House of Commons Hansard #32 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was producers.


Private Members' Business
Routine Proceedings

October 19th, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.


The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please.

The House will soon begin private members' business for the first time in this Parliament. I would, therefore, like to make a brief statement regarding the management of private members' business.

I want to remind all hon. members about the procedures governing private members' business and the responsibilities of the Chair in the management of this process.

As members know, certain constitutional procedural realities constrain the Speaker and members insofar as legislation is concerned. One such procedural principle concerns whether or not a private member’s bill requires a royal recommendation. The Speaker has underscored this principle in a number of statements over the course of preceding parliaments.

As noted on page 831 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition:

Under the Canadian system of government, the Crown alone initiates all public expenditure and Parliament may only authorize spending which has been recommended by the Governor General. This prerogative, referred to as the “financial initiative of the Crown”, is the basis essential to the system of responsible government and is signified by way of the “royal recommendation”.

The requirement for a royal recommendation is grounded in constitutional principles found in the Constitution Act, 1867. The language of section 54 of that act is echoed in Standing Order 79(1), which reads:

This House shall not adopt or pass any vote, resolution, address or bill for the appropriation of any part of the public revenue, or of any tax or impost, to any purpose that has not been first recommended to the House by a message from the Governor General in the session in which such vote, resolution, address or bill is proposed

Any bill that authorizes the spending of public funds for a new and distinct purpose or effects an appropriation of public funds must be accompanied by a message from the Governor General recommending the expenditure to the House. This message, known formally as the “royal recommendation”, can only be transmitted to the House by a minister of the crown.

A private member's bill that requires a royal recommendation may, however, be introduced and considered right up until third reading, on the assumption that a royal recommendation will be provided by a minister. If none is produced by the conclusion of the third reading stage, the Speaker is required to decline to put the question on third reading.

Following the establishment or the replenishment of the order of precedence, the Chair has developed a practice of reviewing items so that the House can be alerted to bills which, at first glance, appear to impinge on the financial prerogative of the Crown. The aim of this practice is to allow members the opportunity to intervene in a timely fashion to present their views about the need for those bills to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Accordingly, following the establishment of the order of precedence on October 5, 2011, I wish to draw the attention of the House to three bills that give the Chair some concern as to the spending provisions they contemplate. These are Bill C-215, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act (deletion of deduction from annuity), standing in the name of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore.

There is also Bill C-291, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (waiting period and maximum special benefits), standing in the name of the member for Bourassa.

The third bill is Bill C-308, An Act respecting a Commission of Inquiry into the development and implementation of a national fishery rebuilding strategy for fish stocks off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, standing in the name of the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

I would encourage hon. members who would like to make arguments regarding the requirement of a royal recommendation for any of these bills, or with regard to any other bills now on the order of precedence, to do so at an early opportunity.

In addition, members are likely aware that a point of order was raised yesterday by the member for Windsor—Tecumseh regarding Bill C-317, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (labour organizations), standing in the name of the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, arguing that this bill should have been preceded by a ways and means motion. As members know, limitations exist on the manner in which taxation measures may be amended in the absence of an accompanying ways and means motion. If a bill that requires a ways and means motion has not been preceded by one, our rules do not permit it to remain on the order paper.

As I stated in the House last night, should any other members wish to provide additional information regarding Bill C-317, they are encouraged to raise them without unnecessary delay, as the Chair has taken note of the matter and would like to ensure the question is resolved as quickly as possible.

Finally, I should inform members that earlier today I received written notice from the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale that he would be unable to move his motion should private members' business begin tomorrow.

As members well know, private members' business is set to start 24 hours following the presentation of the report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs indicating those items which remain votable, and no exchange can be requested prior to the tabling of the said report.

The report was indeed tabled earlier today, and the member now finds himself in the unforeseen situation of not being able to provide the 48 hours' notice required to proceed with an exchange.

In this particular case, and considering my role regarding the orderly and timely conduct of private members' business pursuant to Standing Order 94(1)(a), I will allow the exchange to proceed without the usual notice requirement.

The Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs may wish to examine this matter and consider whether our practices in relation to the application of Standing Orders 94(1)(a) and 94(2)(a) continue to serve the House in an effective manner. As your Speaker, I see no reason why the member occupying the first position on the order of precedence would not be afforded an opportunity to make an exchange, while all other members can do so.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

I understand the hon. member for Malpeque has some further comments about the question of privilege raised.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.


Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise in response to the government House leader's intervention yesterday afternoon with respect to the question of privilege I raised earlier in the day in regard to the legitimacy of the government's tabling Bill C-18, which in effect requires members of this House to engage in a process that, according to a statute previously passed by the House, violates a specific provision of that statute.

The government House leader appeared somewhat concerned over the fact that in my submission I failed to cite precedents. I feel obligated to address his concerns. His point, apparently, was that “....questions of law are beyond the jurisdiction of the Chair”.

What the government House leader overlooked the beginning of the quote he referenced. Perhaps it was not provided to him or perhaps it was purposely overlooked. It is on page 261 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition. I will read the whole quote. I will not leave part of it out.

Finally, while Speakers must take the Constitution and statutes into account when preparing a ruling, numerous...

Note the word “numerous”. It is not stating “all”.

....Speakers have explained that it is not up to the Speaker to rule on the “constitutionality” or “legality” of measures before the House.

The government House leader and government members generally would do well to spend a little more time reading House of Commons Procedure and Practice before venturing forth.

The following is found at page 261 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition, and refers to a statement of Speaker Fraser from Debates, April 14, 1987:

Speaker Fraser summed the fine balancing act that is often involved in adapting old rules to new situations: “When interpreting the rules of procedure, the Speaker must take account not only of their letter but of their spirit and be guided by the most basic rule of all, that of common sense”.

I would also point to the conclusion contained in the same page in House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which states:

Speakers have never shied away from creating new precedents when faced with an apparent contradiction between Standing Orders and contemporary values.

It is my submission that this is one of these instances.

I know, Mr. Speaker, you are our elected Speaker, new in the job, and this is really an opportunity for you, in looking at these precedents, to establish fair play that protects the interests of Canadians and prevents Parliament from violating its own acts that it passed at a previous time.

I would now draw the attention of the Speaker to the following, found at page 720 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition:

The enactment of a statute by Parliament is the final step in a long process that starts with the proposal, preparation and drafting of a bill. The drafting of a bill is a vital stage in this process—one which challenges the decision makers and drafters to take carefully into account certain constraints, since a failure to abide by these may have negative consequences in relation to the eventual interpretation and application of the law and to the proper functioning of the legislative process.

I would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to take special note of the reference to the fact that decision-makers, in this case the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food:

....take carefully into account certain constraints, since a failure to abide by these may have negative consequences in relation to the eventual interpretation and application of the law and to the proper functioning of the legislative process.

I would also reference footnote 59 at page 721 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition. It refers to the guide to making federal acts and regulations, which is found on the Government of Canada, Privy Council office website.

In the introduction to that document, the following statement is found with respect to the law-making process:

If the process is carefully planned and competently carried out, the resulting legislation will achieve the Government's goals while adhering strictly to the principles and policies underlying our legal system.

Within that same document, under the section “Acts of General Application”, the following statement is found:

Those involved in the preparation of bills will take into account the requirement of explicitness so as to ensure that any political decision to exclude the operation of a presumptively applicable law is legally effective.

Finally, I would reference the following from the document under the section entitled “Legal Practises of General Application”. It states:

In addition to rules stated in Acts of general application, there are also a number of important principles that form part of the legal system. They operate in much the same way and must also be taken into account in developing legislative proposals. The following are examples of these principles:

the rules of natural justice and procedural fairness, which require that a person whose rights or interests are affected by an administrative decision be given a reasonable notice of the proposed decision and an opportunity to be heard by an unbiased decision maker;

I do not want to take too much more time but I will now turn to the issue at hand, namely, that, in the context of this legislation, my privileges have been violated due to the expectation that I will be required to engage in and cast a vote upon legislation that begins from the premise of a deliberate and overt violation of statutes passed by the House with the expectation that those provisions would be respected most of all by members of the House.

I will quote from page 140 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition. It states:

The purpose of raising matters of “privilege” in either House of Parliament is to maintain the respect and credibility due to and required of each House in respect of these privileges, to uphold [the laws of Parliament].

