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House of Commons Hansard #33 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was grain.

Topics

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Madam Speaker, in Ontario there used to be a single-desk marketing agency through the Ontario Wheat Producers' Marketing Board. That board disappeared in 2003. That happened because of a democratic decision taken by the democratically elected board of directors of the Ontario Wheat Producers' Marketing Board who determined that was the route they wished to take.

In western Canada, there is also a duly elected board of directors for the Canadian Wheat Board. Why are the western directors not being treated with the same respect and regard as the directors of the Ontario Wheat Producers' Marketing Board?

If the Ontario directors were allowed to take a democratic decision and go in a certain direction, why can the western directors not do the same thing?

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, there is a major difference between what was governing the body in Ontario and what was governing the body in western Canada. It is called a piece of legislation. There was no Ontario Wheat Producers' Marketing Board legislation in the House even at the provincial level. However, there is one at the federal level. We seek to change that and allow farmers to work democratically to move forward and use or not use the board.

When farmers spoke out, the member opposite shackled and jailed them. He has absolutely no credibility on this issue.

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I ask the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food why in this discussion the government is not following the Canadian Wheat Board Act?

Section 47.1 guarantees farmers the right to vote on changes to the Canadian Wheat Board's marketing structure. Why is the minister not allowing farmers a say in the full dismantling being proposed? Why is the government refusing to listen to the voices of not just western farmers but also western Canadians who have spoken out in large numbers asking the government to protect the single desk system?

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, anybody reading section 47.1 knows that is not exactly what it says. It calls for a vote of the affected producers if we are adding or subtracting a commodity from the board. We are not doing that. We are using democracy and the supremacy of Parliament to fundamentally change the act.

As significant moneys would be allotted to the port of Churchill, would the member for Churchill support the bill?

When we spent some $30 million in budget 2008, she voted against it. I am not sure why she would continue to do that when she knows how valuable that port is.

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a very simple question for the minister. He said that the government can always use time allocation, when it is needed. But why is it necessary today to shut down debate on the Canadian Wheat Board? I sat with him when he was in opposition, when he was the chair of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food. Since he became Minister of Agriculture, he has shown that he is able to defend and debate his point of view. He has even introduced bills to shut down the Canadian Wheat Board. So it is not that he is not capable of debating. It is because, since Parliament convened on May 2, this government has decided to bulldoze through everything. It no longer wants us to debate bills that it deems important. That is undemocratic.

What is the minister afraid of? Why does he not want to talk about this issue here, in the House, and let democracy do its job?

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, the member for Richmond—Arthabaska was a good colleague on the agriculture committee. We did some great work together.

The simple answer is timeliness. Markets and farmers themselves need clarity and certainty as to when this would move through. As the member is aware, farmers commence their farm inputs in the fall. They spread fertilizers and apply chemicals depending on the commodity they will seed in the spring.

Farmers need to know that what they will seed next spring will be theirs to market. We are putting a time allocation on this bill to ensure it is in effect by the end of this calendar year so that the industry and markets can adjust accordingly.

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Ray Boughen Conservative Palliser, SK

Madam Speaker, one of the myths the opposition is perpetrating is that somehow the quality of our grain would decline without the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly. Will the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food explain to the House why it is important that the legislation be passed immediately to assure our global customers that our grain will continue to be of the best quality?

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, as the member for Palliser represents a huge rural riding in the Moose Jaw area, he is as concerned as I am about grain quality.

Quality is regulated by the Canadian Grain Commission. However, it is based on the great work our farmers do. Changes in weather, cropping and so on have allowed our farmers to adapt. They have done some great work with new varieties in canola and pulse crops. They have also been able to maintain that top quality wheat that is in such demand around the world. A good portion of the barley goes to malt, which is also in demand around the world.

We require more acres of new and better crop varieties. We will continue to do that.

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Madam Speaker, the minister keeps referring to this side of the House as being full of hypocrisy.

I will quote several remarks made in the House on previous occasions by his leader.

On March 31, 2004, his leader said:

No real reform at committees, instead the same old games the government is playing with public accounts. The government invoked closure in the House after only six days.

I point out that we have only been debating the bill for a day and the government already is invoking closure.

There is no reform or election of Senators. He is driving opponents out of his party, appointing candidates and playing with the election date as a personal political football.

On October 1, 2002, his leader said:

The government has used closure and time allocation more frequently than any previous government.

The government has been using time allocation procedures a lot more. Why the hypocrisy?

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, time allocation and closure are legitimate tools of a democracy. They are within the bounds of what we are allowed to do in this place.

In the case of this bill, it is a matter of timing. It is a matter of offering market certainty and clarity to the producers so they will know that what they are prepping for this fall and will be sowing in the spring will be theirs to sell.

They need to know that the markets will be adjusting. As well, the new entity of the Canadian Wheat Board will require time to forward hedge and contract to be the major player we know it can be. We look forward to that day.

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, this morning the minister spoke about people from the outside getting involved in this debate. I would like him to tell us exactly who these people from the outside are. Are they from the United States and Europe or are they from Quebec, Saskatchewan and other parts of Canada?

We are talking about democracy here. We have the right to speak, say what we are thinking and participate in the debate.

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I am happy to entertain that question on the merits of the debate.

I am concerned when I see that farmers in Ontario have rights and privileges that have been denied to farmers in western Canada. I am asking for fairness.

The Confederation of this county ensures that all provinces have a chance to succeed. We have certainly worked well with the province of Quebec over the last few years. It has more autonomy, as do other provinces. We have a tremendous relationship with some provinces. Three out of the four provinces involved in the Canadian Wheat Board issue are siding with us in this debate and I welcome that.

