency is to attack not only the collective wheat marketing instrument that has just been created, but also the Quebec act respecting the marketing of agricultural, food and fish products. That act permits our producers to join forces to create a collective marketing agency.

Therefore, our position is to defend at all costs the existence of publicly-owned corporations as discussed at the WTO negotiations, for if the government abandons the Canadian Wheat Board, the entire collective marketing system may be weakened. I spoke earlier about the domino effect. This bill opens the door to attacks on all fronts, on all sides, against our collective marketing system.

With this bill, as with all of its policies concerning the Canadian Wheat Board, the Conservative government's intention is to offer farmers the freedom of choice. This might appear entirely democratic. In fact, we are talking about varied opportunities to sell their grain. In 2002, the current Prime Minister proposed a motion to eliminate the Canadian Wheat Board. Voluntary marketing is being proposed. However, that does not work, which is unfortunate for the member who is presenting the bill. A few people have tried this and experience has shown that the balance of power between sellers and buyers does not exist if the selling agency is not compulsory. Yet, some western producers want changes made to the Canadian Wheat Board, as we have heard. However, a great deal of contradictory information is circulating about this, specifically concerning what producers really want. Here are some results from a National Farmers' Union survey, which was criticized earlier by the Conservative member behind this bill, although the survey is nevertheless entirely scientific: 76% of producers support the Canadian Wheat Board and 88% want to have the final say in deciding the future of the Canadian Wheat Board.

In my opinion, before we agree to vote for such a bill, we should do what was decided in parliamentary committee, namely, allow producers to decide through a referendum, by plebiscite, and hear what they really think.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2006 / 11:40 a.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to comment on Bill C-300 as well as on some other important issues facing agriculture in Canada today.

Although this amendment may appear logical on the surface, it raises a number of questions and could in the long term undermine the Canadian Wheat Board as a single desk seller of wheat, barley and durum in Canada. Conservatives have a platform commitment to introduce a dual marketing system where farmers would have a choice to sell through the Canadian Wheat Board or seek their own markets. Bill C-300 is the first step in this direction.

The core of Bill C-300 is it would give farmers the right to sell grain produced by the producer directly to an association or firm engaged in the processing of grain if a majority of interests in the association or firm was held by a producer or producers in Canada. This terminology is wide open. For example, if a Japanese mill took on a Canadian farmer partner, that mill could circumvent the Canadian Wheat Board. If a group of farmers set up a milling operation, bought several times more grain than they needed, and then exported the balance unprocessed to the U.S., they would be bypassing the Canadian Wheat Board. If a group of Canadian farmers set up a cleaning facility in Canada, Bill C-300 might give those farmers the right to circumvent the CWB and then re-export the grain again.

This bill is an attempt to impose a very neat solution to a complex problem. It could trigger massive unintended consequences and set the stage for a raft of trade challenges. It could create a huge number of problems, all to solve a problem that to a significant extent does not really exist.

The Canadian Wheat Board is a self-sustaining democratic organization of farmers with a mandate to act in the best interests of farmers in the world marketplace. It is not a crown corporation, although it was created through legislation after World War II. The majority of members, 88%, believe that any changes made to the Wheat Board must be made by farmers themselves.

These are challenging times for the agriculture industry in Canada. There is tremendous pressure from major world players to modify or to get rid of not only the Canadian Wheat Board, but also our supply management system. It is my personal belief and the belief of my party that we must as a nation resist this temptation in the interests of our own food security.

For example, our supply management system works very well in Quebec and in the rest of Canada. The government does not give subsidies and producers, for the most part, can make ends meet. Tremendous pressure is being applied at the WTO on Canada to modify its supply management system. The objective of the negotiations is to remove customs barriers and other obstacles to trade, to the advantage of the poorest countries.

Developing or emerging countries, with Brazil and India at the top of the list, are calling for large reductions in American agricultural subsidies and European customs duties. Americans and Europeans, while passing the buck for the impasse from one to the other, are applying pressure on poor countries to open their markets to their industrial goods and services. For its part, Canada wants the United States to reduce its agricultural subsidies. Here in Canada, there are those who believe that by adjusting the supply management system we will have even greater access to world markets.

