House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.


Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very interesting and informative speech on the Canadian Grain Commission. He referred to food safety. I would like to know his thoughts on that subject. Is there a connection between Bill C-13and food safety in Quebec and Canada?

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague very much for his question.

At the end of my speech, I spoke of the report that was presented. Bill C-13 does take food safety into account. We are aware of the possibility of certain risks. According to the report, Bill C-13 is forgetting the lessons learned about the danger of reducing public inspections. The bill would, in fact, eliminate the independent governmental inspection of grain delivered to the main silos in Canada, and would leave the grain companies free to organize their own inspections.

Not wishing to rub salt into any wounds, I would point out that this was exactly what we learned in committee. We were told that a permanent employee of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was let go because he provided his union with a document indicating that the government was preparing to deregulate, and in fact had already begun, as far as the number of inspectors was concerned. We are all aware of what happened in the listeriosis crisis. There is reason for the general public, and the consumers of food items, be they meat or grain, to be very worried about the direction the government is taking with respect to food safety.

“Keeping pesticide-treated grain, glass, rodent excreta and other dangerous contaminants out of Canada’s food grain system is too important a responsibility to hand to grain companies,” said Scott Sinclair, senior researcher for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives study I mentioned earlier. We certainly have reason to be concerned about this government's policy.

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11:30 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I, too, listened to the member's remarks and appreciated them. As well, I appreciate the tremendous work that this member does on the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food.

I know that he was there during the original hearings that we had on the Canadian Grain Commission. In the last Parliament the government introduced Bill C-39. There was a lot of opposition to Bill C-39 and it died on the order paper. I would have thought that the government, by introducing Bill C-13, would have changed the bill to accommodate those concerns, and there are many. I outlined them in my remarks earlier.

I think the key concern is that the bottom line principle in Bill C-39, previously, and Bill C-13, now, changes the mandate of the Canadian Grain Commission from being in the interests of producers to being in the interest of industry.

This Canadian Grain Commission has been around for a long time. In fact, it has put Canada as the number one reliable supplier of quality grains in the world. This undermines our being a quality grain supplier, but more so undermines the protection for producers.

Is the government just not listening? Does it not care about producers? How is this government bill going over in Quebec relative to that issue? I wonder if the member could comment.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what I was just saying. I mentioned Bill C-39. The government had to be aware that it provoked major reactions across Canada, not only among members of the inspectors' union, who could lose their jobs—I read some quotes earlier—but among agricultural producers themselves. Its mandate is being changed, transformed, even though it has been clear for years that the commission is supposed to carry out its mandate in the interests of the agricultural producers. Now it is going to be in the interests of the industry. Everyone agreed that the bill and the Canadian Grain Commission needed updating, but the government's approach to making those changes caused an outcry. That is what was in Bill C-39.

We have good reason to wonder why the government failed to learn from its mistakes and decided to reintroduce the same bill. It is exactly the same thing. Bill C-13 is a carbon copy of Bill C-39. Between the first and the second iterations, the government should have done some work. It should have paid attention to people's concerns and outright protests. The opposition has always pointed out the bill's shortcomings. Had the government been serious about doing its job, it would have introduced a modified bill that would have responded, at least in part, to some of these concerns. But it did not do its job. It simply changed the bill's number and reintroduced it, and here we are now. People still have the same concerns, and they are still just as worried as they were before.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is once again a pleasure to be here in front of a full House. I am sure I will get a standing ovation from all of my colleagues after my speech.

I am happy to speak to Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act. As has been said earlier on, the all-party Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food had made a number of recommendations. For example, it recommended that any eventual bill clearly protect the interests of grain producers. We are seeing that this bill does not address that explicitly. Another recommendation was to conduct a cost benefit analysis of contracting out services prior to any further movement on this issue. Of course, this has not yet been done.

Another recommendation was to support pilot projects in contracting out services for grain inspection. In other words, to try and see on a small scale if this would work. To my knowledge, this has not yet been done. Another recommendation was for the Canada Grain Commission to receive adequate funding to improve its services, particularly regarding the flexibility of authorizing overtime. We have not seen any substantial increase in funding for the Canada Grain Commission.

All members of all parties recommended that the federal government report back to the standing committee prior to the tabling of new grain legislation on the various models that could be implemented for protecting grain farmers. As we see, to date, this had not been done.

As we debate this bill, the question we have to ask ourselves here is: Are we moving ahead without the proper groundwork? Are we moving ahead without having conducted the necessary study and evaluation of what this could mean for the history of the grain industry in Canada?

After studying the report, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food tabled a report in the House, and many of the recommendations in that report are reflected in the bill. The committee recommended first and foremost that any eventual bill clearly protect the interests of grain producers. Bill C-13 makes major changes to the structure of the CGC that have producers afraid that the commission will not be required to act for the benefit of the grain industry as a whole. There is a difference here: by putting the interests of grain companies and farmers on the same footing, the government is not taking into account the power imbalance between them.

Bill C-13 does not provide for creating an independent office of grain farmer advocacy, as the committee recommended in order to protect producers' interests. If the commission does not have the authority to act decisively for the benefit of producers, the grain companies will try, slowly but surely, to have it eliminated completely.

Once again, we see this bill as a step toward the deregulation of the agri-food industry here in Canada. We must be very careful before making such a decision.

Instead of helping Canada's grain producers in these troubled economic times, the amendments to the Grain Act could and would shift the purpose of the Grain Act away from protecting producers' interests and expose them to financial harm by eliminating the requirement for grain buyers to post security bonds.

It would also dismantle the Grain Appeal Tribunal, which protects producers from unscrupulous behaviour on the part of grain companies, and eliminates the commission's services that independently determines the quality and quantity of grain delivered, returning producers to the position of not knowing if they are receiving fair payment.

Agriculture union president Bob Kingston says:

These changes will hurt grain producers just like the Conservative’s effort to strip farmer control of the Canadian Wheat Board. They also threaten the quality advantage Canadian producers enjoy over competitors.

The Canadian Grain Commission has served as an independent arbitrator working to settle disputes when they arise about the quality and quantity of grain that producers bring to the market. Typically this function protects producers and makes sure that they are fairly paid by the powerful companies which buy and export.