In his reference to the Speaker, the government House leader attempted to claim that the question of privilege I have raised has been disposed of by rulings of previous Speakers. For example, he referenced the decision of Speaker Milliken on May 13, 2003, at pages 6123 and 6124 of Debates. Speaker Milliken, in that decision, reminded the House that the issue before him concerned an issue of regulatory authority, stating at page 6123:

I am unable to find a case where any Speaker has ruled that a government, in the exercise of a regulatory power conferred upon it by statute, has been found to have breached the privileges of the House.

Note should be taken, though, of the fact that the matter I have raised relates not to a question of regulatory authority, but rather to the matter as to whether my privileges have been violated as a result of the government tabling legislation in direct contravention to statute passed by Parliament.

I would also note that the reference made by the government House leader to the decision of Speaker Milliken on March 13, 2005 at page 4498-4500 was in relation to an issue of government reorganization in the wake of the defeat of specific legislation. Again, my point being that the decision sought was not in relation to the matter before the House and the citation of this matter as precedent is not applicable.

I would conclude by quoting from page 262 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, second edition. It states:

Determining what is or is not a precedent is not always straightforward. Speaker Fraser once said that “a precedent is something that happened once upon a time and that everyone decided to follow. ... [I]n legal terms, it is usually the consequence of a decision made after argument has been proferred to the Chair ... on a certain point”. The mere occurrence of an event does not make it a precedent, and Speakers have on occasion ruled that a special circumstance justifies a deviation from a known precedent.

I will conclude by repeating the point I raised yesterday. I submit that to place this legislation before the House and to seek the support of the House will require members of the House to endorse legislation that begins from a premise that contravenes the existing law and, thus, places members of the House in an untenable and unacceptable position.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.


The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I see the hon. government House leader is rising. I do not know if I need to hear anything more, but if he feels he has something pertinent to add, I will allow him a few moments.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.



Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that I will be brief, and what I say may be obvious.

The issue in question was a question of whether the Speaker should be making decisions on the constitutionality or legality of proposed legislation before the Speaker. We cited numerous decisions of Speakers' previously, precedents that indicate that should not be the practice of the Speaker. Rulings should not go in that territory.

My friend said that he would cite some precedents but then produced absolutely no precedents whatsoever that contradict that. In fact, the argument that he made was that you, Mr. Speaker, should rely on the principle that you can make new rulings, that you can carve new law or write new law on how Parliament should work.

However, he then said that that should be done under the principles of natural justice that prevail in this Parliament. If we were to follow his route, there are two fundamental principles of natural justice that would be offended. The first of those is the fettering of the discretion of this Parliament. The member is suggesting that this Parliament is now free to legislate on issues because a previous Parliament has legislated on them and, therefore, we are prohibited from legislating the same questions or, if I may, changing the laws that were made in the past. That would be fettering the discretion of this Parliament in a way that totally would offend the principles of natural justice.

The second is that his approach would result in a delegation of the ability of this Parliament to make decisions to individuals outside of this Parliament, effectively giving them the power to legislate the law of this land rather than Parliament doing so. That kind of discretion would not be legal. It would offend the principles of natural justice.

For those reasons, even on the arguments that the member put forward to you, Mr. Speaker, for why you should carve new law, the fundamental basis for them is lacking and you should not do so.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.


The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I thank hon. members for their further representations. I can assure the House I will get back to them in due course.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.



Gerry Ritz Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

moved that Bill C-18, An Act to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board and to make consequential and related amendments to certain Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity on behalf of western Canadian farmers to open debate on the bill that we are putting before the House that would give them marketing freedom very similar to what farmers have been enjoying in Ontario already for some years.

The Government of Canada, under the strong leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, is very proud to be leading the way toward a bright future for Canadian farmers and for the overall Canadian economy--

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I am sure the hon. minister will want to refrain from using the name of sitting members.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.


Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, we are just so darned proud of him but I will say the Prime Minister.

We believe that all Canadian farmers should be able to position their businesses to capture the marketing opportunities that will be open to them. We live in a free country and giving farmers the freedom to choose is the right thing to do.

Currently, by law, western Canadian wheat, durum and barley growers do not have the same rights as other producers in Canada about where and how they sell their products. For export or domestic human consumption, they have no other option but to market through the Canadian Wheat Board, the monopoly that was established in 1943 by an order in council, not by producers or for producers at that time.

