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House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was board.

Topics

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

I will answer the charges which were brought forward, if the member would not mind.

We learned that the consultant in question did indicate that he had direct and personal communication with a minister of the crown, yet he had no such availability under the--

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. I am going to stop the member there because it sounds like it is just a continuation of a debate of facts. I will look at the blues and see what types of words were used and to whom they were directed, and come back to the House, if necessary.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased the member for Churchill has called this debate because it allows me to explain to the House why our government is moving forward on marketing freedom and to dispel some of the myths that surround this issue.

Our government has been open and transparent about our commitment to marketing freedom from day one, through four elections and countless interactions with Canadians along the way. We welcome this debate as part of our commitment to clearly communicate our reasons for moving forward on marketing freedom.

To briefly address this motion, supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board are totally different issues. Unlike the opposition, we have done more than talk about our support on supply management. We have consistently defended Canada's right to this marketing system at different international meetings, including the World Trade Organization and most recently the Cairns group meeting held in September in Saskatoon.

We have just received a letter addressed to the Prime Minister and to the leaders of all the parties in the House from the president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, which I will read into the record. It is about supply management.

We are urgently writing to you today in response to the discourse that has been taking place and is having an unintended negative impact on supply management. We do not want our system to be drawn into discussions on other collective marketing systems such as the Canadian Wheat Board.

There are key distinctions between the various marketing models and justice is not served to any model, or the farmers that operate within those systems, when they are not considered in their full and distinct context. We are fortunate to operate within a dairy supply management model that is strongly supported by all partners in the system--farmers, processors and government.

Dairy farmers appreciate the strong support of all political parties for the supply management system. We also appreciate the repeated support and demonstrated willingness of the federal government to defend supply management both domestically and internationally. We do not question this government's support for our system. We have accepted the clear policy intentions that the government has stated in several throne speeches.

We are instead focused on working with the government and our sector partners to ensure that we continue to have a strong and profitable dairy sector in Canada. We strongly reject all attacks and misinformation that is advanced by other self-interested organizations that are not interested in having a strong Canadian dairy sector where farmers are able to get their returns directly from the marketplace.

We hope we can continue to count on all political parties and parliamentarians as we work on continued success in the Canadian dairy sector.

Yours sincerely,

Wally Smith

President.

I would also like to address the other part of the member's motion regarding the Canadian Wheat Board's plebiscite.

The Canadian Wheat Board announced the results of its expensive survey. It is interesting that according to the Canadian Wheat Board's spring survey some 58% of wheat producers and 62% of barley producers favoured a dual and/or open market system. The Canadian Wheat Board's so-called plebiscite did not even give producers the option of selecting marketing choice, even though the Canadian Wheat Board knows that marketing choice is preferred by producers.

Whatever the numbers say, this debate is about rights not rhetoric. The rights of one group should never be allowed to silence the rights of another. Farmers should not run the risk of jail time for driving our economy. We are listening to all farmers, including the thousands who did not vote in a plebiscite that the Canadian Wheat Board's own director says is non-binding.

Should farmers have the right to voluntarily market their grain through the Canadian Wheat Board? Absolutely. That is why our government intends to let every farmer have the right to choose how to market their grain, whether it is individually or through a voluntary pooling equity.

Farmers who wish to continue marketing their grain through a viable Canadian Wheat Board would be greatly advantaged if the board would stop wasting time and instead get to work on ensuring a smooth transition to an open market. After all, western Canadian farmers help feed the world. They deserve the freedom to make their own business decisions.

Our government was elected on a mandate to provide western Canadian farmers marketing freedom and we intend to deliver on that promise.

The transition to marketing choice for farmers will provide opportunities for farmers and is a key component of the work that this government is doing to ensure Canada's competitiveness in an increasingly globalized marketplace.

The Government of Canada firmly believes that freer trade is key to securing the success of the Canadian economy. Trade enhances domestic competitiveness, improves productivity, raises real wages, and provides consumers with more choice at lower prices.