In a sense, our supply management system, which protects primarily the dairy, egg and poultry sectors, is closely tied to the Canadian Wheat Board. These are two Canadian-style solutions to problems faced by our farmers. There will be an enormous price to pay if we begin dismantling them.

I would like to thank our Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food for his willingness to defend our supply management system at the WTO.

There are other positive signs that the government is taking an active role to assist those in the agricultural sector. One is the willingness of the minister to participate in tobacco industry-led forum to discuss an exit strategy that is fair and equitable for Canadian farmers.

I also urge the minister not to abandon farmers in the grain and oilseed sector. The Americans are looking after their farmers and they are making money. We must have a short and long term strategy to level the playing field until such time as we can convince other countries to reduce their subsidies.

This should involve an immediate injection of sufficient funds for disaster relief for farmers hit hard in northeastern Saskatchewan. Let us not forget that what is at sake here is the survival of our rural communities and our way of life.

The negotiating position of the Government of Canada at the WTO talks has been to defend the democratic right of Canadian farmers to choose the kind of marketing institutions that will best serve their interest. For western Canadian farmers, this means defending the Canadian Wheat Board, with its statutory authority as a single desk seller.

If farmers want to change the board's mandate, they must be able to do this through their own democratic elections or through a plebiscite. It their decision and it should not be interfered with by the WTO or by us in the federal government.

The U.S. and the European Union want us to remove that decision from our farmers. At the World Trade Organization talks, their negotiators have been clear that they want an end to our single desk authority of organizations like the Canadian Wheat Board, which in their terminology are called state trading enterprises. The WTO position of the U.S. and the European Union, which represents the position of large grain companies, would basically outlaw the ability of farmers to have an effective organization able to compete with these companies.

This bill mirrors the debate surrounding the Canadian Wheat Board. It would result in a series of undesirable consequences and would open the door to a multitude of commercial disputes.

Let us review one scenario. A group of Canadian farmers establishes a processing plant in North Dakota. Bill C-300 seems to grant to these farmers, and to all western Canadian farmers, the right to transport their grain across the border to the plant. Bill C-300 states that producers established in Canada must have a majority interest in the company that purchases these facilities.

The bill could unleash a number of trade challenges because it gives legislative advantages to some processors and not others. For example, a farmer owns a co-op pasta mill, buys durum and pays farmers a price equal to what other farmers in the region receive from the Canadian Wheat Board. Corporate owned pasta plants, which are barred by their ownership structure from accessing durum at this lower price, then decide to sue under chapter 11 of NAFTA.

Another possibility could be that U.S. farmers want to set up a pasta plant in Manitoba and take advantage of the ability to buy grain at the Canadian Wheat Board price. If they are refused, they may have a case under the national treatment clauses of trade agreements, which stipulate that nations cannot discriminate between enterprises in their own countries or foreign countries.

The Canadian Wheat Board has on occasion been inaccurately portrayed as an impediment to value added processing in Canada. There is a belief in parts of the farming community and in some government quarters that an exemption for the domestic processing market is workable, if not for the entire domestic, certainly for processing operations owned by farmers.

Let us ask some questions. Would an exemption for farmer owned processing plants provide farmers with increasing marketing choice? It would only do so if the exemption results in producer owned plants coming into existence either through new construction or purchase of existing processing capacity. Would this exemption increase value added economic activity in western Canada by attracting local investment and creating jobs in rural areas? Western Canada, with its small population, is not considered a particularly advantageous location for producer processors.

Bill C-300 does not specify or dictate where producer owned facilities must be located and does not alter the existing comparative advantages. Therefore, it is not likely to promote growth specifically in western Canada over elsewhere.

I believe we have to defeat the bill. We must let the producers, themselves, decide the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. It is my hope that today we will make that decision.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan


David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary (for the Canadian Wheat Board) to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, it is great to be here today to speak to the bill. I would like to congratulate the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster for being so forward-thinking in presenting a great and progressive alternative for farmers on the prairies.

