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House of Commons Hansard #35 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was board.

Topics

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The Chair can only comment on things that happen within the chamber in these types of instances.

Legislation to Reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board--Speaker's RulingPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the question of privilege raised on October 18, 2011 by the member for Malpeque concerning the admissibility of Bill C-18, An Act to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board and to make consequential and related amendments to certain Acts.

I would like to thank the member for having raised this matter, as well as the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, the Minister of State and Chief Government Whip, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House, and the members for Guelph and Winnipeg North for their interventions.

In raising his question of privilege, the member for Malpeque stated that the government had violated a provision of an existing statute by having introduced Bill C-18 without having previously allowed grain producers to vote on any changes to the structure and mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board as is required in section 47.1 of the existing Canadian Wheat Board Act.

In doing so, he claimed:

...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.

The member for Malpeque explained that he was not asking the Speaker to rule on the legality of section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act, but rather whether his privileges were violated as a result of the government introducing legislation he claimed contravened an existing statute passed by Parliament.

The government House leader countered that the Chair was in fact being asked to make a ruling on a matter of law by interpreting provisions of a statute, despite the well-established practice that it is not for the Chair to rule on legal or constitutional matters.

He also challenged the member for Malpeque's contention that section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act rendered the consideration of Bill C-18 unlawful, arguing that such an interpretation was tantamount to asserting that the enactment of a statute could fetter the House's consideration of future legislation.

He suggested it:

...would result in a delegation of the ability of this Parliament to make decisions to individuals outside of...Parliament, effectively giving them the power to legislate the law of this land rather than Parliament--

He emphasized that Parliament is free to consider whatever legislation it sees fit, including legislation to amend existing statutes.

In addressing this very point, Peter Hogg's Constitutional Law of Canada, Fifth Edition, Volume 1, on page 352, notes:

Not only may the Parliament or a Legislature, acting within its allotted sphere of competence, make any law it chooses, it may repeal any of its earlier laws. Even if the Parliament or Legislature purported to provide that a particular law was not to be repealed or altered, this provision would not be effective to prevent a future Parliament or Legislature from repealing or amending the “protected” law.

This citation rightfully underscores Parliament's continued right to legislate.

The government House leader also spoke to the role of the Speaker in preparing rulings, and quoted from House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, at page 261. For the benefit of the House, I would like to cite the full passage, which reads:

Finally, while Speakers must take the Constitution and statutes into account when preparing a ruling, numerous Speakers have explained that it is not up to the Speaker to rule on the “constitutionality” or “legality” of measures before the House.

The footnote to this citation, footnote 75 on page 261, refers to an April 9, 1991 ruling by Speaker Fraser at pages 19233 and 19234 of Debates, in which the Speaker ruled that the Chair must avoid interpreting, even indirectly, the Constitution, or a statute. This is a well-entrenched practice that remains in force today and to which I alluded when this matter was first raised on October 18, 2011.

Accordingly, it is important to delineate clearly between interpreting legal provisions of statutes—which is not within the purview of the Chair—and ensuring the soundness of the procedures and practices of the House when considering legislation—which, of course, is the role of the Chair.

The hon. member for Malpeque has offered the House his interpretation of a law, in this case section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act. He has concluded that the government has not respected its provisions and is therefore precluded from proceeding with Bill C-18. For my part, like my predecessors, when faced with similar situations, I must decline to follow the hon. member's example. It is not for the Chair to interpret the meaning of section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act. I have confined my review of the matter to its purely procedural aspects.

Having carefully reviewed the submissions on this matter, I must conclude that, while the member for Malpeque may feel aggrieved by the government's approach and by its introduction of Bill C-18, there has been no evidence offered that the government's actions in this case have in any way undermined the ability of the member to fulfill his parliamentary functions.

Therefore, the Chair cannot find that either the introduction of Bill C-18 or the fact that members are being asked to consider the bill constitutes a prima facie question of privilege.

I thank all members for their attention.

The House resumed consideration of the motion 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, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-18. However, I am disheartened by the method the government is using to kill the Canadian Wheat Board and deny farmers their legitimate say in the process. This attack on a Canadian institution that was placed under farmer control in 1997 I believe is unprecedented in Canadian history.

We see many countries around the world moving to democracy, some as a result of support received from the Canadian military, yet here at home we see the very principle of democracy being taken away under the iron fist of this regime. The government is violating a law passed in Parliament. It is denying farmers the right to a vote that was established in law at one point in time as well as eliminating the ability to use access to information a little further down the road. Also, the minister, and his parliamentary secretary specifically, have violated their oaths of office. As well, there has been an unbelievable amount of misinformation and propaganda about the Canadian Wheat Board and its farmer-elected directors by this particular regime.

For quite a while we have seen this taking place by the government. Since it came into power in 2006, it has set out on a concerted attack against the board.