Participation in global commerce has helped Canadians build a strong, stable economy that boasts leading edge companies, a highly skilled and educated workforce, world-class financial infrastructure, and top quality research and development facilities.

Our government knows that Canada's long-term prosperity is driven by the ingenuity and creativity of hard-working families, small business owners, entrepreneurs and farmers across the country.

It is about time that western Canadian grain farmers stopped being treated like second class citizens and had the same rights as farmers in other parts of Canada and around the world.

Marketing freedom is ultimately about rights, but it is about the economy, too. Canadian farmers have been the backbone of Canada's economy for generations. They provide families across this country and around the world with the safest, high quality food. Despite the many challenges they face, they continue to dedicate themselves to their farm businesses and in doing so help keep our economy stable.

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, wheat, has fallen behind. Grain innovation has become stagnant. Competition for acres has weakened. New crops, such as canola, have surpassed wheat in value.

With the reduced market share, the Canadian Wheat Board has less influence on the world stage. As a result, it has become a price taker rather than a price setter.

Let us look at some of the successes in crops that are marketed by farmers independent of the Canadian Wheat Board. We need to remember that non-board crops make up a full two-thirds of Canadian farmers' farm cash receipts from grain.

From 1989 to 2010, the area ceded to canola has increased by a staggering 233%. Meanwhile, Canada's pulse industry has gone from negligible in the 1980s to becoming a significant world exporter in 2010, with $2 billion in export sales last year. Combined, these industries are bringing real dollars to the farm gate and creating jobs right across Canada.

Let us look at what happened to oats when it came out from under the monopoly. In Manitoba alone, the acreage of oats has increased by 175,000 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.

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.

Our government simply wants to give western wheat and barley farmers their chance to stand alongside canola, pulse and oat farmers in marketing their products to world markets the way they see fit. We want to give all farmers every opportunity to succeed.

Marketing freedom is about rights and the economy. It is also about innovation. We have seen how innovation has driven value-added processing in other crops, such as oats and canola. Well, marketing freedom will unlock this potential for our barley and wheat growers as well.

Farmer entrepreneurs will be able to target new untapped niche markets for their wheat and barley through speciality pools, value-added investments and other innovative strategies. They will work with the entire value chain to attract new investment to the Prairies, create new jobs, revitalize rural communities, and grow wealth in western Canada.

That is the power of innovation, and that is why our government is supporting marketing freedom. Giving farmers the option to determine where and how they sell their products comes down to sound forward-thinking, and a realistic and optimistic view of agriculture in today's marketplace.

Over the past year we have demonstrated our support for farmers through significant investments in research, innovation and marketing. For example, we are keeping our wheat producers on the leading edge of innovation through investments in the wheat genome and fusarium resistant varieties.

These kinds of investments represent our unwavering commitment to moving the grain industry forward so that farmers can continue to succeed in markets here at home and around the world.

Many of our leading edge innovations in wheat and barley have come from the great work of Canadian International Grains Institute, the Canadian Malting Barley Technical Centre, and the Western Grains Research Foundation. This great work will continue under marketing freedom.

As we work through the transition, we are making every effort to ensure the certainty and clarity producers need to plan their businesses for the coming year. Producers need to know that the financial tools they rely on will be there when they need them.

As I said at the outset, we need to cut through the rhetoric and focus on the road ahead. The future looks bright. Demand and opportunity are growing in our agricultural industry as never before. Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia governments, representing up to 85% of the wheat and barley grown in western Canada, support the move to marketing freedom.

Our government will continue to work with the entire value chain, including the Canadian Wheat Board to ensure that every farmer has marketing freedom. The Canadian Wheat Board is welcome to be part of the solution, but we will not waver from our commitment to marketing freedom.

In this open market, all farmers will be able to choose how they market their grain, whether it is individually or through a pooling entity. This is the choice that farmers have asked for, and that is what we intend to deliver.

Right around the world, we are working hard to unfetter our grain farmers from the shackles of protectionism through free trade agreements with key customers in South America, Africa and elsewhere.