Canada's reputation for top quality grain is protected by the grain inspection services supplied by the Grain Commission. We understand that if this bill is accepted, there will be around 200 jobs lost, in other words, inspectors who are there to ensure quality and to protect Canadian citizens and our customers.

The commission also provides independent, objective and comprehensive information about the quality and quantity of Canadian grain that is crucial to the international marketing efforts of the Canadian Wheat Board.

The proposal that we have before us would diminish the Canadian Grain Commission by killing the commission's inward inspection and weighing service, leaving producers disadvantaged in their dealings with grain companies when it comes to determining grain weight and grade.

With a loss of the commission's weighing and grading service, producers may not be paid for the quantity and quality of grain delivered. Currently, the Canadian Grain Commission routinely revises upward grain grades and corrects quantity measurements, resulting in fair payment to producers. While producers have the option to hire a private company to grade and weigh their grain under the Conservative proposal, no companies capable of this task exist today, so once again we are moving forward without crossing the t's and dotting the i's.

We do not have a plan. We have not done the research to ensure there will be no problems if we move ahead with this bill.

Another point of this bill will eliminate the requirement for grain buyers to post security bonds and expose grain producers to financial harm in the event of grain buyer bankruptcy or refusal to pay. It also dismantles the Grain Appeal Tribunal, which protects producers and the Canadian Wheat Board from unscrupulous behaviour on the part of grain companies.

In Vancouver alone it is normal for more than 100 appeals to be launched in a day. These changes may result in increased costs to producers with a shift to a for profit service delivery model.

I would just like to emphasize that the Canadian Grain Commission and the Canadian Wheat Board's collective marketing strategies that we have developed exist to protect producers, often from the profit-making motivations of the large multinationals. We have seen that before and we see that today.

What is also disturbing is that Bill C-13 poses a risk to Canada's international reputation. Our grain is in demand because no other country offers a quality guarantee backed by a system of government inspections as stringent and as comprehensive as is done in Canada.

It is also there to protect our quality brand. Canada even has programs and procedures to prevent Canadian grain from being mixed with imported U.S. product to ensure the integrity of Canada's quality guarantee. According to the report “Threatened Harvest: Protecting Canada’s world-class grain system”, put out by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, there could be a problem with the quality and safety of the grain because of a lack of inward inspection.

Along with Canada's international reputation as a producer of the highest quality at risk is the quality premium paid to Canadian producers. Once this quality incentive to ship Canadian grain separate from American grain is lost, we expect Canadian grain will be shipped over land, mixed with the lower quality American product and shipped through U.S. ports.

We do not have to be experts in agriculture or have a PhD. to understand that, by doing this, the quality of our product goes down. As the quality goes down, then our reputation as an exporter of grain goes down.

I would also like to quote from a press release from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which says:

The bill would also end an established security program for farmers that guarantees they are paid for the grain they deliver, thereby increasing farmers’ risk of catastrophic financial losses if a buyer cannot, or will not, pay for delivered grain.

“In this global economic downturn, and with no workable alternative in place, the government is kicking away a key pillar of financial stability for Canadian grain producers,” says CCPA Research Associate Dr. Jim Grieshaber-Otto.

I have met Mr. Grieshaber-Otto, who wrote the report. We need to pay attention to what he said. The press release goes on:

If these and other controversial government proposals are implemented, they would:

reduce the reputation and competitiveness of Canadian wheat in international markets;

decrease the price premium Canadian producers now receive for a distinctive product;

increase the risk of food-safety problems; and

augment the power of huge U.S.-based multinational grain companies at the expense of Canadian producers.

I would also like to quote from a press release put out by the National Farmers Union, another group that is very upset with the bill. It represents many farmers across western Canada. It states:

The bill will add tens of millions of dollars of extra cost to farmers. The CWB and farmers will have to spend their own money to replace the destruction of independent testing by the Grain Commission. Regardless of the extra money spent by farmers, the tests will still not be seen to be independent and unbiased. Regardless of whether it is the Canadian Wheat Board that does the test or a contracted private testing company, the testing results will not have the credibility or standing that the current Canadian Grain Commission test has.

According to the National Farmers Union press release:

Bill C-13 is aimed at deregulating the grain industry, and would fundamentally change the mandate of the Canadian Grain Commission...“It removes the requirement that the CGC operate as a public interest watchdog that regulates the overall grain industry in the 'interest of producers'. Instead, it changes the CGC's role to become a passive service provider that provides grading, weighing and inspection services to grain companies on a fee-for-service basis. Farmers' protections will be reduced to a minimum, with plenty of loopholes for companies to circumvent those limited protections.

Bill C-13 would eliminate inward inspection and weighing of grain, thereby undercutting the CGC's ability to maintain high-quality standards, and putting grain farmers and consumers at risk.

It is for this reason that today I move:

to delete all the words in the motion following “That”, and replace them with the following:

“Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act, Chapter 22 of the Statutes of Canada, 1998 and Chapter 25 of the Statutes of Canada, 2004 be not now read a second time, but that it be read a second time this day six months hence”.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Malpeque.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

April 2nd, 2009 / 11:50 a.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague and his fairly severe criticism of Bill C-13. He gave bit of history on the Canadian Grain Commission as well.

He spoke to one of the key areas, and I am not sure if I am quoting him quite correctly, because he did not elaborate a lot on this. He talked about the risk to Canada's international reputation. As we see it on our side, the way the government has proposed the bill, there is a real concern for producers. The government is clearly favouring the corporate sector over primarily producers by the way it is moving forward with the amendments to the bill.

We see problems with the loss of inward inspections in the quality of grains potentially moving into the domestic market and possibly into the United States. There is a real concern for producers over the loss of bonding. However, as to the risk to Canada's international reputation, could the member expand on that issue, because is a serious matter?

Canada is seen as the most reliable supplier of high quality grains around the world. Whereas the United States is seen as a residual supplier and does not match our quality in any shape or form. It seems the government may be moving to Americanize our system, which I think would be a sad thing. Does the member have any comments on that?