By allowing marketing freedom, western wheat and barley growers will be able to market based on what is best for their own bottom line of their own business. In the June 2011 Speech from the Throne, we again stated our commitment to ensure that western farmers would have the freedom to sell wheat and barley on the open market. With this proposed legislation, we would provide marketing choice to western grain farmers once and for all.

To avoid market disruption, the goal is for farmers and grain marketers, including the new entity, to be able to start forward contracting in January 2012. Farmers, grain companies and customers need this assurance. As we well know, market certainty and clarity underpins stability in the marketplace domestically and internationally.

The bill would remove the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board and allow for the new Canadian wheat board to continue as a voluntary marketing organization for up to five years as it makes the transition to full private entity. During the transition period, this new voluntary organization would still be called the Canadian wheat board. It would continue to offer farmers the option of pooling their crops. It would continue to benefit from a borrowing guarantee backed by the federal government and it would develop a business plan for privatization, which will be reviewed no later than 2016.

This new freedom is not only good for farmers, it also has many economic benefits for communities across western Canada. New processing plants would be able to open their doors for business and look to hire new employees unfettered by the current ridiculous requirement to buy wheat and barley only from the Canadian Wheat Board.

Canada's grain industry is a powerhouse that brings $16 billion to the farm gate and makes up almost half of our agricultural exports. What was once Canada's signature crop, hard red spring wheat, has fallen behind. Wheat and barley innovation has become stagnate. Competition for acres has weakened and newer crops, such as canola, have surpassed wheat in value.

A C.D. Howe report released this past spring confirmed that Canada's share of annual worldwide wheat production has fallen by 50% in the last 50 years. It is a staggering number. Equally, Canadian market share and world barley exports have declined by 40% since the 1980s. With the reduced market share, the Canadian Wheat Board has less influence on the world stage and, as a result, has become a price taker.

We have seen tremendous growth in value added opportunities across the Prairies over the past 20 years for crops that do not have a monopoly marketer, including oats, pulses, flax and, of course, canola. We would see these same opportunities open up for wheat and barley as we implement market freedom. We will work with farmers and industry to attract investment, encourage innovation, create value added jobs and build an overall stronger economy.

Our government has promised western Canadian wheat and barley growers that they will be given marketing freedom. We are fulfilling that commitment and ensuring that the market is finally controlled by the experts in the grain industry, our farmers.

The Canadian Wheat Board was first imposed on western Canadian farmers when times were different, to say the very least, difficult. Canadians had just gone through the Great Depression, World War II was raging and Canada was committed to supplying wheat to Britain. It was 1943 when farmers were forced to sell through the board. It was done with the aim of aiding the war effort, not with any pretense that it would be good for farmers.

So what has changed since then? Just about everything down on the farm.

For starters, it is now 2011, not 1943. Our government remains focused on economic stability and creating the right conditions for more long-term jobs and stronger economic growth, all the while steadily eliminating the deficit and returning to surplus. Our workforce is healthy and our agricultural industry is helping to drive our economy.

Unfortunately, the one thing that has not changed is that prairie farmers are still forced by law to sell their wheat, durum and barley through the Canadian Wheat Board.

The government's position is clear: our long-standing commitment that we are now delivering on is to promise and provide marketing choice. This is why we want to continue to have the Canadian Wheat Board in place as a choice for those who want to continue marketing through the board.

For too long, barley and durum processors have been setting up shop south of the border because they could not take the red tape here in Canada.

Those who are looking for an economic analysis need only listen to the Canadian Chamber of Commerce when it says:

The current single-desk model restricts valued added investment in wheat and barley, significantly detracting the ability of farmers and industry to respond to market demands and earn a premium return in recognition of the innovation provided, including innovation in value-added processing.

That is quite a statement.

Look at what happened to oats when it came out from under the monopoly. In Manitoba alone the acreage of oats has increased by over 250,000 acres since its removal from the Wheat Board's control.

This has allowed for the opening and expansion of Can-oat, a processing mill in Portage La Prairie. A half a million tonnes a year of oats run through that facility. These are the types of value-added industries and jobs that exist when farmers have the option to market their products as they so choose.

The transition to marketing freedom will have an impact on the Port of Churchill, since the CWB was responsible for nearly 90% of all goods shipped through the port in 2010. Our government is taking concrete steps to help ensure the Port of Churchill will remain a viable option for exports.