As we have listened to the other parties this morning, it is interesting to hear all the reasons why farmers cannot succeed, why they cannot have this and why that would not be good for them. Those are the same people, particularly on the other side, who for 13 years left farmers without hope in their industry. Farmers have turned to us for that hope. The member for Battlefords—Lloydminster has shown courage and leadership in coming forward with this bill.

I want to take a couple of minutes to go over the bill. If we listened to the opposition, we would think that there is an awful lot to this, but it is very short. It is only a couple of paragraphs. It says:

(1) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act or the regulations, a producer may

(a) sell grain produced by the producer directly to an association or firm engaged in the processing of grain if a majority interest in the association or firm is held by a producer or producers based in Canada; and

(b) transport grain for the purposes of any such sale.

That would be logical, and:

(2) No fee shall be imposed under this Act in respect of the sale or transportation of grain in accordance with subsection (1).

It seems fairly simple. As producers, we can take our own grain and sell it directly to a processor as long as that processor is controlled by a majority of Canadian producers. One would think this would be something which would already be permitted, but unfortunately in a designated area in western Canada it is not. That is the only part of the country where producers are not free to process their own grains.

There has been a long history in our country. When I thought about the bill, I wondered why our ancestors had come here, why did my grandfather and my great-uncle settle adjacent quarters on the Prairies. There were a number of reasons. They wanted to go there because there was a whole world of opportunity for them to finally have some success and move ahead with their lives. They wanted the freedom to make their own choices, to set up their own little farms and to market their own grain. They wanted an opportunity to succeed. After all these years, those are the things farmers still want. They still want those opportunities. They still want a solid return for the work they do.

It is mainly because of the Canadian Wheat Board and the system in western Canada that western Canadian producers have been unable to maximize their returns. That is why the bill has been brought forward. It gives farmers one more option. It is a huge step in a positive direction for producers.

I am encouraged also by the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster's willingness to consider amendments. He said that if there were some things in the bill that were not as strong as they should be, he would be willing to strengthen them. We wish the opposition would have the willingness to have an open like the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster.

Because the bill is simple and straightforward, we would have expected support for it. Farmers are excited about it. A lot of calls have come in in support of it.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

There sure are, but the wrong way.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

The member for Malpeque wants to heckle me about that. It is interesting to listen to the people who are not excited about this bill. The first people who stepped forward were the huge grain companies. They were not sure whether they liked it because it was not exactly a level playing field, that producers would be given too much of an opportunity. The member for Malpeque would love to stand up with those grain companies against farmers. However, we will stand up for the producers themselves.

It is interesting, as well, that a lot of producer groups have supported it, except for some of the extreme, radical left-wing groups. Those groups have decided that they will take the bill on. They are going to join with the grain companies in opposing it.

I do not think they have read the legislation, and that is disturbing. Both the member from the Liberals and the member from the NDP have taken that letter, which I do not know if they had a part in writing it, and have decided to use it as their main arguments. There are just a couple of strange arguments in it.

They say that Bill C-300 purports to give an advantage to farmer owned Canadian plants. We would say it certainly does. They are going to try to find some extreme example that might not work to try to prove the whole bill is bad. How about if we take, for example, a corporate controlled joint venture flour mill in Japan? That is something we would not want, so it must be what the bill provides. The argument is we cannot allow corporate controlled joint venture flour mills in Japan to take advantage of this bill. The bill states that any plants have to be owned by a majority of producers. We are not talking about Canadian producers. Nor are not talking about corporate controlled entities.

Then it goes on to say that Bill-300 would create legislated cost advantages for some producers but not others. We say that it would create some advantage for producers, and we are more than willing to do that.

I am a little disturbed that these left-wing farm groups are defending the big companies against the small producers. I am even more disappointed that the member for Malpeque has chosen to join in that and to oppose Canadian farmers. He made an airport tour and came up a small report in which he made some recommendations. I would like to read a couple of things from that. It says in the conclusion:

--Canada 's farmers, who work hard and efficiently, want to make their living from the marketplace, and the policies undertaken by our governments must provide the conditions allowing that to happen.

The bill tries to do that.

We need policies that help farmers earn a decent living and that create economic stability in rural Canada.

The bill also tries to do that.