We recognize that this is a major change for agriculture in western Canada. Canadian farmers have proven time after time that they can compete and succeed in the global marketplace if they have a level playing field.

That is why our government is working so hard to build new opportunities in global markets. We want to ensure that our farmers and food processors can continue to deliver their high-quality products to consumers around the world. Market access is a priority for this government and we are working closely with industry both to develop new markets for agricultural goods and to expand existing ones.

Just this week we issued a report that outlines Canada's successes in market development and the results are very good. The report reflects our government's commitment to improving the profitability, competitiveness and trade opportunities for the Canadian sector. It highlights accomplishments in 10 different markets for commodities, including beef, pork, canola, wheat, pulses and animal genetics.

For example, in 2010 the government negotiated a new duty-free access for Canadian hormone-free beef to the European Union. As of July 2011, this new access had resulted in shipments of approximately 626 tonnes of Canadian beef worth almost $5 million.

As well, we increased access for Canadian beef to the Russian market. Consequently, our beef exports to Russia have tripled, 328% by value, and surpassed $23 million in 2010.

We obtained a stable trading environment with China for canola, and negotiated transitional measures for canola seed exports. This helped to maintain our market for exports of canola seed, oil and meal to China which exceeded $1.8 billion in both 2009 and 2010.

We also secured a breakthrough agreement with China to allow staged market access for beef and tallow. When fully implemented, this may be worth an estimated $110 million annually.

In 2010 we were the fifth largest agricultural and agrifood exporter, with exports worth over $36 billion.

Canadian farmers have asked for tools and options to compete globally and that is what we are providing. Canada's exporters, investors and service providers are calling for opportunities. Business owners and entrepreneurs want access to global markets and this government is listening.

These successes on the international scene benefit Canadian farmers and exporters and contribute to our economic growth. Our government is very proud of that and so is industry.

Following the release of the market access report, Travis Toews, the president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, thanked the ministers for agriculture and trade, and I quote:

...for working hard to create that access for us. I appreciate [their] continued emphasis...on improving and maintaining market access for Canadian farmers and ranchers.

Likewise, the Canadian Meat Council, said it is:

...very grateful for the consistent hard work and dedicated persistence of the Government of Canada in securing and expanding foreign market access for Canadian beef and pork products between January, 2010 and March 2011.

In addition to the achievements I just mentioned, last summer we announced a breakthrough in restoring long-awaited access to the lucrative South Korean beef market, as well as access to the Vietnamese market for live breeding cattle, sheep and goats.

Opening and expanding markets around the world creates opportunities for our farmers to drive the Canadian economy and it helps all Canadians by creating jobs and prosperity. Our government works hard to ensure that our farmers and food processors can continue to deliver their high-quality products to consumers around the world. By reopening, maintaining and expanding international markets, we are making sure that Canadian farmers can contribute to this country's economic growth and make their living from the marketplace, not the mailbox.

We want Canadian farmers and processors to get the credit they deserve for the high-quality products they bring to market. Our agricultural exporters are innovative and competitive and we are working with them to expand their markets.

Canada is working on all fronts to boost our agricultural business around the world. We have already announced branding strategies in Japan, Mexico and Korea. These dollars are supporting market research, advertising, store features, culinary tourism and other promotional activities that bolster the work being done by Canadian industry to sell its products. Opening and expanding markets around the world creates opportunities for our producers to drive the Canadian economy.

There are challenges facing the industry, but the long-term signs are positive. During this time of global economic uncertainty, we have to maximize trade opportunities on the world stage. The marketing freedom for grain farmers bill is another way in which this government is providing opportunities for our farmers to shine both at home and internationally. I hope my colleagues in the House of Commons will support this important piece of legislation and not support the motion from the NDP. In supporting the legislation, they would be supporting western Canadian farmers who produce some of the best wheat and barley the world has to offer.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I found that speech to be quite interesting. I am a very strong advocate for supply management. I see the value of the dairy industry just as I see the value of wheat farmers and the Canadian Wheat Board.