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I enjoy working on the agriculture file with my hon. colleague on committee.

Above and beyond all, I am a Canadian nationalist. I believe that we need to protect Canadian interests before we protect the interests of anybody else.

Yes, I believe our international reputation could be tarnished. It is just obvious. If there is a chance that our high quality wheat could be mixed with a lower quality wheat, our customers will be dissatisfied. If there is a slight chance, whether it would be a lack of KVD of a lack of inward inspection, that we do not maintain a high quality, then our international reputation will be tarnished.

Let us make no mistake about it. There are pressures, not only at the World Trade Organization but from the big multinational corporations that would love to see this happen. This is why it is so important to have the bill explicitly state that it protects the right of producers. This is why it is so important to have the bill state that it will explicitly ensure there will be no loss in quality of Canadian grain and that we will have an independent body to keep track and monitor the quality.

Otherwise, yes, we will lose our international reputation, which will definitely not be good for farmers.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague's passionate commitment to producers is second to none in this place.

The Prime Minister recently did a whirlwind circuit media tour in the United States, and now at the G20 in London. He talked about the need for good regulation and how proud he was of Canada's regulatory environment with respect to the financial circuit.

Now the government is doing what the Prime Minister actually believes. For years he was a critic of those regulations in the financial sector. For years he said that bank mergers should be allowed in Canada. This is all on the record. There is no casting aspersions here.

Now we see the aspect of regulations with respect to the quality of Canadian grains, which has been noted are the best in the world. Why, at a time when food security and food safety issues are of such strong importance to Canadians as well as protecting Canadian producers, would the government try a backdoor method of lowering the regulatory environment, putting that regulatory environment in the hands of the people buying the grain, which puts them in a deep conflict of interest, rather than in the hands of the producers, who have the highest interest in maintaining quality?

Why is the Prime Minister speaking one way when he talks to the American administration and the world body and another way at home with the legislation that the government is proposing?

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question is a good one. I do not often do this, but I will start by giving credit to the Prime Minister for understanding that regulation is necessary in banking. People in politics make decisions and we have to understand that if they are the wrong ones, we will make the right ones.

I will take this decision with regard to regulation and deregulation one step further. For example, I have received many letters from people with small businesses in my riding. They are really concerned about credit card fees and the whole idea that Interac will be deregulated and they will be unable to make any money because of the increase in fees. Yet we do not seem to be doing anything. I do not want the Prime Minister or another prime minister years down to the road to say that it is time to start regulating the grain industry.

If we see a potential problem, we have to be proactive. As I said earlier in my speech, we have to dot the i's and cross the t's so later we do not say, “I didn't believe it was right, but now it is time to regulate”. Let us ensure we have a strong Canadian wheat industry that is regulated now and protects our farmers.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for all the work he has done across the country on the issue of food security.

When we look at what has happened in the world now, it is not only an issue of rights as individuals to consume foods that will not poison them or make them ill. In my riding Sealtest had to recall milk. It did not provide the necessary notification in an appropriate manner and it consequently led to some human suffering. One of the local police officers became ill.

Across the globe, the issue of food security is becoming more and more prolific. Would my colleague comment on that? One of Canada's strengths is having a fair and balanced regulatory food safety inspection and development process, which includes grain. That is an asset for us as a country. For those countries that do not have it, destabilization with regard to the food issue is occurring. Could he comment on that? It is an asset for Canada and it would be unfortunate if we gave that up.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, food safety means safe food. Food security means having enough food. Food sovereignty means having control over food. We should be striving for that three-pillar approach in Canada.

I quoted earlier from a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, which mentioned an instance that happened in Canada. It was the example of ergot. It stated:

—a dangerous fungal disease which occurs in western Canada, demonstrates the importance of maintaining rigorous government oversight, including inward inspections, in our grain system.

The report states:

Ergot infects rye, wheat and other cereal grasses, forming hard fruiting bodies that resemble dark kernels of grain. It contains powerful chemical alkaloids, from which LSD is made. When ingested even in small quantities in baked bread, ergot can cause violent muscle spasms, hallucinations and crawling sensations on the skin.

It goes on to say that in 2008 ergot was found on the border between Manitoba-Saskatchewan border and that was after 10–25% grain samplings. However, because of Canada’s grain inspection system, we were able to ensure that dangerous levels of ergot were kept out of the food supply.

I think my hon. colleague was alluding to that. With unsafe products coming into our country and the scare we had with listeriosis, it is now more important than ever to do all we can to ensure our supply of food in Canada is safe and the food we send to other countries is safe.

Canada Grain ActGovernment Orders


Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, it is an unfortunate turn of events here in the opposition moving that amendment. I will be discussing this in a little bit, but I would like to present the government position regarding Bill C-13.

I am very pleased to express my support for Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Canada Grain Act. This bill illustrates the government's unwavering commitment to put our farmers first, by eliminating costly regulations and the inevitable, pointless problems currently facing Canada's grain industry.

Over the past few years, the grain sector in western Canada has undergone considerable transformation. The grain market has evolved, and it centres more and more on niche markets, livestock feed and biofuels, as well as other value-added opportunities.

Despite the ever-changing nature of the industry, the Canada Grain Act has not been significantly modified in nearly 40 years. Strictly speaking, the activities of the Canadian Grain Commission, the body that maintains standards of quality for grain and regulates grain handling in Canada, do not reflect the needs of producers and the modern industry. Before explaining any further the proposed changes to the Canada Grain Act, I would like to provide a few basic facts.

In 2005, an amendment to the Canada Grain Act was passed, thereby requiring an independent review of that act and the Canadian Grain Commission.

COMPAS Inc. was hired by the Department of Agriculture to conduct the independent review. Its recommendations were presented to Parliament in 2006. The COMPAS report was referred to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, which consulted stakeholders and recognized a need for changes to the Canada Grain Act and the Canadian Grain Commission.

The amendments are based on the recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in its report to the government in 2006.

Throughout these reviews, stakeholders were consulted extensively, including eight public meetings held across the country by COMPAS Inc. Hence, these proposed changes reflect the needs and the will of grain producers and the industry.