It fired directors who were appointed by the previous government specifically to further the efforts of primary producers around the world. They were experts in international law and marketing. They were replaced by government toadies whose objective in life was to destroy the board while working within it.

Against the wishes of the Canadian Wheat Board's elected board of directors, the government fired its former CEO, Adrian Meisner, who was working on the farmers' behalf. It put a gag order on the Wheat Board.

When farmers were to elect directors to the Wheat Board's board of directors, in every election the constituency offices of government members were used to spread propaganda against the Wheat Board in an effort to have anti-board directors elected. This failed every time because eight out of ten of the directors were in fact pro board.

If this was happening anywhere else in the world, some would suggest that we send in the military. That is how I feel about it.

These actions go well beyond the Wheat Board. Canadians should be concerned. This has happened to one law in one institution using the methods by which the government operates. However, the denial of legitimate rights to one group is an infringement on the rights of all.

I just cannot imagine how backbenchers in that party can sit there and not speak up. I asked a question of the member for Crowfoot earlier today as to why he does not quote those who are opposed to what the government is doing. We are receiving many calls from producers who tell us that the response they have received from Conservative members is that there is a difference in ideology and that they do not want to talk to them. Elected members of Parliament have a responsibility to all constituents, not just to the Prime Minister who seems to be their boss and is destroying the Canadian Wheat Board based on ideology.

In this instance, we are talking about orderly marketing. The same principles that allow for orderly marketing, i.e., through the Canadian Wheat Board's function, make supply management possible.

The same principles that allow single desk marketing to function on the Prairies are the same principles that apply in terms of maple syrup and beef in the province of Quebec. A similar principle applies to collective bargaining for unions.

In this case, the government is denying the rights of the majority, as was clearly spelled out in the vote that was held by the Canadian Wheat Board itself. Eight out of ten of the farm-elected directors oppose what the government is doing and 62% of producers oppose what the government is doing. What I find amazing is that others, like supply management groups, fail to speak out in the Wheat Board's defence.

I am going to ask this very directly. Is it the fear of the jackboots approval of the government that makes others voiceless in this country? Is it the fear that if supply management speaks out against what the government is doing to the Canadian Wheat Board, it will feel the wrath of the government? Where is the farm leadership in terms of support of the Wheat Board? Supply management tells us privately that it supports orderly marketing and opposes what the government is doing, but it fails to speak out.

My question to the backbenchers over there is this. When they have an issue or a law that they are concerned about, who will stand up for them when their time comes and the government, based on ideology, wants to target them rather than somebody else?

The minister in this case is selling out to United States grain interests. What is he doing? What is the minister actually doing for Canadian farmers? Let us again look specifically at the bill. Bill C-18 begins from the premise of denying farmers their legal right to determine their own future. If the government believed it had the support of the majority of farmers, a plebiscite would have been held under section 47.1, as the legislation demands.

Who is the Minister of Agriculture really working for? Bear in mind that United States grain interests have accused the Canadian Wheat Board under United States and international trade laws of trading unfairly on 14 different occasions. The United States has lost every time. I submit that the Minister of Agriculture is serving up the Canadian Wheat Board to those United States interests on a silver platter.

An economist working with the office of the chief economist of the U.S. department of agriculture, with regard to the United States' efforts to challenge the Wheat Board, stated the following:

The U.S. wheat industry has persistently claimed that the CWB is able to undercut commercially offered export prices in select markets or sell higher-quality wheat at discounted prices, but can offer only limited anecdotal evidence to support those claims.

In fact, it has no claims.

The Canadian Wheat Board sells as a single desk seller and prevents the deterioration of the lowest sellers setting the price and through the Canadian Wheat Board, it is the highest seller, maximizing returns in the marketplace back to primary producers. The Canadian Wheat Board has shown that time and time again, but the minister is selling out to United States interests and farmers will be the losers.

In a May 26, 2011 statement supporting the elimination of the CWB, the United States wheat associates acknowledged the elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board could, “initially mean more Canadian wheat moving to parts of the United States...However, the huge price incentive that currently drives that desire would dissipate very quickly”. The president of the United States wheat associates had this to say on an earlier occasion on the elimination of the Canadian Wheat Board, “There could be opportunities created for U.S. farmers to access markets in Canada and we can access the transportation systems as well”.

Further, a study prepared for United States Senator Kent Conrad stated, “If the CWB's single desk authority is eliminated...the United States may become more competitive in offshore markets.

That same report also found that by eliminating the Canadian Wheat Board:

The U.S. and Canadian markets would become more integrated without the CWB. It would be possible for multinational grain companies to buy wheat in Canada and export it from U.S. ports.

