Mr. Speaker, with a reception like that from my hon. colleague across the floor, I might decide to run in politics some day.
I do want to thank the House for allowing me to speak on this issue. Certainly at the eastern end of the country, it is not as large an industry as it is in places such as western Canada, but there is a multi-million dollar industry for agriculture in Newfoundland and Labrador. We are affectionately nicknamed the rock, so if we can grow it on the rock, my goodness, it just says how good our farmers actually are.
To a great degree, that certainly does put me in a unique position, to say the least, so I would like to thank again all my hon. colleagues for allowing me this time.
I would also like to say that the principle reason for supporting a hoist motion which will effectively remove Bill C-13 from the order paper for this session is that the government has known for more than a year that all three opposition parties have expressed strong opposition not to reforming and improving the Canada Grain Commission, but to being complicit in its undermining and ineffectiveness. Therein lies the gist of the hoist motion to take this from the order paper.
There is a history of that type of mechanism here in the House that we have used on occasion. As a matter of fact, a couple of years ago we moved it during the introduction of the Fisheries Act. There was a tremendous amount of opposition toward it, and not only opposition but questions as to how it would affect each and every person. Instead this thing was rammed down the fishermen's throats in much the same way that we are seeing a pattern that continues with this particular situation now with Bill C-13.
In this particular situation, we see a similar pattern occurring here, because what the hoist motion does is take it away for a while. We can then consult with it and bring it across the country as a good starting point for the type of effective changes that we need. In this particular case, that is why we support the hoist motion.
Our concerns with the legislation are these.
The government has to date shown no inclination to amend the legislation, in spite of the fact that during debate on Bill C-13's predecessor bill, Bill C-39 in February 2008, the official opposition as well as the Bloc and the NDP raised the concerns referred to above, indicating clearly the need for consequential amendments.
On the issue of the producer payment security program, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, who is responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, told this House that while the government is eliminating the practice of CGC holding security deposits from grain dealers, under the producer payment program, he confirmed that the government has developed an alternative:
We understand and we know that there are concerns across the country with regard to these proposals.
The issue remains that the legislation, as it stands, will eliminate this provision without any alternative being established to replace it.
The Minister of Agriculture himself, according to a broadcast news wire story from March 5, is reported to have stated that the government will only remove the producer payment protection program when a better alternative is in place. That is interesting.
In fact the Minister of Agriculture was quoted directly in The Western Producer from March 12, when he answered a direct question as to whether farmers would be protected in relation to the bonding issue. He said:
Absolutely. We're not going to leave you hanging with nothing. We'll keep the program that's existing in place until something new comes along.
Here is what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture acknowledged as the flawed nature of the legislation. This is from page 1214:
We understand and we know that there are concerns across the country with regard to these proposals, and we are certainly more than willing to work with the opposition at committee.
That is what is interesting, “at committee”. What the minister has said is not that Bill C-13 needs amending, but that a key element in this bill cannot proceed given the failure of the government to develop an alternative.
The question is this. Can the minister and the government be trusted not to implement the removal of the bonding issue until a better alternative is in place?