The Government of Canada remains committed to Churchill, and we understand the importance of economic development and diversification to the community, the region and the overall north.

The government also acknowledges that the changes to the Canadian Wheat Board, while giving farmers marketing freedom, will also lead to a period of adjustment for Churchill and the surrounding region. That is why we are taking necessary steps to support the community and the port through this transition.

The government will provide an economic incentive of up to $5 million per year during the five year transition period to support shipments of grain, including now oil seeds, pulses and special crops through the port.

Working with the port owner, Transport Canada will invest more than $4 million to repair the existing port assets and support the safe docking of vessels. This will also enable the port to remain in sound operating condition to take advantage of future business opportunities, and could create jobs resulting in economic benefits to the community over the next three years.

Western Economic Diversification Canada will work with the Churchill Gateway Development Corporation on port infrastructure improvements, and extend the project completion date an additional two years, from 2013 to 2015. Additionally, the government will continue to explore initiatives to support the ongoing operations of the port.

We recognize that this is a major change for agriculture in western Canada. That is why we have been consulting extensively with stakeholders from across the supply chain, from the farm gate to seaport.

Over the summer, a working group comprising experts in the field heard a broad range of advice on how the grain marketing and transportation system could transition from the current CWB-run system to an open market that includes voluntary marketing pools.

The working group's report covers a wide range of issues from transportation to research to elevators, basically the how of moving to an open market. The basic thrust is to let markets work, but monitor them to ensure that effective competition prevails. The working group is one of many ways the government is seeking advice on how to move forward.

One of its recommendation deals with the issue of the advance payments program. This is a very popular tool farmers use to maintain their cash flow during the production season. The APP has always been delivered on behalf of Agriculture Canada by delivery agents. In order for the new CWB to focus 100% on the marketing of grain for those farmers who choose to use it, the Canadian Canola Grower Association will now administer the APP for wheat and barley, starting with the spring 2012 advance program. Canadian canola growers have great expertise and 30 years experience in administering these cash advances.

As a result of the change, many farmers will have their administrative burden reduced as they deal with fewer organizations, not to mention a potential reduction in their administration fee. Wheat and barley farmers will continue to have access to this program without disruption.

Canada's wheat and barley producers constantly adapt their operations to the evolving economic and weather realities, and their ability to secure cash flows is an essential part of their ongoing business decisions. Our government is taking clear and concise action so that wheat and barley farmers will continue to have access to the advance payments program during and after this transition to an open market.

With regard to the issue of producer cars, the reality is that the board's monopoly has never provided producer cars. The right to producer cars is set out in the Canada Grain Act, and producer cars have always been allocated by the Canadian Grain Commission, and the Wheat Board's only role was to charge a fee for the use of a producer car. Our government will continue to protect farmers' access to them.

Similarly, the fact is that short line railways and farmer-owned inland terminals succeed in their businesses on the basis of their management skills and the value they offer producers. They will continue to offer savings to farmers without the CWB monopoly. To suggest that they depend on a monopoly, forcing farmers to deal with them, is an insult to the people who operate these businesses.

These same groups offer professional and economically beneficial services to producers for non-board crops now, and they are doing very well at it.

The government is committed to improving rail service for agricultural shippers. The government completed the rail service review and we announced our follow-up actions in the spring of last year.

As for jobs, while the board will see some job losses initially, the future for employment in the grains sectors looks bright. We can expect more processors to start up new businesses in western Canada. Private marketers of wheat and barley will expand their workforces. The Western Grain Elevator Association members are already calling for and interviewing people to handle the increase it expects. Some have even committed to numbers that they will require in this new free setting.

Milling firms will be able to purchase directly from the farmer of their choice at a price and a timeframe they negotiate. Entrepreneurs will have the option of starting up their own specialty flour mills, malting and pasta plants. In fact, just recently, we had the honour of turning the sod on a new pasta plant in Regina. Murad Al-Katib of Alliance Grain Traders, born and raised in Davidson, Saskatchewan, has been selling Canadian pulses worldwide. The company also manufactures pasta in Turkey, but has stayed out of the Canadian market because of the monopoly and all the red tape involved in dealing directly with durum producers. This is a $50 million private sector investment that will create 60 permanent jobs and 200 construction jobs. He is unequivocal in saying that this would not happen without these changes. That is great news for Saskatchewan and it is great news for farmers overall. I know that there are more to come.