The bottom line is, clearly, this is a bill that would give advantages to American producers, takes advantages away from Canadian producers, gives advantages to the multinational grain trade, and Canadian farmers would be the losers. The government is doing that, imposing that on Canadian farmers without allowing farmers their right to vote under the law.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member has made a lot about the vote that was taken, or plebiscite, I should say, by the Wheat Board. Even the Wheat Board itself admits that this should not be taken as representative of all farmers. Many farmers in my riding did not receive a ballot. This vote was not a legitimate vote.

In fact, this weekend, we took a straw poll in my riding of 20 farmers. We did not select these farmers. This was a random sample.

I wonder if the member would comment on the fact that not one of those farmers wanted to maintain the status quo. Every one of the 20 who were called wanted to have choice. That is what is happening on the ground.

That vote was not representative because many farmers did not receive a ballot who should have received a ballot.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. If the member really believes what he is getting in his straw polls, then why does this law and order party not abide by the laws that are on the books?

I find it amazing that the Minister of Agriculture and several colleagues, obviously with speaking notes from the PMO, stood and talked about the fact that the Canadian Wheat Board was designed in 1943 and that there have been no changes since.

Yes, there were. In 1997, the board was changed to include 10 farmer elected directors, time at a time, and by the way it includes the director in the parliamentary secretary's riding who is pro-board. They win 8 out of 10 every time. That is 80%.

The minister has the right under the act, has the responsibility under the act, to hold a vote, and the government fails to do it.

If they are people of their convictions, then allow that vote to be held and let us see where the chips fall. We will support what producers want, if it is done by way of a legal plebiscite.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have read in The Economist statements that have been made about the deterioration of small farms in western Canada, along with it the deterioration of small economies in smaller towns and villages in western Canada.

Then we read in The Wall Street Journal how it is heralding the opportunities that dismantling Wheat Board would give large Canadian and international grain companies which would now be sucking the profits out of farmers out west and keeping them for themselves and their shareholders.

I wonder if the member for Malpeque would express any concern he might have for western Canadian small farms and communities.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that there is a concern for western farmers, western wheat and barley growers, as a result of this particular legislation.

There have been statements after statements made by grain companies, by directors of grain companies, and Viterra believes its shares are going to go up. The U. S. wheat associates is very pleased with what is happening. This is going to be a gain-gain for the grain multinationals of the world.

The Canadian Wheat Board has been the vehicle that has been willing to challenge the railways. It has been able to glean money back from the railways that goes back to primary producers. Who is going to stand up for producers against the railways when the Wheat Board is gone? It has the economic power to stand up against them. The winners will be the railways. I maintain we will see loss of producer cars and short line railways over four or five years. The international grain corporate sector is going to be gaining and the losses are going to be the primary producers.

Just who is the minister working for?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to speak to the changes that we are making to the marketing of wheat and barley in western Canada.

The member for Malpeque, who just spoke, has had the opportunity his entire farming career to market outside of the Canadian Wheat Board because of his location in this country. Unfortunately, my constituents and my family have never had the opportunity to capitalize on market situations not only domestically but around the world and take advantage of those opportunities and put those dollars directly into their own pockets.

This has been an extremely divisive issue in my riding of Selkirk--Interlake, and a lot of that is because of the fear and smear that has been spread by the opposition and by the Wheat Board directors themselves. It is really unfortunate because we market all sorts of other crops, like oil seeds, and we do not have these types of divisive debates over whether or not farmers have the right to sell their own products.

It is completely unacceptable that in a democracy individuals in a certain region of Canada do not have property rights over their own personal property, that they are subjected to an organization that has been empowered by the Government of Canada to take away their production and market it for them, whether they like it or not.

I have many friends who are farmers. I am a farmer myself, although I have never been a wheat farmer, and I put that out there right now. I am a cattle producer. However, my family does grow wheat and barley and other commodities.

This has been a divisive issue. I have said throughout this whole debate that some of my friends support the monopoly at the Wheat Board and some are against it. On this issue, I stand with my friends. What I mean by that is that farmers on both sides of this issue have things that are important to them from a personal perspective.

I have talked to farmers over the last several years since I have been a member of Parliament and before that when I was in farm politics for several years. I have always made the point that the Wheat Board, in its new format, has to be there for those producers who still want to collectively market their product, who want to pool their resources. This legislation would do just that.

My father and my brother are farmers. They are organic producers. Because they grow organic crops, the Wheat Board has never been a viable option for them to truly capitalize on the market opportunities that exist in the organic industry. They can sell directly their oats, their flax, their organic canola, but when it comes to wheat, they have to sell it through the Wheat Board. So, for years my father and my brother have not grown organic wheat because the premiums in the marketplace are removed from them and subjected to the pool, so they can never profit from it.

