Yes, he wins hopefully some day good governance.
The government had the opportunity to make the changes to the legislation a year ago when we called for it, and it has failed to do so. As a matter of fact, I think the term is miserably.
Remember that this is the same government that violated the law in its effort to undermine the Canadian Wheat Board. It has refused to allow western grain farmers to have a vote, a plebiscite, to determine the future of the CWB. Trust is not something that we have in the current government, especially on this specific issue.
The minister is already claiming he is about to amend his own legislation, although, if the bill is passed, this so-called commitment will not be contained in the legislation. On the issue of inward inspections, the government has indicated it is removing the role of the CGC.
The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, in a unanimous report, acknowledged that mandatory inward inspection is not a universal requirement, while outward inspection and weighing is. The committee stated in its report, again one supported unanimously, that:
...several strong factors seem to support optional inward inspection; the inward inspection requirement is already not universal; optional inspection would not affect producer rights of access to the terminal and [for emphasis] producers and the Canadian Wheat Board should not be unduly affected financially if a proper publicly supported infrastructure and pricing system are put into place in light of the public benefits of maintaining an inward inspection capability.
The fact is that while the government is removing the inward inspection provision, the work called for by the committee has never been done, despite what has been happening.
A recent study of the Canadian Grain Commission found the following issues with respect to the loss of the inward inspection. I would point out to my hon. colleagues that this is a very important point.
Inward weighing and inspection that would still be required would be less trustworthy and more expensive.
The grain system would lose an important early detection system for contaminated grain. Eliminating inward inspection by public officials would increase the likelihood of contaminated grain being co-mingled with larger quantities of clean grain. Shipments to Canadian and U.S. markets would lose an important level of protection against contamination. Grain shipped to these markets could bypass official inspection.
Inward inspection provides quality assurance information that makes outward inspection more efficient and certainly more cost effective, in this particular case.
Replacing public sector inspectors with private contractors--which is quite prevalent nowadays, some to the positive and certainly some to the negative, but at this point I will stick to the negative--many of whom would be reliant upon private grain companies for business, would undermine the perceived reliability of the information derived from inward inspection.
With respect to the diminished role of the CGC, the study prepared by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found, for example, with respect to the port of Vancouver, the following problem, bearing in mind Vancouver and Prince Rupert, as of December 2007, moved almost 1.2 million tonnes of grain through its facilities.
At a typical Vancouver elevator, CGC weighers routinely process the unloading of 5 to 100 rail cars during a shift. Documentation on these cars, the parcels, weights and anomalies, and other relevant information, is provided by the weigher to the elevator at the end of each day. Such information is very important, not just in the event of disagreements, but in the routine operations of the elevators. It is unclear how this data would be gathered, and by whom, if public inward inspection were eliminated.
The government has to explain why it has decided, prior to the legislation to downgrade, as expressed in the estimates for the commission under the section which describes the activity as providing “consistent and reliable grain quality”, as we talked about before, “and grain safety assurance to meet the needs of domestic and international markets”, the forecast spending for 2011-12 will be $23.4 million. In 2007, the planned spending was $50.2 million. By the CGC's own records, the government will reduce the ability of the CGC to do its job by a whopping $26.8 million.
The staffing at CGC will be reduced from 664 in 2007-08 to 421 in 2009-10.
Bill C-13 would remove the ability of producers who appeal through the grain appeal tribunal. According to a recent Library of Parliament study, under the provisions of the Canada Grain Act, a person dissatisfied with the initial grading may have up to three appeals under the act. Under the scheme which is proposed now in Bill C-13, a person dissatisfied with the grade, an inspector assigned, would have just one appeal and that, of course, would be to the chief grain inspector or his or her delegate.
These are the fundamental reasons the Liberals agree in principle with what is happening with the hoist amendment.
