Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.
I stand in support of the motion tabled by the member for Churchill. It is a motion requesting the government to observe democracy and the rule of law, and I intend to address my comments in that direction.
The government is very fond of the use of euphemisms. We heard many euphemisms when it dealt with its Criminal Code bills, but the euphemism in this case, the use of the word “freedom”, which appears at least a dozen times in each of the speeches by government members, is an abuse of the term given the way it is moving forward in its legislation and the very nature of that legislation.
Before the government evolved from the Reform Party to the Canadian Alliance Party to the Conservative Party without the word “Progressive”, it was very fond of talking about and actually ran on a platform of transparency and grassroots democracy. Many of my constituents were drawn to and interested in the party when the members said that enough of those with money in central Canada making the decisions for the party. They said that it was time to have transparency and decision-making and to have a place at the table for Canadians who are directly affected.
Therefore, when the Conservatives stand and say that they are tabling this measure to essentially get rid of the Wheat Board by delisting wheat from the work of the Wheat Board and eventually phasing it out or, to use their favourite term, streamlining the Wheat Board, it is not freedom at all.
Why do I say that? Previously on this bill, I shared with the House information that was provided to me by the major national agricultural organizations in this country. The National Farmers Union very clearly said:
It is simply bad public policy to eliminate something as beneficial as the CWB. Why would [the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food] spend his time and our tax dollars to do something this harmful to our economy and farmers?
The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan advised that farmers vote for the Wheat Board. The president of that association said:
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.
He further stated that they are opposed to this move.
Wild Rose Agricultural Producers, Alberta's largest producer funded, general farm organization, very clearly opposes the government's move. It states:
WRAP has consistently maintained that farmers should be afforded meaningful consultation and involvement in any decisions that directly affect their livelihoods. The results of the CWB vote clearly demonstrate that western Canadian grain producers want to retain single desk marketing for their wheat and barley.
Prairie farmers deserve the same consideration as grain producers in Ontario and Quebec – the latitude to determine the fate of their marketing system. This plebiscite was coordinated by a reputable third party and the results are valid.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture also has decried the move by the government. The Federation of Agriculture stated:
The CFA believes the farmers’ voice in the single-desk issue should be formally represented and respected, as any change to the single-desk would directly impact the business plans and livelihoods of farmers across Western Canada.
While the government berates other nations around the world for not respecting democracy and, by the very definition of democracy, grassroots and giving those impacted by their decisions a voice, how can it call this freedom?
The next important point is the observance of rule of law. There are clear definitions through the United Nations. How does one define a democracy? How does one enter the United Nations. One agrees to and signs on to abide by the rule of law.
Astoundingly, in the House last week, in response to a question by the leader of the official opposition, the Prime Minister stood in the House and said:
...the law of our constitutional system is extremely clear. A previous government cannot bind a future government to its policy.
That is true. Any government has the right to table new legislation and to change the law of the land, but what the present government or any other government does not have the right to do is to thumb its nose at the law that is in place and in effect.
The law that is in place and in effect in this country under the Canadian Wheat Board Act, 1985, as amended, section 47.1, which has been pointed out a number of times in the House, is very clear. It is a very unusual provision in Canadian law to precisely impose a mandatory obligation on an official to consult before he or she makes a specific decision. This provision was added to the act. It was updated. In other words, this is not an outdated provision, which the government has tried to suggest. It has also tried to suggest that it is not keeping up with modern times. That provision specifically requires that a minister, before he or she decides to exclude any kind, type, class or grade of wheat or barley from the Wheat Board, must allow the producers of the grain to have voted in favour of the specific exclusion or extension.
In this House, we have heard over and over that the government's idea of democracy is, once every four years, maybe earlier if it breaks its fixed election act again, is all that counts. The Conservatives are asking us to delve into the mind of the Canadian voters and make up the reasons they voted. I would say that is not democracy. What is democracy and what is the rule of law is that the government must obey the law in effect and it has clearly violated that law.
The Conservatives' next argument is economics. What my question would be is economics for whom? We hear from farmer after farmer with concerns that this move may harm them. I need only remind the members in the House, particularly from Alberta, that that was a promise made by the Government of Alberta when it deregulated the delivery of electricity at the retail level. It said that we were not to worry, that it would deregulate, that there would be all this competition out there and we would get the cheapest electricity in Canada. When it deregulated, the costs quadrupled. Deregulation is not a route to protecting the equity and fairness to Canadians, and certainly not to farmers.
We have heard that the farmers support the direction in which the government is going. The hon. member for Peace River just shared with us that he consulted with his constituents. Perhaps he failed to talk to Nathan Macklin, a grain farmer from DeBolt, Alberta, who farms next door to the member's farm. He told me that he was extremely concerned about increased costs to his farming operation and the loss of a democratic organization that advocates for farmers. He had three specific concerns about increased costs.
First, the Canadian Wheat Board now enables farmers like him to load the grain directly on to producer cars, bypassing the high fees charge by elevators owned by the big grain companies.
Second, Canadian wheat is a high quality product and the Canadian Wheat Board is able to sell it at a better price to premium markets in Europe and Asia. These higher profits are passed back to the farmers.
Third, the Wheat Board can negotiate better transportation rates, something farmers are powerless to do on their own.
Where is the cost analysis for this farmer assuring him that by taking away the Canadian Wheat Board in this area it would enable him to do better?
The second farmer from central Alberta, Ken Larson, fourth generation Alberta grain farmer, has the same issues. He asks, “Why are we taking democracy out of the Canadian Wheat Board by getting rid of the farmer elected directors? The majority of farmers have always been in favour of the Wheat Board”.
He has a blog and he has been remonstrating against this. He is a very straightlaced farmer. I respect his wishes and I respect the farmers who contacted me.
In my final comment, the first person who contacted me after I was elected the first time in 2008 was a retired farmer from the Camrose area, and he said, “Miss Duncan, please save the Wheat Board”.