This government is proposing to clarify the mandate of the Canadian Grain Commission in the Canada Grain Act. The clarification will stress that the Canadian Grain Commission protects the interests of producers with respect to deliveries to licensees, determination of grade and dockage, and allocation of producer cars.

That said, there have been extensive changes within the Canadian grain industry over the years and the Canadian Grain Commission must reflect that evolution. The number of primary elevators in western Canada has dwindled. Grain companies have consolidated their operations and now much of our grain is shipped from primary elevators to port terminals owned by the same company. Currently, the Canadian Grain Commission must inspect and weigh all grain received by terminal and transfer elevators.

To keep up with the changing environment, the government strongly believes that producer interests are best served by limiting costs and fostering a competitive, efficient grain handling system. Consequently, the government proposes to eliminate mandatory inward inspection and weighing requirements. The bill would reduce unnecessary mandatory costs from the grain handling system and would work to build a lower cost, more effective and innovative grain sector. We are reducing the regulatory burden with this initiative. As all costs in the system eventually work their way to farmers, this would result in a less costly system for farmers, too.

Nevertheless, inward inspection and weighing do provide value to producers, in some circumstances. The government has proposed amendments to the Canada Grain Act that would facilitate private sector delivery of inward services when requested. Thus, the elimination of inward inspection and weighing would create business opportunities for private sector service providers. It is best left to the shippers themselves to determine when and at what level these services are provided.

As an important and ongoing check on this new arrangement, producers and industry would be able to apply to the Canadian Grain Commission for binding grade arbitration when they are not sure that the right grade has been assigned. The proposed changes would not reduce the capacity to ensure a dependable commodity to buyers of Canadian grain. What is more, international buyers of Canadian grain could rest assured that every vessel load would continue to receive the Canadian Grain Commission's certification of grade and weight.

On another topic, the Canadian Grain Commission producer payment security program has been the subject of debate in the grain sector. Currently, all licensed grain handlers must provide financial security to the Canadian Grain Commission. If a licensed grain handler fails to pay for the grain it has purchased, the Canadian Grain Commission steps in to compensate producers.

Unfortunately, this security program is flawed as it is not 100% effective and it adds costs to the Canadian grain handling system. These costs negatively affect the competitiveness of the Canadian grain sector.

As part of the move away from kernel visual distinguishability, or KVD, the Canadian Grain Commission must be equipped with tools it can use in a post-KVD environment. This is why this government proposes that the Canada Grain Act be brought under the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act. This proposed reform follows a Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food recommendation to use monetary penalties to help enforce a declaration system upon grain delivery. The Canadian Grain Commission must be equipped with penalties to protect the quality of Canadian grain.

With respect to the impact on jobs at the Canadian Grain Commission, the commission will be working with staff over the duration of the legislative process to assess the full impacts of the proposed changes. We understand this process may have a significant impact on the lives of the affected public servants, and we are committed to working with them in a clear and transparent manner.

In conclusion, the proposed amendments are merely part of the ongoing transformation of the grain sector in western Canada. Western Canadian grain is increasingly destined for value-added domestic enterprises, and government policy and legislation must adapt to that reality. In this ever-changing environment, the Canada Grain Act and the Canadian Grain Commission must be modernized.

Thanks to these amendments, the Canadian Grain Commission will be in a better position to provide producers with a more cost-effective grain quality assurance system. These amendments are crucial to eliminating unnecessary and costly regulations within the Canadian grain sector. The government is committed to looking out for the interests of our producers, first and foremost.

The integrity of Canada's grain quality assurance system and the reliability of the Canadian brand will be maintained.

Once again, I am honoured to express my support for the government's proposed changes to the Canada Grain Act.

I will now make a few comments about the hoist motion that was raised by the NDP member regarding this bill. I will clarify for Canadians that this is a very unfortunate turn of events. It is my fear that this is being done for partisan reasons. I will explain it as such.

As we know, here in the House we have a process for the passage of bills. We have first reading, where the House and the public are first advised of the government's proposed legislation. We then move into second reading, which is where we find ourselves now, where we enter into healthy debate among ourselves as MPs and among political parties to explain the legislation and the different points of view concerning it. The bill then moves to committee for further review. This is where very important work is done. Witnesses can come before the committee and explain all sides of the issue at hand. The committee normally undertakes the work of listening to witnesses who, for example, would be in favour of changes proposed in the legislation. The committee would also hear of changes that cause concerns. Producers, companies and green terminals would all have participation in this process. Of course, the bill can be modified by committee. The bill then comes back to the House for final debate and vote.

I pointed all that out because there is a process here. I was here for all of the opposition members' speeches and I listened to their concerns with the bill. I understand that they may not be pleased with all aspects of the bill. Personally, I think it is a rather good bill, but I and the government are open to the fact that there will be valuable input obtained, particularly during the committee process, from the opposition members and witnesses.

However, this hoist motion basically kills that process.The hoist motion, as read by my NDP colleague, sounds like he wants to delay the furtherance of this bill. I have Marleau and Montpetit in front of me and I would like to clarify for Canadians and those who are watching the debate exactly what the hoist motion means in reality. Marleau and Montpetit states:

The hoist amendment originated in British practice, where it appeared in the eighteenth century. It enabled the House of Commons to postpone the resumption of the consideration of a bill. It was subsequently agreed that the adoption of such an amendment by the House was tantamount to the rejection of the bill, since the postponement was deliberately set for a date after the end of the session. Normally, if the session went beyond that date, the bill was not placed again on the Order Paper.

Historical events were responsible for the establishment of three or six months as the postponement period. A hundred years ago, sessions rarely lasted longer than six months, and so a six months’ hoist amendment would be proposed at the beginning of a session, and a three months’ hoist in the final weeks of a session. Today, sessions of the House of Commons of Canada are longer, but the length of sessions is neither regular nor fixed in advance.