However, there is the buyback option. The member for Malpeque is going to jump in and say they can buy it back. They can buy it back at the price being offered in the marketplace. They sell it at a commodity price to the Wheat Board and then buy it back at the premium value as an organic commodity. There is absolutely no advantage of being able to move that market directly to the consumer. It is wrong.

This legislation would provide those producers in my riding and across western Canada who want to be involved in the Canadian Wheat Board with a great opportunity. The government is still going to support the new voluntary Wheat Board. The government is going to underwrite the pool accounts. The government is still going to help set initial prices. The Canadian Wheat Board fund is going to be moved over into the new voluntary Canadian Wheat Board.

The producer cars that the Wheat Board always took credit for are still going to remain with the Canadian Grain Commission. It will ensure that producer cars are available to farmers who want to ship directly.

I am a huge fan of the Port of Churchill. Our government is going to ensure that the Port of Churchill receives up to $5 million per year over the next five years to help it deal with any losses it may incur if there is a reduction in the volume of wheat and barley shipped through the port. More important, the Port of Churchill's future is going to depend upon the voluntary Canadian wheat board making use of that port and opening up new railway opportunities, such as the Hudson Bay rail line in northern Saskatchewan that CN Rail is now abandoning.

That line has been out of service for about 20 years and unfortunately it has not moved grain from northern Saskatchewan through the Wheat Board position at Port of Churchill. That in itself is a savings of $7 per tonne in shipment for each and every farmer in northern Saskatchewan if they can capitalize through the Wheat Board on making use of the Port of Churchill.

My colleague from Yorkton—Melville just made this point about the Wheat Board plebiscite. The question on that plebiscite is whether every producer had the right to exercise a vote in that plebiscite. So many producers over the last 10 years have walked away from the Wheat Board and have grown alternative commodities so they do not have to deal with the Wheat Board. Those farmers were never given an opportunity to vote.

The other thing that is really skewed in the whole process is that we never had all the opportunities or all possibilities on the ballot. It said “Do you support the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board, yes or no?” It never mentioned “Do you support a voluntary Canadian wheat board?” If we talked to most of those producers who supported the Canadian Wheat Board on that plebiscite question, most would say that they would support a voluntary Canadian wheat board, especially one that has the built-in safety net that we are providing from the Government of Canada.

We do not have a clear question. We do not know who really had a chance to vote. Not everyone had an opportunity in the agriculture industry to vote in the plebiscite. We know in the fundamentals of democracy the one thing true in the House of Commons is that we respect the minority position. Because we won government, we do not make every Canadian and every member in the House of Commons become a Conservative. We do not do that because we need to have a robust opposition. However, under the Wheat Board plebiscite, it is all or nothing according to the board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board. This means that farmers, whether they support the Wheat Board or not, have to become a component of the Wheat Board monopoly, or some people might say dictatorship. That is not the right way to do business.

Aside from respecting the minority position of farmers in western Canada, there is the whole issue of respect for personal property rights. That is a key fundamental value of any democracy anywhere in the world.

Aside from questions around the plebiscite, the questions around whether producers want or do not want a monopoly or a volunteer wheat board, we have to look at this from the whole aspect of agronomics, the dollars, the opportunities and the increased value of products that can be produced in the prairie region. Farmers are finally allowed to make true market-based decisions on what they can find in the marketplace. Under the bill, they would have the opportunity to be free to contract directly with buyers, processors and grow the exact varieties that they need. I hear from maltsters and millers that they would love to contract directly with farmers to grow certain varieties. Through the Wheat Board process that is extremely limited.

This will also engage farmers who have opted out of the monopoly of the Wheat Board to now re-enter the marketplace because they have the freedom and the ability to market and risk manage their own commodities. They do it already with oilseeds, with coarse grains, with pulse and other specialty crops. Now they can take that expertise and apply it to growing and marketing wheat and barley for export. They can contract specific varieties or contract specific months of delivery, pricing options, bases options with various companies out there.

This will provide more value-added activity. We are already seeing that with the announcement of the new durum milling plant in Regina. We have already experienced this my home province of Manitoba when we took oats outside of the Wheat Board. Can-Oat Milling setup and developed a great new mill. It has increased the number of acres of oats grown in Manitoba by over 250,000 acres. This is just one plant having that type of impact in one province.

The agronomics is great. It is good for crop rotation and people can make better decisions that way.

This has been a divisive issue, but all the farmers out there, their friends and neighbours do not have these types of battles over their other commodities. At the end of the day, they will still be friends and neighbours with a voluntary Canadian wheat board.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the idea that the voluntary wheat board could operate is nothing but government hypocrisy. The fact is the board is moving. The government, through this bill, would fire the farmer-elected directors, who were elected by the farm community, and it would either appoint or leave in place its appointed toadies from the last board, one of which the agriculture committee had said was not qualified to do the job.