Indeed, under the provisions of the bill, the chief commissioner or any person delegated by the chief commissioner, which is an indication of the ability to possibly contract out that particular responsibility, will have the authority on any appeal. At the same time, Bill C-13 would remove the ability of farmers to have recourse to the courts.
However, according to a Library of Parliament analysis of the use of provisions such as those we talked about that are contained in Bill C-13 which attempt to remove the ability of farmers to have recourse to the courts, the issue is not that clear cut.
According to the Library of Parliament report, the wording of the privative clause in Bill C-13 appears on its face to preclude any appeal or review of a decision of the chief grain inspector. However, that is not the effect the clause would have.
The Library of Parliament states, based upon its research that Parliament and the provinces may not, through legislation, preclude the superior courts from exercising their supervisory jurisdiction. At a minimum, the government must carefully reconsider its attempt to restrict the ability of Canadians, the courts in the face of clear evidence that it might not be able to legitimately do so.
The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food called for a comprehensive cost benefit report from the government on the proposed changes the government was suggesting, and that was in 2006, with respect to the changes in service for grain inspection. To date, no such report has been produced by the government as to the real impacts of their changes on the primary producers specifically.
The government has indeed failed to produce that report. Yet again this is more evidence why more information and consultation is needed, which belies the true spirit of what we normally call a hoist amendment or, as some people from the east coast of the country would call affectionately, giving it the boot.
Even though this legislation has not received even second reading, the chief commissioner of the CGC, according to a report in The Western Producer, published February 23, 2009, sent a letter to industry indicating that it would end inspection services at prairie primary elevators this summer and would close three service centres and reduce staff.
The transition away from on-site inspection services means that the CGC will no longer provide official grading and weighing on grain shipments from the Prairies to terminal facilities nor for export shipments to the United States or domestic mills.
In essence, before Bill C-13 has been approved by Parliament, the CGC has decided to begin implementing the reduction in services it provides to western grain producers. That is very important. If nothing else, this is a demonstration of contempt for the legislative process by the chief commissioner of the CGC.
As a final point of concern, the minister announced that as of August 1 KVD will be removed. That is kernel visual distinguishability. It will be removed, according to what the minister announced on August 1. The minister was warned in January by senior officials, just weeks before his announcement of February 11, that farmers could suffer a negative impact of this removal and Canada's reputation for quality grain could indeed be undermined. The reason given by the officials, including his own deputy minister, was that no adequate system has been developed to replace the KVD.
The western grain industry needs a strong CGC. What is currently proposed in Bill C-13 is a worst case scenario. Removing the CGC from both inward and outward inspections is next to worst because it considerably weakens the role that the CGC plays.
Therefore, the following amendments should be made to Bill C-13: one, CGC-administered producer security should be reinstated; and two, if inward inspection becomes optional, the CGC should accredit and audit private service providers who would be responsible for inward inspection. A key part of this accreditation and audit process will be to institute clear CGC accountability for differences between inward and outward risk.
Therefore, I conclude that part of my speech by outlining three essential elements.
One, our support for the hoist motion is a signal to the government that it cannot simply bring in legislation which it is well aware does not enjoy the support of the House without any effort made at all to amend it.
Two, Bill C-13 is Bill C-39 from the previous Parliament. Remember that legislation was debated more than a year ago and the debate clearly indicated the government should reconsider its direction on undermining the CGC. It had a year to do so and it has failed to take that opportunity. This particular vote is not a vote against reform of the CGC, but it is indeed a vote against the arrogance of the government.
Let me illustrate that by bringing up a point about a particular case with the hoist amendment and what we did prior to this, about two years ago. I will go back to an example that we use. The lack of consultation was so pervasive. It became abundantly clear upon introduction in the House, as producers in the case of this bill, or fishermen in the case of the Fisheries Act, called us time and time again with questions and concerns. We were inundated at the time. The big thing was that the Conservatives insisted that consultation was taking place. We called the people whose names were provided to us and they said that was not necessarily the case; all they had received was a letter informing them what to do. Therein lies the arrogance.