The adoption of a hoist amendment (whether for three months or six months) is tantamount to the postponement of the consideration of the bill for an indefinite period. Consequently, the bill disappears from the Order Paper and cannot be introduced again, even after the postponement time has elapsed. The bill is accordingly defeated indirectly. It is no longer possible to place the bill back on the Order Paper, because to do so would be ruled contrary to the decision of the House. Members have tried to apply the hoist amendment to a resolution or to include it in the text of a reasoned amendment, but these attempts were ruled out of order.

The key here is that this hoist motion actually kills the bill before it even has a chance to make it to committee. As I pointed out in my speech, this is not the first time that the House has seen this bill. In fact, my colleagues saw this bill in the last Parliament and yet there was no attempt to move forward with a hoist motion. This makes me reflect that this is a partisan motivated motion. We have the three opposition parties working together. They do not care what producers have to say. They do not care what the input is or what kind of feedback we would receive at committee. They only care about some sort of a partisan purpose that they have at hand here and they are working in collusion.

I have tried to work with my colleagues in the other parties in a very constructive manner. We will have an opportunity at committee to hear from all sides of the argument. The opposition critics of agriculture will have ample opportunity, both in committee and in the media, to express their opinions on this important legislation but they do not want any of it. They simply want to kill the bill. They want to work in collusion to the detriment of our grain producers and we need to wonder why.

It is my hope that during this debate on the hoist motion, the opposition members will level with Canadians and make their reasoning for the motion clear. There is no question that the legislation being proposed would be very positive improvements to the Canada Grain Act.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, the last amendments to this act were done 40 years ago. I think we can all agree that farming, agriculture, the handling of grain has changed over the last 40 years. It is reasonable and, I would say, expected of the government to put forward amendments to improve the Canada Grain Act so that it better serves Canadians and our producers. I say this particularly in these challenging economic times. It is not advantageous to our producers to pay the additional costs that are inherent in processes that are redundant or not necessary. If the opposition wants producers to continue to pay costs that are not necessary, I invite them to argue that case. I think it will fall on deaf ears because what we are hearing is that producers, particularly grain producers, want less costs imposed. They want to be able to retain more of their hard-earned money. If we have an opportunity here to simplify the processes, to simplify the legislation by which they are bound, then we should take advantage of that.

I will talk a moment about inward inspections. For example, there was a time when terminals were owned by different companies and the Grain Commission was involved in the inspection between those two different grain terminals owned by two different companies. Now, however, in many instances the terminals are owned by the same company and yet the legislation requires a public inspection of the grain between two terminals owned by the same grain company. It just does not make sense to obligate that inspection, particularly by government inspectors, all at the cost of the producer.

It is quite reasonable, and is actually a very effective and cost-efficient move, to remove the obligation to say that if a company owns both terminals it is possible to have the grain inspected again between the two terminals if it is so desired, but by the private sector. If there happens to be discontent with the final decision on the grading of that grain there is an appeal process in place. One of my colleagues was talking about the appeal process and the changes. We are simply eliminating some of the multi-levels of appeal, but there is still an appeal process and there would be a binding decision made through that appeal process in order to resolve differences.

Once again I must say that I am shocked. I was in the House when the hoist motion was moved by the NDP. I know its members have been working closely behind closed doors. I knew nothing of this. Rather than allowing the bill to be discussed at committee and discussed with producers, they are scuttling everything and killing the bill. They are talking about imposing up to a six month delay. However, it is only fair that Canadians know what is really happening, which is that the bill is being killed right here on the floor during second reading. The opposition owes an explanation, particularly to our producers.

I sit on the agriculture committee where we have had producers in front of us. We are talking about competitiveness. There is some hypocrisy on the behalf of the opposition. Members say that they are concerned about competitiveness. Part of the competitive picture is lowering costs to producers. On the one hand, the opposition says that it is very concerned and want to work in the best interests of producers while on the other hand, it is killing a bill outright, with no chance for producers to have any say in this matter, for some partisan purpose, and that is very unfortunate.

As I mentioned, the opposition parties, particularly the opposition critics, must explain to Canadians why they are working in collusion against the government and against grain producers.

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12:15 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, the member surprised me that he would go after the opposition in some of his last remarks. We are not trying to scuttle the bill. We are trying to bring the government to its senses. It has a responsibility to producers, not just to the multinational corporate sector. The problem here is that Bill C-13 does everything for industry and takes away protection, power and authority for producers.

Regarding the hoist motion, sometimes legislation is so bad and so terrible that it is basically unamendable, and that is what producers are telling us. The government has a record of failure in most areas relating to the farming community in this country, and I could go through a list, but had the government come forward with a bill that was at least a starting point, then we could get to the substance of the issue and amend it.

Maybe the parliamentary secretary and his minister should look in the mirror and accept their responsibilities for not having done their work. They had lots of time to do it, since the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food had first put forward its committee report several years ago. They had Bill C-39 and heard the criticism there and came in with another bill.

We do get the odd statement out of the minister when he is getting attacked on this issue in the country. When asked if farmers would be protected, he said:

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.

Producers want some assurances. They want to see what the protection is in legislation. They know the government cannot be trusted. They certainly know the minister cannot be trusted because they have seen his attack, trying to break the law, and the Federal Court trying to stop them on the Canadian Wheat Board issue.

My question for the parliamentary secretary is simple. Why did the Government of Canada, having all this time, not do its homework and come in with a bill that would have given us at least something to amend and work with?

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12:20 p.m.


Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I am so glad my colleague posed that question because it hearkens back to what I said during my speech. The opposition is not being open and forthright. Even in those comments, we hear that.

I will give an example. I mentioned this in my speech but he must have been busy reading something. In 2006, COMPAS was hired by the government to conduct a review. In 2006, the standing committee held hearings on the COMPAS report and it tabled its own reports. This was way back in 2006. Was there a hoist motion put forward at that time? Were there any kinds of blocking motions put in place? No.

In December 2007, Bill C-39 was introduced in Parliament by this government. That was a long time ago. The bill ended up dying on the order paper in September 2008, nine months later. That legislation was on the table for nine months. Did we hear these kinds of comments? Did we have a hoist motion to kill it? Did we have these kinds of outlandish remarks being made? Not at all.