The member talks about the Wheat Board. The Wheat Board has asked for several things, and I would ask the member if the government is willing to provide them all. It has asked for $225 million in capital to finance grain inventories, financing and borrowing guarantees, $200 million to fund a risk reserve to back-stop cooling, guaranteed access to elevators and port facilities and regulated authority to direct farmers' grain to the right port. That is what the elected board of directors has asked for, and the government is only providing guarantees.

Why has the government chosen, once again, to ignore what the elected board of directors of the Canadian Wheat Board is saying is required for this voluntary board to work? Is it just a farce, or what?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Malpeque is the biggest naysayer and cheerleader for complete defeatism in western Canada. I cannot believe the rhetoric that he continues to spew.

If we can believe the plebiscite and 62% of producers believe in the Canadian Wheat Board, then which organization would not want to stand and say that it would go out there, work with them and sell their wheat and barley? Sixty-two per cent of the people endorse the idea of collectively pooling resources and moving ahead. Therefore, there is a great opportunity out there for a voluntary wheat board. There is a basis of where we could start from and build upon. There is an opportunity for it to prove to those who do not support the Canadian Wheat Board that it can do the job.

There will be opportunities for the Canadian Wheat Board to sign shipper deals with railways, to sign deliveries through different elevator terminals. Most of the elevator terminals we have in western Canada are proud, Canadian-owned entities. Those terminals do not want to give up on the marketing of the Wheat Board through their facilities. They want those elevation tariffs. They want to be able to work with their local producers because those producers deliver wheat as well as other commodities. They would have an obligation and responsibility to work with the local farmers and a new voluntary wheat board to get the job done.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had an exchange with the hon. member for Peace River and I have gone back to check that indeed the Wheat Board will allow for sales of organic wheat. I agree the Wheat Board will not go out of its way to help farmers sell organic wheat, but it is possible to do a single contract. The buyback paperwork is a bit of a hassle, but they are able to sell organic wheat at a premium price.

How does the hon. member distinguish how we treat western farmers from what happened to the Ontario Wheat Producers Marketing Board, also started back in the 1950s? There was a plebiscite and a two-thirds majority vote of those Ontario wheat farmers is why they are not covered by a marketing board. Why is the government applying a different standard to the western Canadian hard wheat farmers?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I can tell members that our personal experience on my family farm is that the Wheat Board is extremely oppressive when it comes down to dealing with it with organic wheat. We do not get the premium because of the buyback, the paperwork and the associated costs. Even though the wheat never leaves the producers' yard, it is still stuck in their bins. They still have to pay the transportation costs as if it is going to port position. Those are dollars the producers lose automatically even though we will have contracts with millers and organic food processors who are actually FOB in the yard. They are paying the trucking costs, not my dad, my brother or other organic farmers. That is why there is such a discrepancy and why producers in the organic industry do not appreciate Canadian Wheat Board one way or the other.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the debate for several days and there is really nothing new coming up here. I am going to speak primarily for those who are watching via television because some of the discussion here may not be relevant to them and they may not understand it. I am going to start by relating a couple of stories.

A young farmer in my area grew some high quality wheat. It was over 13.5% protein. Wheat of course is the main ingredient in bread and pasta and wheat ground into flour is part of the diet of many people around the world. This farmer wanted to get as high a return as possible for his grain. Like many entrepreneurs, he went to the Internet and he found a flour mill in Ontario that wanted his excellent high quality wheat.

Farmers go to great lengths to maximize the quality of their product and, in this case, producing high protein wheat that lends itself well to making good quality bread. The higher the protein content, the better bread it makes.

The farmer made all the arrangements to deliver his wheat to the mill in Ontario, which really wanted his grain. Somehow the Canadian Wheat Board heard about it and put a stop to the transaction. This cost the farmer dearly and impacted hugely on his operation. He was then forced to sell this wheat to the only entity that was allowed to buy it, the Canadian Wheat Board.

That is a very fundamental violation of property rights. He does not own his own wheat. He can buy it back from the Canadian Wheat Board and then sell it to the flour mill in Ontario, but he has to accept the price that the Wheat Board sets. He also has to pay the freight from his farm all the way to Thunder Bay, Ontario, before he can take legal ownership of a product which he took all the risk and cost of growing.

He has to pay those transportation costs although he does not incur them and he has to accept the price of the Canadian Wheat Board. Those transportation costs are the highest costs per acre that a farmer incurs and he has absolutely no control over that cost. A farmer has to pay the railroad costs even though he or she does not use it if the product is marketed through the Canadian Wheat Board. The farmer has no choice. I want viewers who are watching this to be aware of that. It is unbelievable but it is true. Guess why this farmer wants marketing freedom?

Let me tell people another true story to illustrate why farmers need choice. This story comes from Manitoba and again it involves a young farmer who grew wheat for sale on his farm. Due to some adverse weather conditions, a little too much moisture possibly and other conditions, a fungus invaded his crop and he produced a small percentage of black kernels, which made wheat of a lower quality. The Canadian Wheat Board refused to buy it.