The first two recommendations of his report are: that all governments place a priority on measures that will enhance farmers' economic returns from the marketplace; and second, that ministers and ministries of agriculture see their primary role as advocating on behalf of primary producers. The bill does that.

He should be supporting it, but he is not and that is unfortunate. I find it ironic that he supports our position on child care, but he will not support our position on farmers to give producers some return in the marketplace. He was the one who suggested we should give child care choice to parents. He also supported our budget, and we thank him for that. However, perhaps he should step forward and support an initiative such as.

I am very disappointed with him. He claims to have been a farm leader for years, wanting to step forward and defend farmers. However, for some reason, he has insisted that his party take a position in opposition to the bill. We think he should reconsider that. He needs to support the bill and to give producers what they need enable them to make the return from the marketplace.

The member for Battlefords—Lloydminster made a very legitimate point when he said that the member did not live in the designated area. He is not from anywhere near there, but he feels he has an obligation to try to interfere with my ability to do business in the part of the world in which I operate. That is a huge concern for me. The last thing we need is people from other areas, who do not understand our systems, explaining to us what they have.

The ball is back in the official opposition's court. We look forward to its support on it.

Canadian Wheat Board ActPrivate Members' Business



The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper. When the item comes back for debate, there will be two and a half minutes left for the hon. parliamentary secretary.

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders



Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB


That the House recognize the urgent need to improve the quality of life of Canada’s Aboriginals, First Nations, Inuit and Métis, living both on and off reserve, which requires focused and immediate initiatives by the government in areas such as health, water, housing, education, and economic opportunities and, especially, immediately moving forward with the implementation of the Kelowna Accord with its full funding commitments.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a motion on behalf of the official opposition, a motion that most in the House wish would not have been necessary.

It is a resolution that reflects a course of action that I believe again that most in the House wish was now well underway.

It is a resolution that promises hope and opportunity for a large number of aboriginal Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

It is a resolution that acknowledges the responsibility that flows from historic claims and relationships between aboriginal people and the non-aboriginal majority.

It is a resolution that speaks to the future of our country, to social justice and to economic prosperity.

It is a resolution that speaks to the potential of loss: the loss of opportunity, the loss of growth and the cost of doing nothing.

It is a resolution that speaks of the loss of international reputation.

It is a resolution that acknowledges the magnitude of an agreement of this kind with so many participants after so many aborted attempts.

It is a resolution that speaks to relationships and trust.

And it is a resolution that speaks to the honour of the Crown, to the integrity of the processes of the negotiations between governments themselves and between governments and aboriginal leadership across this country.

I speak of the Kelowna accord.

This past November, a solidly crafted and visionary agreement was concluded by a committed group of leaders in this country. Those present at that memorable meeting included the leadership of the five aboriginal organizations in the country, the AFN, ITK, Métis National Council, NWAC and the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the former Prime Minister of Canada, and the first ministers of all of Canada's provinces and territories.

It is important to reiterate here what the Kelowna accord was about. It was about an integrated, far-reaching plan to achieve a clear set of targets and goals to ensure that aboriginal Canadians throughout this abundant and inclusive country of ours have the prospects and opportunities of all Canadians.

The Kelowna accord was a clear plan to address the historic social and economic disparities that exist between aboriginal Canadians and others.

It was about eradicating the poverty and loss of opportunity that plagues aboriginal peoples.

It was about improving educational outcomes and opportunities for aboriginal young people and sometimes their parents as well.

It was about addressing an enormous housing challenge that haunts so many communities and contributes to profound social unrest. I

It was about providing the resources to improve water systems and train those who maintain them.

It was about ensuring that health care is available for aboriginal people, not just reducing waiting times. What is required is available services, so that infants do not die, so that teenagers do not commit suicide, so that diabetes is addressed, and so that tuberculosis is dealt with and becomes obsolete in this country.

The Kelowna accord was about creating economic opportunities.

It was about a commitment to aboriginal women for a stand alone summit to address their particular issues, including violence and matrimonial real property as addressed by Bill C-31 in 1985.

The Kelowna accord was a recognition that what is required in the far north may be different from what is required on reserve, which may in turn be different from what is required in the cities.

And it was the recognition that the needs of first nations, Inuit and Métis are themselves different, and that within these communities disparities exist.