I welcome debating the points of the matter, not beating around the edges and wasting time.

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, my question for the minister is with regard to time allocation. What will it take to convince the government that this is not the direction it should be taking given the level of frustration being experienced today by prairie farmers regarding the government's actions?

One way prairie farmers can express their frustration is by opposition members articulating what has been discussed with them or what has been received from them in emails or telephone calls. By putting limitations on our ability to at least debate the issue, does the minister not recognize that he is adding to the frustration of the prairie farmers?

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I live on the Prairies. I go home when I can, as do many of my colleagues.

The real frustration for prairie farmers is the unknown. They are asking for certainty and clarity so they will know how to market and what to grow next year.

I point out to the member opposite that it was his party that dragged us into an election last spring that was not required by the Canadian people. Canadians sent us back here with a clear majority and a mandate to move forward on issues exactly like this. That is why we are sitting over here and he is sitting over there.

When I look at the silly tricks the Liberals have been playing this last while on this issue I know they are not done. They have a quiverful and will play as many as they possibly can while at the same time saying we should get on with it.

I am happy to get on with it. I am here to debate.

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

October 20th, 2011 / 10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Conservative Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, the Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers Act will enable the interim Canadian Wheat Board to act as a voluntary marketing organization through its transition to full private ownership.

During that orderly transition our government will provide the Canadian Wheat Board with the tools it needs to act as a voluntary pooling option for the farmers who choose to use it.

During the transition period our government will continue to guarantee the new Canadian Wheat Board's initial payments for borrowing, assist with funding for reorganization costs related to the removal of the monopoly and put in place a voluntary check-off to continue producer support for research and marketing development activities.

Today we are only a few hours into the debate and the opposition has introduced two motions to delay and stall the bill.

Would the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food explain to the House why it is important that the legislation be passed immediately to ensure the transition happens in an orderly fashion?

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, the member for Calgary Centre underscores the answer I have given many times. It is about clarity and certainty. It is about ensuring that farmers have the tools at their disposal to accentuate the bottom line of their businesses. Farming is now a big business. Even small farms operate as businesses. Some farmers have jobs off the farm and have moved to other commodities that are not under a single desk, such as livestock, pigs, chickens, et cetera. They also grow different grain commodities.

The member for Calgary Centre makes an excellent point as to why we need to get this done quickly. It is about timeliness. It is about ensuring that not only the markets have time to adjust but also to enable the new Canadian Wheat Board to forward contract and offer futures as soon as possible.

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, I am gravely concerned about Canadian democracy. The government is trying to muzzle the media. The government is trying to muzzle the opposition and therefore the power of each member in the House. There are movements rising up around the globe to denounce this type of attitude, yet the government is moving in the opposite direction.

I am curious to know whether the minister and the government are advocates of democracy. If so, does the minister plan to change his position on this motion?

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, I would say to the member opposite that the only thing gagging the media lately are the metaphors coming from the member for Winnipeg Centre.

We certainly believe in democracy. We campaigned hard on these types of issues. We came back here to fulfill those commitments and maintain the bond that we have with our constituents. We will get the legislation passed in a timely manner, ensure that farmers and markets have time to adjust and give them the signal to move forward and enhance their bottom lines.

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, I find it hypocritical that this bill is called an Act to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board, when it is clearly intended to dismantle and destroy that board. Farmers get between $4 billion and $7 billion from this organization each year. This is no small issue. This is a very important organization, and we need to take time for discussion before we destroy it. I do not understand why the government is trying to muzzle the opposition. Earlier, my colleague mentioned that the government is trying to muzzle the opposition and keep information hush-hush.

I come from Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, where agriculture is one of the main economic drivers. I have something to say about this. In my region, the UPA believes that the Canadian Wheat Board should exist. So my opinion should be heard in the House.

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Conservative Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Madam Speaker, the Canadian Wheat Board does not give farmers money. It markets the farmers' commodities.

The system works as follows. If I grow and harvest durum wheat and decide to sell it to a pasta maker on my own, I must phone the Wheat Board and inform it of that. It will tell me how much it will cost in freight and elevation to get it to Tidewater. I will send a cheque. I will phone the Wheat Board back to ask if I can sell the wheat. At that point it will inform me that it will cost me so much a bushel because that is the price it can get for it that day. Essentially, I must buy back the durum wheat which has not yet left my farm before I can finally do something with it. That has to change.

We cannot shackle people like that and expect them to stay in that kind of situation. The board was created in a different time for a different reason. We have moved beyond that.

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, my question is—

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Madam Speaker, on a point of order. I am not sure if you are aware, but there are countless members of the Conservative caucus who want to ask questions. Several members on the other side have asked multiple questions. I believe it would be important to hear what the strong representatives of the Canadian wheat farmers have to say on this side of the House.

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I appreciate the members' frustration, but they should recall that the Speaker stated before leaving the chair that as per the regulations and procedures, the purpose of this 30-minute question period is to allow the opposition to hold the government to account.

Members should recognize that I did allow three questions from the government side, which is similar in proportion to the time we allot during question period. I believe that is a fair allocation.

I will give the member 15 seconds to ask her question.

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, just for our clarification, we have seen this happen, but we just do not seem to have your formula of how you figure out who is able to speak and who is not. Could you give us the actual numbers so we will time our standing up appropriately?

Bill C-18--Time Allocation MotionMarketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

There is no formula. It is at the Speaker's discretion following the rules of procedure.

I will give the hon. member for Churchill 15 seconds to ask the last question.