Therefore, the question is actually for the opposition members. What is it that makes them feel so strongly about their position now, when for nine months in the last Parliament this was not an issue? They were willing to let this bill move to committee for proper review by committee and to allow the input of producers.

I will go back to this point. This legislation is aimed at helping our grain producers. In fact, throughout my speech I spoke about grain producers and how this will help our producers and lower costs. The member and my opposition colleagues should allow grain producers to come to the committee to comment on the legislation, but they are cutting this short. They do not want to hear from producers. Why is that? They are afraid of what they will hear. They are not interested in the input of Canadians. They want to kill the bill now before producers get a chance to speak out.

I will put this into context. What the agriculture minister was saying in the quote read out by my colleague was that we are open to working with the opposition and to working with producers to make this the best bill for producers. When they kill the bill outright like this, it is very hard to work with the opposition when it moves in such an aggressive fashion.

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12:25 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, rather than condemning us, I thought that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture would actually be thanking us for moving the hoist motion because it saves the government the embarrassment of seeing a major piece of legislation go down in defeat because it is so flawed.

What we are giving the government is a time out. The government should be very familiar with the concept of a time out. A little prorogation goes a long way sometimes to making a government come to its senses. This is no different. It does not say that the bill will be killed forever. It is saying that the government should go back and listen to what the farmers and producers are saying, listen to their concerns, and come back with something that is in the interests of the family farm and individual producers.

I represent a community that is home to the Canadian Wheat Board and the Canadian Grain Commission, two institutions that are part of the fabric of this nation. They represent the farmers and the interests of the farmers. Historically they have stood to protect individual producers, not the big multinational corporations. They ensure that the producers have the power to stand on an equal footing with the multinational corporations and not see their interests diminished or squashed or their rights eroded.

This bill is flawed. I only have to refer to some of the individual producers and of course the National Farmers Union who have said that this bill must not be allowed to pass. That is why we moved the hoist motion. National Farmers Union president Stewart Wells said that the changes that are lurking beneath the surface are not readily apparent, but they will be devastating to grain farmers.

Why did we move the hoist motion? Because this bill is deregulating the grain industry. It eliminates inward inspection and weighing of grain. It eliminates the requirement that grain companies be licensed and bonded, and so on. It puts individual farmers at the mercy of the big multinational corporations. It does not stand up for farm incomes and food safety. That is exactly why the hoist motion has to pass.

Is the parliamentary secretary now prepared to see the wisdom of the voices of farmers and act in their best interests?

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12:25 p.m.


Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, there are a couple of points that have to be addressed.

The member is against the legislation, but where was she between December 2007 and September 2008, when this bill was actually sitting here in the House in the last Parliament? Now she is outraged. Why is that? There is a partisan purpose at foot, and it is not to serve the best interests of our producers. That much is certain. There is collusion among the parties. The three opposition parties are working together to defeat the bill outright.

The member was inaccurate in her comments. She said that the hoist motion does not kill the bill, that it simply postpones the bill. That is highly inaccurate. I am glad I have the opportunity to address this again.

Marleau and Montpetit states that the adoption of a hoist amendment is tantamount to defeating the bill by postponing the bill's consideration. Consequently the bill disappears from the order paper and it cannot be introduced again even after the postponement period has elapsed.

Those are the kinds of inaccuracies the opposition parties throw out to Canadians and grain producers. They need to be clear with their comments. They need to be clear with their intentions. They need to be clear with the facts. They are not.

I am glad I had the chance to correct the record. We will be holding the opposition members to account for what has happened today in the House, and I know producers will as well.

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12:25 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, the Liberal Party welcomes the hoist motion moved by my hon. colleague, because it has become increasingly evident that the government is not listening to the concerns expressed by the opposition in the House about the bill. Certainly it is clear that the government is not listening to the concerns of the primary producers.

The parliamentary secretary got it all wrong in his last remarks. The reason the opposition is taking such a strong stand against the bill is the government's failure when it comes to primary producers. Nowhere is that evidence of failure more clear than it is with this bill.

The government has not listened to any of the producers' concerns that were expressed during the committee hearings. It has not listened to the concerns that were expressed by producers on the original bill, Bill C-39. It has not listened to the concerns of producers between now and when Bill C-13 came into being. Obviously, the government is not listening to primary producers in this country. Therefore, the opposition parties are left with no choice but to try to bring the government to its senses and give us something that shows it is listening to producers and their concerns and not just to industry.

Calls are coming in every day from producers concerned about the bill. In fact, the principal reason for our supporting the hoist motion, which as stated by the parliamentary secretary, and I agree, 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 are concerned about it. Over the course of that time the amount of concern being expressed by primary producers, by the farm community, is unbelievable. I have not seen anything like it in my time in terms of the avalanche of concerns coming forward from industry on this particular bill.

There is strong concern, not about reforming and improving the Canadian Grain Commission, but about being complicit in its undermining and ineffectiveness. I do not want to see myself, my party does not want to see itself, and I understand that the other opposition parties do not want to see themselves as being complicit in undermining the Canadian Grain Commission and undermining its effectiveness for primary producers.

The major reason for the need to have this bill removed and reconsidered, redrafted and resubmitted is that the extent of the harm this legislation would do, given the extent of the amendments to the Canadian Grain Commission, are beyond the most recent parliamentary review of the activities of the Canadian Grain Commission. That review was conducted by the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food after having heard from stakeholders across the country.

This morning the official opposition held a press conference on this very matter. The need for this press conference was that we have seen from the current government the ultimate in incompetence. It did not listen to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food, which held hearings several years ago. The government introduced former Bill C-39, which was severely flawed. The government had concerns coming forward from producers and opposition parties. It failed to address those concerns and introduced a new bill, Bill C-13, which was substantially the same.

Since it was first introduced in Parliament, information is getting out to our producers on how bad the bill is, and we are being inundated with calls telling us to kill the bill, to get rid of it. Therefore, this morning the official opposition held a press conference in which we said that Parliament must at its earliest opportunity block the government's Bill C-13, which is proposed amendments to the Canada Grain Act. At the press conference I outlined many of my concerns with the bill and I will list them quite simply and shortly.