Out of desperation, this farmer sought and found a buyer in the U.S. that wanted his wheat. He loaded up the grain and began hauling it to this market. When stopped at the border and asked what he was doing, he explained the situation. He said because he could not sell his grain in Canada, he would go broke. He was told by Canadian authorities, not U.S. authorities, that he could not do that.

The iron curtain for prairie wheat farmers came down hard. This iron curtain surrounds the farmers of the Prairies. It does not allow them to send their bread wheat to Vancouver, to Ontario or to the U.S.

The young farmer, who had grain the Wheat Board refused to buy, was sent to prison. He was literally put into leg irons and chains. He was strip searched. He was humiliated beyond belief in front of his wife and children. He was made an example of by the authorities so no one else would attempt to sell their wheat.

I invite people to read the story of this young farmer. I farmed in partnership with my brother. This story just tore at my heartstrings. This young farmer's entire operation was completely destroyed because it depended on the sale of that wheat.

Canadians might find that hard to believe, but it happened in Canada, and it is still happening today.

I have a farmer in my area who has a large quantity of wheat. The Wheat Board refuses to buy it. He cannot sell it. The iron curtain that prevents this farmer from having marketing choice, from owning his own product and having the rights other Canadians enjoy, has come down on him as well.

We can have a strong Canadian Wheat Board. This debate has often been twisted to mean that we are out to destroy the board. No. If the board wishes, it could become a very strong board, in my opinion. This debate is about giving farmers a choice. The Wheat Board, if it wishes to remain a co-operative for those farmers who want to use its services, could expand, and it might include all kinds of other commodities. I can see huge potential for it. It could be a very strong marketing agency.

Let us remember that the Wheat Board is using farmers' money to protect its monopoly. It is courting opposition MPs, portraying this issue to them as a threat to dairy farmers, as we just heard, and as a threat to egg producers and chicken and turkey ranchers and to other industries. This is pure baloney sausage--BS, for short. There is absolutely no connection between the two.

It has been portrayed as a takeover by large corporations. If people are speaking to someone who does know what we are talking about and does not understand agriculture today, they can use that line. However, farmers do not just grow the one crop, wheat. There are many other non-board crops that are sold to private companies, and they would be sold in exactly the same way. Canola is a good example.

I have also heard the argument that this is going to hurt family farms. If we scratch below the surface on that issue, how will giving farmers a choice change that? Again, it is a completely bogus argument. It is pure baloney sausage. Wheat producers who follow worldwide commodity prices could sometimes get from $1 to $2 per bushel for their bread wheat. That could mean the difference between running a profit or a loss.

Another aspect of the board that many do not realize is that because of the structure of the pooling system, farmers who are part of it, meaning that everybody gets the same price, often have to wait a year or a year and a half for their final payment. In the meantime, these farmers incur huge costs for raising their crop, including fertilizer, fuel, various chemicals, transportation, machinery costs and repairs. Farmers need that cash flow, yet they are forced to wait. It just does not make sense.

Some time ago I used an illustration, and I will bring it up again at this point. It just shows how unfair this is. I am going to propose a new kind of board, and people can think about it in the context of what we are doing. I would like to propose a board for those who are defending the system. Under this board, which I will call a “lawyer board”, the rules and the principles would be the same as what farmers have to follow under the Wheat Board. This board would only apply to lawyers in Quebec and Ontario, and they could not deal directly with their clients, who would have to deal only with those lawyers whom the board said they could deal with. They would not be able to charge fees on how hard they work or the quality of the job; they would all be paid the same as every other lawyer.

When I proposed this idea some time ago, people over on the other side began to be livid. They were angry. If they had to wait a year for some of their revenue or their final payment, they would be extremely upset. In fact, we could try this with some other things. It shows how blatantly unfair it is to deny farmers their property rights.

We do not need more of this iron curtain stuff; we need to bring down the iron curtain that separates prairie farmers and barley producers from the freedom other Canadians enjoy.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, when the member talks about baloney sausage, he makes it sound as though it is just the opposition or just a few board members who are opposed to the dismantling of the single desk system. In fact, there are protests over the demise of the board going on across our western provinces now; they started on Friday and they are continuing this week.

The member only need look at The Economistor the The Wall Street Journal. They speak of the profits that large Canadian grain companies are going to suddenly make, and they are not going to make those profits because they are going sell the wheat for more: they are going to make them because they will be taking the profits from the farmers. In fact, Viterra's shares spiked when Canadians found out that the Wheat Board would be gone shortly. Alliance Grain Traders is suddenly going to open up a pasta-making plant. Why? I propose it is because it knows it will get its grain for a cheaper price.