Many of the arguments the government is using today to get rid of the Wheat Board can and in all likelihood at some point in time will be used by a Conservative regime, whether it is this one or another in the future, to get rid of supply management. I believe that there is great value for both. When the member says we should stop treating farmers as second-class citizens, my challenge to the member and the government is to do just that: stop treating our prairie grain farmers as second-class citizens.

If the government believes that it is on the right side of this debate, why does it not listen to over 20,000 prairie grain farmers who want the government to respect the role the Canadian Wheat Board plays today? Does he not believe that those farmers have a right to have their opinions respected? Does he not see the benefit of allowing them to have a plebiscite?

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, this government certainly does respect farmers. There are many farmers on this side of the House who speak to their colleagues every weekend when they go home. They spoke to us on May 2 when 51 out of 56 rural ridings returned this government to majority status in the House of Commons. The farmers in those ridings understand that we ran our campaign on giving western farmers the same marketing freedom that farmers in the rest of Canada and around the world have. That is freedom and that is farmers talking with their votes.

We respect the Canadian Wheat Board and the job that it does. That is why we are proposing that the Canadian Wheat Board be part of the solution. We are proposing that farmers have the freedom to use the Canadian Wheat Board if it as good as people think it is. I have no doubt that many will choose to use it and that is their option. If the Canadian Wheat Board provides a service that the farmers can rely on and trust and can get them the best price now and into the future, the Canadian Wheat Board will be part of the solution. That is up to the Canadian Wheat Board.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I noticed at the beginning of my colleague's very informed speech he mentioned about getting beyond the rhetoric and that he wanted to dispel the myths.

I have sat through the debate today and many times I have heard misinformation being given by the opposition members of Parliament. I have heard phrases today that we are abolishing the Canadian Wheat Board, that we are ending the Canadian Wheat Board, that the Canadian Wheat Board will be gone, that we are dismantling the Canadian Wheat Board, that we are getting rid of the Canadian Wheat Board, that we are destroying the Canadian Wheat Board.

The truth is that we are not ending, abolishing, dismantling, getting rid of, or destroying the Canadian Wheat Board. Canadians expect us to provide factual information, not to give misleading information to other members of the House, or more importantly, to Canadians who may be observing and reading the proceedings of the House.

I want my colleague to confirm that in fact we are simply giving western grain farmers marketing freedom. Also, would he like to speculate as to why in the world opposition members would be opposed to giving farmers the freedom to market the very products they are producing?

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Kitchener—Conestoga is quite right. The bill is not about abolishing the Canadian Wheat Board, full stop. Members across the way are using their rhetorical slurs to suggest that is what we are doing. We are absolutely not doing that. All we are doing is giving western Canadian farmers the same freedom that farmers in eastern Canada have. Why should they not have the same freedom? That is totally undemocratic. It is counter to everything that all Canadians who believe in freedom, free enterprise and opportunity should be standing up for.

I really cannot understand why people such as the member for Malpeque, who is fond of chirping in the House, would be opposed to giving Canadians freedom. Canadians in his riding have that freedom. Why should Canadians in my part of the country not have the same freedom? We are not abolishing the Wheat Board. There is a five year transition. Opposition members are welcome to be part of the process. They should stop this nonsense and get on with it.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, this is not an issue specifically on what the member was saying regarding the Canadian Wheat Board. This is an issue of giving farmers their voice. In the current act under section 47.1, they have the right to determine their own destiny with a proper vote called by the minister on a question tabled by the minister. The government is disallowing that right.

In terms of the Ontario Wheat Board, farmers had the right to vote. In terms of supply management, farmers had the right to vote. In this case, the government is denying farmers the right to have their say which was granted to them by law in 1997.

What are the minister and members on that side afraid of? Are you afraid? The government has not won one election yet relative to the Wheat Board. Eight out of ten of the farmer-elected directors are pro-board and the government is going to fire them. Why do you not give farmers a voice?

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. I would just remind the hon. member to address his comments through the chair and not directly at other members.