It changes the mandate from being in the interest of producers to being in the interest of industry. It takes away the bonding requirement of companies which is there to protect producers. Producers sell half a million dollars of grain to a grain company and they get no protection in terms of that company being bonded. A producer could go broke as a result.

There is the whole issue of inward inspections, which my colleague from the fourth party outlined is really an issue of food security and food safety. I will get to that in a moment. The Canadian Wheat Board expressed some concerns a while ago in a press release it put out. If the CGC does away with inward inspection, it will have to be handled in some other way. The problem is, when it is handled in another way, who will handle those costs and take all the risks? It will be the primary producers.

Another problem with the bill is appeals on grades and weights. The chief grain inspector would have the ultimate authority, and the government even put in the bill that there is no appeal to the Federal Court. Imagine that. There is no appeal to the Federal Court. There is no way farmers who have faced an injustice can get to the justice system to appeal the decision made by an arbitrary regulatory authority. That is absolutely crazy in a democratic system such as ours.

This morning at our press conference, we said that the bill has to be stopped in the interest of the farm community. Our House leader said that there are three options. We could simply vote down the current Conservative motion asking for approval in principle; we could adopt a so-called hoist motion, which is the one we are talking about, which has been put forward by another party; or we could move a reasoned amendment. According to the rules of the House of Commons, any one of these three options would effectively kill the bill. There is no question that the bill must be stopped.

This is grain legislation. People in downtown Toronto and downtown Vancouver or even downtown Charlottetown probably do not understand the need for such strong regulatory actions in the grain industry.

As I said earlier in my remarks, Canada has become the number one supplier of quality grains around the world. We are recognized as the top supplier of quality grains in the world, as a result of the efforts of the Canadian Grain Commission and certainly the producers in producing the kind of grains they produce.

To make the issue relevant to consumers and people in urban Canada, I would say that while functioning, regulatory systems tend to be invisible until tragedy occurs. It is only after somebody dies, either from drinking bad water or food or whatever, that people recognize the need for a regulatory system in the background to protect the interests of all.

In an article in the Edmonton Journal written by Scott Sinclair and Jim Grieshaber-Otto, this is what they said on another issue:

Citizens rightly expect their governments to protect them and to act in the public interest. Too often governments fail to do so, instead responding to corporate pressure to weaken regulations so that businesses can cut costs and increase profits. Recent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses -- listeriosis in Canada, melamine contamination in China, and salmonella poisoning in the U.S. -- underline the dangers to the public of cutting back on government oversight and inspections in the food system.

They went on to say:

Yet these lessons seem to be lost on the Conservative federal government, which is threatening another of Canada's highly successful regulatory systems. Legislation now before Parliament -- Bill C-13 -- would gut Canada's world-class grain regulatory system.

They go on to talk about some other points in the article saying that what the government is really doing is increasing the risk of catastrophic financial loss to producers and also that the government is more interested in creating opportunities for transnational corporations than in protecting Canadian farm and consumer interests. I certainly would agree with those points.

With the pressure from the farm community, we have no choice but to support this hoist motion because the government has not listened. It had the opportunity since it first introduced the legislation to at least tell us what it was going to do. Instead, we hear statements from the minister along the lines of, “Don't worry, we will fix it”.

Canadians now know full well that they cannot trust the Prime Minister and the government. A statement saying it will fix it at some future date is just not acceptable. We have not seen any intention on the part of government that there is anything in the wings, behind the scenes, that is going to propose to amend this legislation in a proper way.

Let me speak a little more about inward inspection, which is a critical issue in terms of the legislation itself and why it is necessary to effectively close down this bill.

On the issue of inward inspection, 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 supported unanimously:

--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 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. The government has not done the work called for by the committee itself.

To just go on a little further, 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 and grain safety assurance to meet the needs of domestic and international markets”, the forecasting spending. In 2011-12 it will be $23.4 million; in 2007-08, the planned spending was $50.2 million. By the Canadian Grain Commission's own records, the government will reduce the ability of the Canadian Grain Commission to do its job by $26.8 million.

I have to ask the question: Is this a matter of the government cutting costs on the backs of primary producers and the safety of consumers in this country? Is that what the government is really doing behind closed doors?

Staffing, as a previous member mentioned, will be reduced from 664 FTEs in 2007-08 to 421 in 2009-10. Somebody, I believe it was the parliamentary secretary, mentioned earlier that there is employment insurance and so on and so forth. That is not the point. The point is these people are needed in the industry to protect producers in the public's interest. This is not just about money. This is about protection and regulations in Canadian society that are direly needed.

A recent study of the Canadian Grain Commission itself found the following issues with respect to the loss of inward inspection, and I will go through them.

First, inward weighing and inspection, that would still be required, would be less trustworthy and more expensive.

Second, 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 comingled with larger quantities of clean grain.

Third, shipments to Canadian and United States markets would lose an important level of protection against contamination. Grain shipped to those markets could bypass official inspection. That is worrisome.

Fourth, inward inspection provides quality assurance information that makes outward inspection more efficient and cost-effective.

Finally, replacing public sector inspectors with private contractors, many of whom would be reliant upon private grain companies for business, would undermine the perceived reliability of the information derived from inward inspection.

Those are comments from a recent study by the Canadian Grain Commission itself.

Now, should Canadians worry? Should we, as opposition parties, worry? Definitely, we should. But where is the government? Why is not dealing with these serious concerns?

With respect to the diminished role of the Canadian Grain Commission, 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 that 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 50-100 rail cars during a shift. Documentation on these cars, their parcels, weights, any anomalies and other relevant information is provided by the weigher to the elevator at the end of each day.

It goes on to show that their service is very important.

Let me conclude. The reason for the hoist motion that we are now supporting is really simple. Clearly, the government had ample opportunity to come forward with a bill that was amendable and made sense to primary producers. It has failed to do so.

Second, farmers are expressing their concerns about the current government. They are asking us, “Where are the government backbenchers?” “What are they doing?” “Are they trained seals or what?” “Why are they not expressing their concerns on behalf of their constituents?” They have concerns and this bill should be stopped in its tracks.