I ask this simple question: why does the hon. member not look at those facts, instead of the ideology that he is basing his decision on?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, this is an example of what I was talking about. There is no focus on property rights. There is no focus on the rights of individual farmers to control their product and market it as they wish. This is a bogus argument.

How is wheat different from canola? The member did not address that, nor has any other member on that side indicated how farmers' marketing of wheat would be different from that of canola. I submit that there is very little difference.

These grain companies enjoy marketing canola, and the majority of farmers would not want to go back to a wheat board situation in which canola would be controlled in the same way. I think that is one of the best arguments to indicate that what the member is saying is bogus.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech and his long-time effort to free western Canadian wheat growers from the shackles of their mandatory requirement to sell through the Canadian Wheat Board.

The hon. member just mentioned that there is not much of a difference between canola and wheat. I would assert that there is a difference currently for western Canadian grain farmers. Western Canadian grain farmers currently get the world price for canola. That is the product they are marketing themselves through enterprises that they choose. On the flip side, they do not get the world price for wheat: they get less.

I am curious if the hon. member could tell me why it is that intelligent, strong, business-minded farmers are able to get the world price for canola, which they sell in the free market, but are not able to get the world price for the wheat produced on the same farms as their canola.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I apologize if the message came out differently from what I intended. I wanted to explain to everyone that the marketing of wheat would be no different than the marketing of canola once we give farmers a choice. That is what I was trying to indicate, and I appreciate the clarification. These farmers would have the same choice with wheat as they now have with canola, and they would be able to reap the world price for their product.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the opposition parties pretend that they oppose marketing freedom because they are defending democracy or something. However, when the Liberal government passed legislation allowing same-sex marriage without a referendum, they said it was on the correct principle of our democracy being founded on the principle of protecting minorities against the majority. When the NDP was asked why the postal union did not allow members to vote on the strike or the negotiations, NDP members said it was on the correct principle that we elect representatives to deliberate on our behalf and that not holding a referendum does not contradict democracy.

Can the hon. member explain how the proposed legislation is the fairest, most just way to allow each and every farmer not only to vote for their preference, but to get what they vote for regardless of whether they vote in favour of or against co-operation, regardless of what their neighbour votes for?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Yorkton—Melville may give a short answer, please.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could give a short answer.

I think the member makes a very good point. It is self-evident, and I do not think I need to comment more on it. It is obvious that with choice, these things will happen.

One thing I have not heard many people mention is that the board is supposed to report to the agriculture minister on a regular basis and that it has to answer his questions. This has not happened once. It has not reported to him. He has sought information on its marketing practices, the prices that farmers are getting and so on. If it did not have anything to hide, it would be willing to report to our minister.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

The minister made that comment the other day. The Wheat Board reports in an annual report every year. The board has said itself that it has reported.

Why does that member, his minister and the parliamentary secretary continue to provide misinformation to this House and Canadians?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, that is not what I was talking about. I was saying that the minister has asked the board questions about its pricing practices, and the board does not answer.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to know how to use the 10 minutes allocated for this stage of the debate, but let me begin by saying there are many times in the House of Commons when reasonable people can reasonably disagree, and this is one of them. This is one of those cases where the farming community is divided. We do not know if it is 60:40 or 40:60 because there has not been, by the government's accounting, a fair test of the actual will of the people.

What we do know is that there has been no empirical evidence whatsoever presented by the government to convince our side of the argument, which I argue is a perfectly legitimate point of view. The government has not presented any paperwork, documentation or business case as to why or if farmers will be better off. It tells us over and over again that farmers will be better off, but it is anecdotal. It is much like my colleague just said. He did a straw poll of 20 farmers in his riding and all 20 of them said they wanted to get rid of the Wheat Board. That is not very scientific when there are some 75,000 prairie farmers producing grain. We do not have the tools we need to do our job. If we are going to have a reasonable debate, we would all benefit from the same base level of information.

We have empirical evidence. We have 75 years of evidence that says the Canadian Wheat Board has served farmers well and provided the best possible price at the minimum possible risk for farmers in an inherently unstable industry. We have asked the government to produce something, anything, to support its contention. In the absence of any documentation, business plan or cost benefit analysis, we can only assume that no such documentation exists. This leads me to the conclusion that it is a reckless and irresponsible action on the part of government to undertake such a comprehensive change in the way the rural prairie farm economy does business without so much as a business plan.

The government accuses us of all kinds of things, but nobody in his or her right mind would dismantle a successful $6 billion a year corporation without an impact study, a business plan and some justification and documentation as to why and if it will be better. We have heard nothing. To add insult to injury, not only has there been no evidence, no documentation and no proof, other than the notion and the whim of some self-interested Conservative members of Parliament who in fact farm grain themselves and who, I will argue later in my speech, are in a direct conflict of interest, now the Conservatives have even shut down debate. They have moved closure so that we will not be able to do our due diligence.