My colleagues on the opposite side of the floor unfortunately remain steadfast against these opportunities of an open market. Even more amazing about this opposition is that only a tiny fraction of their members represent anyone in the Wheat Board area. All of them are from city ridings. The official agriculture critics, both from Ontario, seem to think that they have the right to tell western grain farmers that they do not have the right to market their own wheat and barley as their own constituents do.

In the Ontario example, we made the announcement yesterday at Don Kenny of Blondehead Farms. He is the chair of the Ontario grain producers. We also had in attendance, Barry Senft, who is the president and CEO of the Ontario wheat board. They both recommend this change. They did it in 2003 and have never looked back.

My colleagues understand we are turning a page in our nation's great history and we will all be better for it. Exciting new opportunities lie ahead for our grain industry. The government is pleased to receive the support of this initiative from three of the four provinces shackled by the monopoly. Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia produce over 90% of western Canada's wheat, durum and barley.

The agriculture minister from Saskatchewan said:

Saskatchewan farmers spend their own hard-earned money on land, machinery and inputs to grow their own crops, so why shouldn't they have the marketing freedom to decide how, when, and to whom they sell their grain?

Alberta's agriculture and rural development minister said:

Marketing opportunities are being lost every day and it's vital that Alberta's grain producers be able to market their product to anyone they choose.

As well, the agriculture minister for British Columbia said:

Every farmer in Western Canada deserves the right to sell their grain when, to whom and for the price that works best for their farm business.

The government is giving western Canadian farmers nothing more than their right to manage their own businesses their own way. While we welcome constructive debate, frivolous delays will only hurt our farmers and the overall grain industry.

We owe it to producers to provide market certainty so they can continue to plan their businesses. Farmers must plan for the 2012-2013 year. They are already putting inputs in the ground, getting ready. When they are making seeding decisions they will want to know what the marketing system will be for that 2012 crop.

Canada will continue to sell wheat and barley and maintain its reputation as a quality, reliable supplier. The international grain trade works largely on forward contracting for future purchases and sales. If there is uncertainty in the market about the rules of who can sell Canadian wheat and barley, there is a high risk that buyers will turn to other countries to buy that wheat and barley.

The Canadian wheat and barley sector can continue to supply domestic and world markets with high quality wheat and barley, but they look to us to provide the certainty they need to plan and carry out their business decisions.

I invite my colleagues in the House to join us as we work to ensure that all farmers across Canada can position their businesses to capture the opportunities of the future.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.


Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I have a number of questions for the minister because there has been such a preponderance of misinformation circulated by him and his office that some of it begs for clarity in this brief opportunity we have to debate this staggeringly complicated change he is making to the rural prairie economy.

First, I would like to ask the minister if he would clarify what he meant yesterday when he said that he has never seen a report from the CWB. At least on television he would have the public believe that the Canadian Wheat Board would not submit reports to the minister, as it is required to do. I know that I have seen the reports and I wonder why the minister has not or if he wants to correct the statement that he made.

Second, I know that when legislation goes through the process of development, a cost analysis is done to any piece of legislation, no matter what it is, and presented to the Treasury Board. We have never seen any cost benefit analysis of this piece of legislation. He owes it to Parliament and the general public to take this opportunity to tell us the cost implications.

Finally, in the same vein of costing, we have seen a private independent estimate by Peat Marwick that it would cost as much as $500 million in closing costs to terminate the CWB. A $6 billion a year corporation does not just disappear without significant closing costs. Contracts may be terminated and the contracts for ships that are being partly built may be terminated.

Will he tell us the government's estimate? What is it going to cost the government to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board? I would like answers to the other two questions as well.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.


Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I stand behind my statement that I have never seen the reports that I have asked for from the Canadian Wheat Board. It is supposed to, on a monthly basis, report to the minister of the day on what it has sold, who it has sold it to, the value of the sale, the shipping, and all of the transactions. I have never seen those. It does not seem to be able to provide those in a way that says it is getting a premium price. I have never seen those. Maybe the member opposite has an inside track, being the eager beaver that he is, but I have never seen them.