The bottom line is it is not amendable. The government has failed to do its due diligence and the opposition has a responsibility to hold the government to account. That is why we are supporting the amendment presented by the member opposite.

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12:45 p.m.


Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Madam Speaker, I have a comment and then two quick questions.

The people who are watching these proceedings on TV or following them later in Hansard should be aware that all the members of Parliament who represent producers and grain growers in the entire Wheat Board area of western Canada are supporting the government's legislation.

The opposition to this legislation is coming from members of Parliament who do not have producers in their riding. The people responsible to the producers are supporting it and the people who have no direct responsibility to producers are opposing it. That is my first comment to those watching.

Second, I have two questions. The hon. member pointed out that with this legislation passing, the system would be less expensive and less costly. Does the hon. member not agree that these costs are often passed on to farmers and that we as members should therefore try to reduce costs for producers? That is my first question.

The second question is this. Based upon this legislation, Canadian grain customers will receive the same Canadian Grain Commission certificates and assurances they are accustomed to. Does my hon. colleague no longer believe in Canadian Grain Commission certificates and assurances?

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12:50 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, let me begin with the last question first. Of course, I believe in the Canadian Grain Commission certificates. That is what I want to maintain in the system because that is what put Canada on the map as a quality supplier. I do not want to see that undermined. The government is undermining that fact.

In terms of being less expensive and less costly, we always have to take costs out of the system where we can. However, the hon. member misinterprets me. It is not less costly and less expensive to the producers. In fact, a greater burden of risk is going to be imposed on producers as a result of these moves. Information the Canadian Wheat Board put out today and other proposals that might have to be put in place to accommodate the loss of inward inspection will actually mean a much higher burden of cost on primary producers.

Where the United States is covering costs to its primary producers under a system called WTO or GATT green and picking up those costs out of the public treasury, the government is going the opposite way. Instead of the government covering those costs, it is letting them be covered by primary producers.

On the last point of members over there representing the West, I wish they would. I wish they would listen. I wish they would return their phone calls. I wish they would listen to what primary producers are saying. However, as I said in my remarks, it seems to me that we have a bunch of trained seals over there who only take their direction from the PMO and not from their constituents.

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12:50 p.m.


Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Malpeque has raised a lot of good issues. I do not think we have trained seals here. I think we have predatory sea lions who are attacking the farmers base in Western Canada. I cannot imagine why they would continue to vote for them in the future.

To the hon. member for Malpeque, I would like to read a very short note to the Prime Minister from a western farmer from Saskatchewan. It says:

Dear Prime Minister,

In these troubled economic times, I hope your government will be working to support grain producers in the same way you are working with other sectors of the Canadian economy.

That's why I'm disappointed to learn that the Agriculture Minister has introduced changes to the Grain Act that will hurt grain producers.

Instead of helping Canada's grain producers the bill would:

Shift the purpose of the Grain Act away from protecting producer interests

Expose producers to financial harm by eliminating the requirement for grain buyers to post security bonds

Dismantle the Grain Appeal Tribunal which protects producers from unscrupulous behaviour on the part of grain companies

Eliminate Canadian Grain Commission services that independently determine the quality and quantity of grain delivered, returning producers to the position of not knowing if they are receiving fair payment.

If you think grain farmers are as important and worthy as those in the banking and auto industries that your government is supporting, I ask you to withdraw these provisions and make sure that these changes put the interests of grain producers first.

The hon. member for Malpeque may want to comment on one of these western farmers who does not seem to be in lockstep with this backward move that would take us back to the 1800s in terms of grain regulation.

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12:55 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I think my hon. colleague, in quoting from the letter, actually makes the point very well. That is what increasing numbers of primary producers are saying. Producers who do not have an NDP bent, a Liberal bent or a Conservative bent, or may have all three, are saying exactly those things.

They are looking at the substance of the issue and they are telling the Prime Minister not to do this. Do not impose greater risks on primary producers. Do not impose greater costs on primary producers. Do not destroy a system that, as somebody said earlier, is old, but it works and has put Canada on the map as the number one grain quality supplier of the world. Conservative members from the west are clearly not listening.

I have a letter from the mayor of the city of Melville, who is concerned about the loss of the Canadian Grain Commission offices in his area and the work that the Canadian Grain Commission does.

All we are asking is that the government please come to its senses and do the right thing. It could withdraw the bill and come back with a new one where it would actually listen to producers. That would make a whole lot of sense.

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12:55 p.m.


John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, earlier when the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt spoke, I really felt insulted as a member coming from an urban riding, in the way he described who supports and who does not support the bill. We care just as much about what happens on the family farm and in the entire food chain system.

I remember that it was my colleague Dennis Mills who made Canada aware of the family farm. Maybe that is why I am surprised that farmers vote for these guys. That is why they do not get any votes in the greater cities. It is for that reason alone.

The member for Malpeque said, and I quote, “This is not just about money”.

Ontario, as we will recall, had the Walkerton problem under a Conservative government. In the last election, my constituents were asking me about the problem with listeriosis, about food inspection and the cutbacks.

We had people lose their lives. Canadians lost their lives.

Can the member please comment on that for my constituents in the greater city of Toronto, who are just as important as somebody living on the farm? We respect the farm and agriculture, as I am sure they respect our auto industry.

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12:55 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, to go back to my earlier remarks, I think that point was made when I quoted Scott Sinclair in an op-ed article written for the Edmonton Journal.

I will not go into it, but to summarize, that article said:

Recent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses...underline the dangers to the public of cutting back on government oversight and inspections in the food system.

Therefore, it is possible to cross over between the two.

The Wheat Board, which is a wonderful marketing agency that always maximizes returns to primary producers in this country, said:

With respect to inward inspection, the bill as it presently exists is a worst case scenario for western Canadian grain producers....

That is where the Wheat Board is at.

Will the government just please listen? Maybe it could support this hoist motion as well.

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12:55 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Madam Speaker, I want to ask this member what message he is going to give to Canadians and to producers. I have heard him twice today say that he is postponing the bill, when in fact he is defeating the legislation.