The Kelowna accord was a plan that was developed by all the partners, very much a ground up approach, based on plans developed by the aboriginal organizations. As National Chief Phil Fontaine said at the aboriginal affairs committee last week:

We were able to convince the 14 jurisdictions of the validity and legitimacy of this plan--a plan that was considered by all as reasonable, doable, and achievable.

There were 18 months of consultation and collaboration that took place. Meetings were held, plans refined, memorandums to cabinet prepared, and memorandums to cabinet approved. Moneys were identified and moneys were allocated. Consultations were held between premiers, with each other and with aboriginal leaders. The consultations were held between aboriginal leaders, and between leaders and their constituent communities.

There were 18 months of discussion and dialogue, of give and take, of compromise and concession.

The agreement was concluded at a full meeting last November 24 and 25 with all the participants and all the players, before the television cameras and the media of the country, and with Canadians from coast to coast to coast observing a truly transparent and open process which all in the House support.

A comprehensive 10 year plan was in place to achieve a clear set of goals and targets, $5.1 billion was provided for the first five years of this plan, and $700 million was allocated under earlier agreements. The remainder was booked and allocated in the unallocated surplus of the economic and fiscal update of November 2005 as confirmed by the finance department officials at the meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance on May 10, 2006 in the sources and uses table.

Public statements and acknowledgments were made of what had been accomplished and handshakes by all the leaders were undertaken.

Yet, we hear from members opposite that either it was written on a napkin, it was a so-called accord, or comments that it was only a single piece of paper, or that there were issues concerning whether it was really an agreement or just a press release.

What has been described by colleagues opposite as a single piece of paper or written on a napkin was understood by all present as a firm agreement, a major achievement, a strong commitment, and a decision to proceed.

Let me advise the House of what the leaders present from all political parties and from all the aboriginal communities said of the agreement at the time and since.

Mr. Campbell, Premier of British Columbia said:

It has taken us 138 years as a nation to arrive at this moment. It has taken decades of dialogue and a tortured path of frustration and failure to bring us to this moment of clarity and commitment.

Conservative Premier Ralph Klein of Alberta said:

To make those improvements happen we need the federal government to live up to its constitutional responsibilities for aboriginal people, and it has been indicated here that you are indeed going to do that.

The NDP premier of my own province of Manitoba said, “This is the most significant contribution to aboriginals made by any Prime Minister in the last 30 years”.

In Ontario, Premier Dalton McGuinty said

For the first time ever, first ministers have agreed to targets and time frames on improving aboriginal lives and there exists a strong consensus to act immediately.

From Quebec, Premier Charest said, “Failure is not an option. The time has come to move ahead”.

Assemblies of First Nations Grand Chief Phil Fontaine said:

The country is watching us here. The commitments that are made are significant and it's going to be very, very difficult for any government to retreat from those commitments here.

We heard from Chief Ed John from the First Nations Summit who said, “We're off and running with this agreement. This is a great day”.

Jose Kusugak from the ITK said: “Everything we wanted to achieve, we achieved. We are very happy”.

When the government first brought in its budget, it contained an 80% cut in promised funding for aboriginal Canadians and their leaders were profoundly disappointed.

The Kelowna accord designated $5.1 billion toward issues such as health, education, economic opportunity, housing, accountability and relationships.

The Conservative budget committed $450 million toward on-reserve programs with the money being contingent upon there being a federal surplus. The government did not make a firm commitment. At the same time that it killed the Kelowna accord, it attached an asterisk to the limited amounts that it did commit.

Here are some of the reactions from the aboriginal leaders, the country over, to the budget.

Bev Jacobs, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada said, “I do not believe that the amount in this budget will be able to deal with complex and deep issues that face aboriginal communities and aboriginal women today. The issue of health was not addressed, and that is very discouraging”.

Grand Council Chief Beaucage from the Union of Ontario Indians said: “This budget is a far cry from what was committed by the first ministers. Once again we've been left out in the cold”.

Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said:

Our fear, suspicion and mistrust of the [Conservative] government to support the historic Kelowna Accord were well placed. I had hoped, however, that the [Conservative] government would have the integrity and political will to fully implement the historic Kelowna Accord representing a $5.1 billion dollar investment in Aboriginal communities.