As to cost analysis, the member opposite talked about misinformation and that it has to be presented, and that type of thing. Farmers have done the cost analysis for years. As I said in my opening remarks, we have lost 50% of our wheat and 40% of our barley. What is the cost of that loss out there on the world market?

The one good thing the board has done in its intransigence is allowed for world-class canola, mustard, flax and oats. All the other commodities outside of the board have flourished. We are seeing processing, global demand increase and new varieties being developed. There is a great cost benefit in that the board not moving as it should has benefited the other sectors, to the point where now canola is king on the Prairies and will continue to be. We have crushing facilities. The misnomer that one cannot process at point of production and it has to be done at point of sale is put to the lie by the canola crushers that are popping up across the Prairies. We are also seeing the durum plant going in Regina. I know the member for Wascana will be celebrating that because a lot of those people live in his riding.

The member talked about the study that was done. It was KPMG, actually, and not Peat Marwick. The numbers I have seen on that one are so staggering in scope as to be unbelievable in the spread on some of them. He talked about the ships. There was no consultation with farmers on that. They are scooping money out of the farm pools without even asking farmers if they can do it. That is ridiculous. That is one of the reasons farmers have moved away.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.


Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, I have two questions for the minister, but I would first request that he resist belittling the efforts of urban members of Parliament who know where their food comes from. We know that food comes from farmers and we are here defending the well-being of western Canadian farmers.

My two questions are as follows, very quickly. We know that he does not respect the opinion of opposition members and we know he does not respect the opinion of farmers who have expressed it in a plebiscite. Would he respect an objective opinion from The Economist magazine that said recently:

Smaller producers, faced with mounting marketing costs, will inevitably have to sell their farms to bigger rivals or agribusiness companies...devastating small prairie towns, whose economies depend on individual farmers with disposable income.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.


Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, what I find to be hypocritical is that the member from Ontario, and good for him that he was elected, wants to deny my farmers the same rights and privileges that his farmers enjoy now. How can he stand in his place and do that? This is about fairness.

When he talks about the smaller producers who are in jeopardy, I make the argument that they will be in jeopardy if we continue down this line. These same small producers have become experts at marketing their canola, mustard, oats and flax. They have moved to other commodities. Certainly, they grow wheat because in the west we are using a zero-till process and need good rotational crops to fight the weed systems, chemicals and the like that are in the soil. That is great. However, we are not using wheat, durum and barley to the same extent that we used to. Now we are using triticale, canaryseed and many other products to fill the gap because of the intransigence and the changes that have not been allowed regarding the western Canadian Wheat Board. That is one of the reasons we are moving.

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Government Orders

3:55 p.m.


Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, this is obviously a great day for Canadian farmers. I am so excited. I want to thank the minister and the parliamentary secretary for all of their hard work. On this day I think of men like Rick Strankman, Jim Ness and the late Art Walde and all the battles they have fought.

Would the minister explain what options and opportunities the farmers will have once the legislation is passed?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.


Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, like me, the member's background is in agriculture and his heart and passion are still there.

This issue is what has brought many of us to the floor of the House of Commons to ensure that we move forward.

Art Walde, whose name the member mentioned, was a good friend of mine. I attended Art's funeral. This was Art's lifeblood. His family insisted that I continue on with this fight and move forward on this issue to ensure that his son who is now farming would have the opportunity to run his own business in his own way and sell his own commodities.

We will get that done.

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Government Orders

3:55 p.m.


Linda Duncan Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I heard the minister in the House and in the media last night say that the government is speaking for Canadians and Canadian farmers.

What I find puzzling is that when I spoke to the prairie agricultural associations, I heard something different. For example, the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan is dead set against shutting down the Wheat Board and is absolutely appalled that the government did not uphold the majority vote of farmers. It stated:

Producers have now sent a very clear message to government....So if government chooses to ignore the message and we do see the loss of the single desk, we’re concerned about the transitional issues that will result.

The Wild Rose Agricultural Producers of Alberta, Alberta's largest producer-funded general farm organization, is expressing strong opposition to shutting down the Wheat Board. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is expressing strong opposition to the shutting down of the Wheat Board. The National Farmers Union, which has been in existence for many years in this country, is opposing this move by the government.

Who exactly is the government representing?