Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure to rise and support an economic sector that is critical to jobs and growth in this country. Make no mistake, Canadian farmers feed the world and they deserve the freedom to make their own business decisions.
Canada's farmers and food processors do more than produce the food for our tables, they drive over $35 billion of our exports and generate one in every eight Canadian jobs. The grain sector alone is specifically responsible for $16 billion to the farm gate and it is a major contributor to our economy. The agriculture industry has helped lead Canada's economic recovery and that is why it is a priority for the government.
The legislation that we have before us will help this vital economic sector continue to drive our country to new growth and prosperity. It will provide western Canadian wheat, durum and barley farmers with the same marketing freedom and opportunities as other farmers in Canada and around the world. It will allow grain producers in western Canada to make decisions based on what is best for their businesses, for their farms, for themselves.
I want to reiterate why marketing freedom is so vital to farmers in our grain industry. As we have heard the Minister of Agriculture say often, our government wants to help farmers make money from the marketplace, not from the mail box. Often that means levelling the playing field on the international stage. Sometimes it means getting government out of the way, so that farmers can farm and continue to drive our economy.
To empower our agricultural producers we need to open new markets and new avenues for profitability for farmers to accomplish that. They need the simple opportunity to succeed.
For the past six decades this has definitely not been the case for growers of wheat and barley in western Canada. The Canadian Wheat Board monopoly, born in a different time to meet different needs during the war, has cast a chill on key parts of the grain sector in western Canada. The six decade Canadian Wheat Board monopoly is yesterday's solution to yesterday's problems.
The fact is, today's entrepreneurial farmers are providing more and proving over and over that they can and will do better if they have control over their farm and businesses. For western Canadian grain farmers, this means a choice in how they market their own grain. It means a choice in when and where they will sell their crop. It means a choice on what price they sell their grain and between working through a voluntary wheat board or directly with the open market.
At the announcement in Acme, Alberta, a gentleman by the name of Bob Leinweber from Linden gave me a letter that he had written to a western producer. In it he talks about a letter from another farmer regarding the monopoly. Mr. Leinweber agrees with that individual. He wrote:
--monopoly sellers do enrich their owners as exemplified by OPEC in similar monopolies.
He went on to say:
The CWB was set up by the government as a buyer's monopoly to buy wheat from western Canadian wheat growers at less than the world price.
That was why the Wheat Board was set up. It is not a seller's monopoly, it is a buyer's monopoly. We know that western Canadian farmers are capable of marketing their own canola, pulse crops and oats. They do that already. They are also capable of marketing their wheat and barley.
I was in the dentist chair a couple of weeks ago when an elderly farmer walked in and said, “Mr. Sorenson, my father told me that having that Wheat Board would be good for us. When I told my three sons, who are now farming, they said, 'Dad, that was yesterday's problem, just get out of the way and let us do it. We are not afraid of marketing our own wheat and barley'”.
Our government is committed to giving farmers marketing freedom; a choice that, yes, they want and they deserve. As the Prime Minister recently said in Regina, “Our government is committed to giving western grain farmers the freedom to choose how to market their products--something eastern grain farmers have long taken for granted. This is not only a matter of principle, it will also lead to real economic benefits, to opportunities for years to come. An open grain market will attract new investment, encourage innovation, and create new jobs for Canadians”.
That is a point on which many industry leaders agree.
Stephen Vandervalk, president of the Grain Growers of Canada, said:
Ending the Canadian Wheat Board’s monopoly is clearly sending a signal that Canada is open for business. Value-added processing means value-added jobs and more opportunities for farmers to locally market their wheat.
Brian Otto, president of the Western Barley Growers Association, said recently:
I see a future for investment in Western Canadian agriculture...Under this new commercial system I see job creation and the revitalization of rural communities.
Farmers in the market need clarity and certainty that marketing freedom and an open market is on the horizon.
An open market would attract investment. It would encourage innovation and create value-added jobs, which would build a stronger economy and which would build a stronger local economy in many of our smaller communities and in our rural communities across the west.
An open market for the grain industry would strengthen the farming sector with better returns for farmers and for Canada as a whole.
We have had a taste, a small taste, of things to come earlier this month, with an announcement of a new pasta plant opening in Regina that would buy local Canadian durum wheat from farmers and create local jobs.
This is only a beginning. I look forward to many grand openings throughout the constituency of Crowfoot and the west of value-added processing, value-added pasta plants, value-added industries beginning in our rural communities. Marketing freedom would unlock new value-added investment, new jobs and new growth for Canada's economy.
The time is right for action. Canada's farmers grow world-class food in a global marketplace that is ripe with opportunity.
Our government will seize this opportunity for farmers. Our government will give farmers the marketing freedom they want and the marketing freedom that they deserve. Our government will free our farmers so they can continue to drive our economy and to feed the world.
Let me conclude by saying this. My grandfather moved to the place where I live, Killiam, Alberta, in 1905-06. For all those years, right up until he passed away in 1986, he farmed. I wish I could be like the member who spoke earlier who talked about the grandfather always having this fight. That was not the case with my grandfather. My grandfather said, “These are the rules. We'll abide by the rules. The Wheat Board is there. There's nothing we can do about it”. He did not really step up and say, “Let's change this”, although he was involved in municipal politics for 30 years.
This was never a driving force. However, over the years, less and less land got planted with wheat, less and less with barley, and there was just this drift into more and more canola, more and more pulse crops, and more and more of many of those other crops that were out of the Wheat Board's ability to market.
Canadian farmers have been voting with their air drills. They have been voting with what they are going to seed on their land. They have been putting in less and less wheat and more and more of the other crops. It is time we also allow them the ability to vote on this issue with their grain trucks and let them decide where they take their grain and to whom they market it.
The Canadian Wheat Board, at one point, was the largest marketing agent in Canada. It has now slipped to number three, behind Viterra and Cargill. Farmers across the west realize that there are more opportunities than ever before to sell their grain and they look forward to the opportunity to have the freedom to do so.