Clément Chartier, President of the Métis National Council said:

Despite years of hard work and great progress as we experienced with the previous government, Conservatives have not stood up for the Métis Nation.

David Chartrand from Manitoba said:

The Kelowna Accord would have helped the Métis People educate our youth and provide the necessary financial supports for sustainable housing and to combat diabetes in our communities.

Again we heard from National Chief Phil Fontaine when he said:

The approaches developed in Kelowna were developed with and supported by Aboriginal leaders, provinces and territories. These were not commitments from a particular party, but by the federal and all provincial and territorial governments.

The disingenuous of the minister, whom I have great respect for I might add, speaking on this issue is breathtaking. In reply to the private member's bill introduced by my colleague, the former Prime Minister, he said:

Aboriginal poverty is deep rooted. It is a complex issue. I say, with all due respect, that I do not think anyone can table a single page at the close of a first ministers' meeting as a compilation of numbers, issue a press release and believe aboriginal poverty has been solved.

What a profound lack of respect, courtesy and regard for the processes undertaken to get to that day and an even greater lack of respect for those people involved in getting there. The minister then went on to say:

The problems in this country are much deeper than that. They require a long term commitment, structural reform and renovation in consultation with first nations. Unless that is done, we will not succeed in the eradication of aboriginal poverty.

I believe that everyone that day in November believed that was exactly what Kelowna was about.

Let me tell the House what the loss of Kelowna means in concrete terms. It means that capital projects for education are being delayed for years as moneys are being reallocated or are not available. There are no funds for aboriginal health care identified in the budget while the tuberculosis outbreak continues to grow at Garden Hill First Nation, now 27 identified cases and 86 identified contacts. All perpetuated by many crowded, mouldy houses.

The Elsipogtog First Nation in New Brunswick has a detailed plan to address an ongoing substance abuse problem in their community. There has been no response and no funds.

The Shamattawa First Nation in northern Manitoba has a desperate need for new homes. Often 26 people live in one house. Again there was no response.

A large number of young people I met in Winnipeg will not be able to go on to post-secondary education, and yet we talk about skill shortages in Canada. The list goes on.

We have heard little commitment from the government to aboriginal peoples. We have heard some empty rhetoric, often a deafening silence, a frequent attempt to change the channel, and talk of more studies and little action. But there was a glimmer of hope.

When first appointed to the portfolio, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development said:

Aboriginal Canadians are nosk as long as I am the mt going to live at riinister.

I would like to remind the minister and his colleagues of one of the many wise comments by the late Martin Luther King Jr. when he said:

Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

It is indeed time for members of the government to sit down and listen to the aboriginal leadership throughout this country, to listen to their colleagues in the House of Commons, to listen to the provincial and territorial leaders, and most important, to listen to Canadians across this country who understand the loss for them and their neighbours by not proceeding with the Kelowna accord.

It is time for that ray of sunshine to shine on Canada's aboriginal people and it is time to let the wheels of Kelowna move forward.

We have heard much about accountability from the government. We all support accountability, but accountability is not just about dollars. It is also about a government's accountability, or lack thereof, to its citizens and its partners in Confederation. Accountability is indeed a two-way street.

This is the opportunity to ensure that the Kelowna agreement is not added to the record of injustices and failures that have plagued aboriginal peoples over the decades in this country.

Let me close with a statement by Richard Paton from ITK when he appeared before the aboriginal affairs committee on June 7, 2006. His statement sums up the feelings of many across this great land. He said:

In my view, and as stated by our president recently in Gimli at the western premiers meeting, acting honourably means at a minimum keeping your word. The word that was pledged to the first ministers meeting on the federal side was not the word of a particular individual or political party; it was the word of the Prime Minister of Canada, the highest-level servant of the Crown and the people and an important custodian of the honour of the Crown and, by extension, the honour of the people of Canada. We cannot run federalism, indeed we cannot run Canada, on the basis that high-level multi-governmental commitments to tackle fundamental societal ills that are the product of mature deliberation can be summarily discarded because one of the signatories doesn't find it expedient on partisan grounds.