The hon. member for Edmonton Centre.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, this really is about freedom. He talked about farmers voting. Farmers did vote. Fifty-one out of fifty-six rural ridings in Canada returned government members who ran on giving farmers freedom.

The legislation he is talking about refers to a commodity being added or subtracted. That is the kind of vote it talks about. It is not talking about basic freedom for farmers to market their produce. They will vote with how they market their produce. That will determine the future of the Canadian Wheat Board. If the Canadian Wheat Board serves their purposes, it will survive. If it does not, it will not. That is free enterprise. That is freedom. That is what Canada should stand for. That is what the member should stand for, for farmers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, just like farmers in Prince Edward Island. If he does not, I have no idea where he is coming from.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, my question is in regard to an issue that is very near and dear to my heart. It is because I hear on an ongoing basis the calls from my constituents for farmers to have the opportunity to make the decision and to have control over their own destiny.

I just met with some constituents in the lobby who were here with some friends from Ontario. We had a discussion about the Wheat Board. My constituents were asking when the legislation is finally going to be in place, when they will have an opportunity to market their own wheat and barley. Their friend from Ontario turned to them and said, “What are you talking about? We've always had that freedom”. The person from Alberta said, “Well no, you do in Ontario, but we in western Canada do not.”

The person from Ontario was outraged and could not imagine that. The person said, “Sometimes we use the wheat board in Ontario and sometimes we choose not to. It depends on what is in our best interests as farmers. We have full determination over what we are going to do. The choice is ours on an annual basis. On a daily basis we can choose if we sell a bit on the board and if we sell a bit to the miller down the road”. The Albertan said, “Isn't it an interesting country where we don't have that same freedom across this country.”

Let us talk a bit about that freedom. It is the freedom especially that young farmers, people producing in my community, are demanding. I wonder if the hon. member can talk about the freedom Ontario farmers have that Albertans do not.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I will just reiterate some of the things we talked about earlier. This is a simple matter of freedom. It is a simple matter of choice. It is a simple matter of treating all Canadians the same.

I am not surprised at the story from my young friend from northern Alberta about Ontario farmers being amazed that western farmers do not have the same rights that they have had forever.

I am amazed too, that we would have such opposition in this place to what is simply a matter of freedom and equality for Canadian farmers across the country. That is what our government stands for. That is what Canadians stand for: freedom and equality. I really cannot understand where those folks are coming from.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

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”.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I just did an interview with Barry Wilson of The Western Producer and he asked me how long I had been involved with the Wheat Board file. I have been involved since 1973. I remember the Saskatchewan wheat pool at one point in time, the Manitoba pool and the Alberta pool, and how their whole system was paid for with no debt by prairie producers. They were big and powerful at the time and they were an economic powerhouse. Today, they are gone.

The Wheat Board is the core in the middle that protects prairie grain farmers from the big railways, from the likes of Viterra, from Cargill and so on. Viterra today may think it is big and mighty, like the Saskatchewan wheat pool did at one time, but I am saying in the House right now that within five years it had better watch out. Who will pay the price? It will primarily be western producers.

Who does the member think will defend farmers in western Canada? Who has the political and economic clout to do it if the Wheat Board is destroyed, as Bill C-18 would do?

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, that was the very reason for the creation of the Wheat Board and the creation of such co-operative ventures where those who are directly affected have a voice. It is a unique institution where the farmers elected the board to speak on their behalf and they could hold them accountable.

The government says that it believes in accountability, transparency and grassroots participation but it is taking away the very mechanism that could stand up for the farmers who would be impacted. Who do I think will speak for them? It will not be the government. It has a reputation for standing up for big banks and big investors, not the small farmer.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank the hon. member for her very interesting speech, which provided a great deal of insight into the position of the vast majority of prairie farmers.

I just do not get it. Why does the government want to do something to a board that is so important for the farmers without asking them or considering what we have already asked them? How can it do that without asking farmers what they want with this institution that is there for them?

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the recommendations that she has made in the course of the discussion on this reprehensible move by the government.