It is our job as members of Parliament to analyze, assess and test the merits of legislation put before us with reasoned debate, but we are not going to have that opportunity. A lot of people do not realize that the Conservatives pulled a fast one regarding the committee. Instead of sending the bill to the agriculture committee or even the international trade committee, they are sending it to a special legislative committee, which, by some happy coincidence, is not allowed to bring in witnesses other than technical witnesses to talk about the technical details of the bill.

Nowhere in the study at the committee stage will farmers be brought in to discuss the merits of the bill. The committee will only be able to discuss what various sections of the legislation actually do. That does not help members with hearing witnesses about whether or not they like using the Canadian Wheat Board. At no point in this process will we be discussing the merits of this sweeping, profound and permanent change the legislation contemplates in the way prairie farmers market their grain.

I have some quotes which I think members will find interesting. It seems almost everybody, except the Conservatives present, recognizes that the Canadian Wheat Board has been a net advantage to prairie farmers.

Robert Carlson, president of the North Dakota Farmers Union, said that he is convinced the Wheat Board earned Canadian farmers big premiums compared to U.S. prices and that the end of the monopoly will further weaken North American farmers and give more control to the giant multinationals. He said that it has been consistently true that the Canadian Wheat Board has earned more money for Canadian farmers.

Americans have been aware that the Wheat Board is an advantage for years. That is why they filed 13 separate trade complaints at the GATT and the WTO claiming that it is such an advantage to farmers it constitutes an unfair trade practice. Thirteen times they lost.

Alan Tracy, president of the U.S. Wheat Associates, said that the elimination of the single desk would leave a void in farmer advocacy, market development, customer support, export promotion, and quality assurance.

Listen to what the president of the Canadian National Millers Association said:

The CNMA knows of no research or evidence that demonstrates or even suggests that tinkering with the Canadian Wheat Board's mandate will create new North American market demand and opportunities for Canadian wheat flour millers.

He went on to say:

We do not anticipate the ultimate survival of the CWB without its current single-desk authority.

It kind of puts to lie this myth that the voluntary wheat board can survive when we all know this is chimera. He went on to say:

And we are certain that the CWB will not continue to be a reliable, full-service supplier to the Canadian wheat milling industry under those circumstances [of a dual market].

Perhaps one of the most revealing quotes we came across was by one of these big agrifood industry giants that will be the ones that will benefit. Our contention is, and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary I believe it should hold, this particular action would takes hundreds of millions of dollars out of the pockets of prairie farmers and put them into the pockets of the shareholders of the agrifood giants, one of whom I will now quote. We all know Mr. Paterson, a Winnipeg grain giant. We have seen the Paterson stamp on all kinds of grain elevators all across the Prairies:

“We’ll do better than we do now,” says Mr. Paterson...whose family firm has climbed to more than $1-billion in annual revenues. “Our best years were in the time before the wheat board,” and that pattern should reassert itself, he says.

They are salivating. He is being quite controlled and temperate in his comments, but behind closed doors they are salivating and wringing their hands with glee that finally they can return to the bad old days of the 1920s and the 1930s. They could gouge Canadian farmers mercilessly when they owned the industry, when they owned the whole food supply chain, from the seed in the ground to the final finished product on the store shelves. They want it all. They want that vertical integration. They are going to gouge farmers, and that is how they are going to get it.

I have done some research on what the prices were like in the years when they had a single desk and the years when they did not; in the years when they had the five-year wheat pool and the years when the pool was gone; in the years when they had a voluntary wheat board and in the years when the single desk Wheat Board came in, in 1943. We studied these things. We have the graphs, the charts and the empirical evidence to draw from. The Conservatives have produced nothing, not a single word in support of their arguments, but the anecdotal whim and notions of a minister who is deluded and obsessed and who came here for one reason and one reason alone and that is to abolish the Canadian Wheat Board.

We are dealing with people who are in a direct personal conflict of interest. If they had any honour and decency, they would abstain from this debate and they would recuse themselves from the vote, because they personally stand to gain from abolishing the Wheat Board, if they believe their rhetoric. They say that prairie farmers will get more money if they abolish the Wheat Board. If that is true, they should abstain from this debate and recuse themselves from the debate altogether. If one accepts, as our argument is, that they would not make more money, then why are the Conservatives turning the rural prairie farm economy upside down and on its head when they have no evidence whatsoever it would be at the advantage of Canadian prairie farmers?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Hillyer Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member insists that MPs who are prairie grain farmers refrain from voting and debating. It is not surprising since it is a fundamental doctrine of his ideology that big brother knows best and that those people who are actually impacted by these decisions, who have first-hand knowledge of these things, could not possibly be smart enough to govern themselves.