I implore colleagues opposite to listen to the speakers here today, to reconsider and to look at the far-reaching impact of the Kelowna accord across this land of ours. I urge all in this House to unanimously adopt the motion.

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba


Rod Bruinooge ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I have had the pleasure of serving with my hon. colleague on the aboriginal affairs committee. I believe she is genuinely interested in moving forward on the issues concerning aboriginal Canadians.

I would like to ask her about one area that was not involved in the Kelowna process, and that is in relation to structural reform. It is quite clear based on the commentary of many of the people who were at the table at the first ministers meeting, that was not an item that was unanimously agreed upon.

More important, how can she refer to empty rhetoric when we look back at the 13 years of inaction, where opportunities were missed and aboriginal Canadians saw the outcomes continue to be deplorable? How can she say that empty rhetoric is not most reflective upon her and her party?

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was anticipating the member's comment on structural reform. There is no question that structural reform is required. Legislative changes must be made and we have to move forward. To wait for structural reform is to do a huge disservice to the communities that we are speaking about. Structural reform has to move forward incrementally in consultation with first nation communities across the land. The member knows as well as I do that structural reform is a substantial undertaking. It will take years to move forward. While I acknowledge the necessity of it, I do not believe it is in any way an impediment to implementing the Kelowna accord.

I speak of empty rhetoric because we see very little happening from members opposite, while I know that many of them are committed to this issue. The previous government had moved on this agenda. The Kelowna accord came about as a result of this agenda.

It is really important that the previous government built relationships with aboriginal communities. This is not a situation where one tells; rather, one asks. One works with; one does not dictate. Relationship building is the essence of Kelowna and what the previous government was about. With respect to the successes and failures that were there, the successes came about by working together and the failures of the past came about by not listening to and not working with.

While I accept my colleague's comments about structural reform, I believe that the previous government made tremendous strides in dealing with first nations, aboriginal peoples, Inuit peoples, Métis peoples, and we are very proud of it.

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague. I will have the opportunity a little later today to explain the Bloc Québécois' position regarding the motion proposed by the Liberal Party. However, I can say right away that we will support this motion.

Later today, I will hold a press conference along with my hon. colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, who will rise in a few minutes, to denounce the current government's attitude regarding discussions on the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples currently taking place in New York.

That said, I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question. The members of this House must understand that the Kelowna agreement was not negotiated between the Liberal government and aboriginal peoples or between the Conservative government and aboriginal peoples. It was negotiated nation to nation—it is on this particular topic that I would like my hon. colleague to address the House. The hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, who was Prime Minister at the time, signed as the leader of a nation, just as Phil Fontaine signed as the leader of a nation.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague the following questions: What happens when two nations that have signed an agreement do not respect that agreement? What will happen in the years to come?

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, if I understood the question correctly, the previous government understood, recognized and acknowledged the nationhood of aboriginal peoples in this country. As such, we worked with them on a nation to nation basis acknowledging, listening, cooperating and collaborating so that there was not fragmentation, so that we were able to come in with a holistic response.

The key to the success of the previous government's dealings with aboriginal peoples was its willingness and ability to listen, to operate as equals, to understand the relationship and the historic context in which we were operating to ensure that aboriginal peoples have the best opportunities as they move forward.

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her comments and certainly her commitment to this very important issue. However, I have to say that the current government has not demonstrated a commitment to solve some of the serious problems facing aboriginal communities. The previous government had an opportunity and the Kelowna accord also failed to meet its commitments. There have been decades of neglect.

I want to specifically ask the member about the amount of money that was in the Kelowna accord. My understanding is that part of that money was not new money. It was actually funding that came partially through Bill C-48 to do with housing and education and other money had already been committed around health care. I would like the member to comment specifically on the exact amount of new money that was in the Kelowna agreement.

Opposition Motion—Aboriginal AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.


Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the member's support of this motion.

The money from Bill C-48 was not part of the money established under the Kelowna accord. Some $700 million was allocated under previous agreements leading up to Kelowna and $4.5 billion was new money allocated under the agreement. The money was booked, available and documented by the government in a fashion that only the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance could remove the funds.