I would take one step further. I and many members of the House are trained as lawyers. I am stunned that the government would violate the law in bringing about this change. The law is clear and it is direct. It obligates the government to hold a plebiscite. The government would not honour the plebiscite that the farmers did, which they had to do because the government would not deliver one. It could simply endorse that or hold its own.

We have a clear case where the government is trying to hold up to show other countries around the world that this is how democracy is done. It is absolutely shameful.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona for her lovely speech, which, as the other hon. member mentioned, provided a great deal of insight into the terrible situation prairie farmers will find themselves in if the Canadian Wheat Board is dismantled.

I am rising in the House today, as many of my NDP colleagues have done, to oppose the Conservatives' bill to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board. I come from a riding with many farmers and family farms. They are having a great deal of difficulty in the current economic context. I am therefore very much aware of the concerns of farmers across the country.

Bill C-18 wants to rip apart the Wheat Board and eliminate the single desk marketing system for wheat and barley in Canada. This bill clearly shows that the Conservatives are completely out of touch and do not understand the needs of Canadian farmers.

The Wheat Board is the largest and most successful grain marketing organization in the world. In 2009-10, it generated approximately $5.2 billion in revenue. That is a lot of money. The government needs to take this into account when considering the possibility of dismantling certain extremely important components of the Canadian Wheat Board. The single desk system that the Wheat Board offers is very important to the Prairies. The Wheat Board provides financial stability for farmers, prudent risk management and certainty of grain supply.

The Wheat Board has become an essential structure for western Canadian farmers. It is a need. The Wheat Board is truly helping farmers to survive in the difficult economic context we are experiencing right now. The Canadian Wheat Board is controlled, run and funded by farmers. Canadian taxpayers are not paying for this essential structure. Farmers fund operations out of revenue from grain sales.

Are the Conservatives afraid of the collective approach that farmers have chosen to take? I understand that this is not a concept that is overly familiar to them or that they appreciate, but it is something that is at the very core of western farmers' values. In addition, do the Conservatives not understand that it is more advantageous to work together than to adopt an “every man for himself” approach? That is a good question.

For western farmers, the Wheat Board is an effective way to maximize the price of grain. The board's size and power on the market allow it to negotiate internationally and to ensure fair access to the market for all producers.

Why is the Conservative government refusing to respect the wishes of farmers in western Canada? Why is this government ignoring the strong voice of farmers who are speaking out against the dismantling of the Canadian Wheat Board?

As we have heard many times in this House, the Wheat Board recently held a plebiscite of its members. The results, released on September 12, showed that 62% of respondents wanted to maintain the single desk for marketing wheat and 51% wanted to maintain the single desk for barley. Those two percentages constitute more than a majority. The participation rate in the plebiscite was 56%, which is equivalent to the rate in the last three federal elections. But the Conservative government is constantly bragging about receiving a strong mandate from Canadians with a participation rate similar to what was obtained by the Canadian Wheat Board. Why does this participation rate work in one case and not in the other? This is another one of the Conservatives' classic double standards, which are part of its divide and conquer strategy.

Western farmers have spoken and they oppose Bill C-18, like all of my colleagues here. They want to keep the board's single desk system.

The Conservatives are saying that their bill will make it easier for farmers to market their grain by allowing them to choose to whom they sell their products and how. That is false. It will only create more problems. They have a structure that allows them to pool their recourses and make sure they are getting the best prices, with all the strength of their combined resources.

Leaving farmers to fend for themselves would only create other problems, and their lives are hard enough already.

I am aware of the financial difficulties facing family farms in Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. My constituents come and see me in my office in Pont-Rouge to talk about this situation, since they are so worried about it. That is why I feel I can relate to the concerns of western farmers. Times are very hard, and farmers are looking more and more for new ways to market their products in order to earn a good living from their hard work.

Young farmers are pooling their resources more and more, in order to survive in the current economic climate. My riding has a number of farming co-operatives and more are being set up every day, because everything is very expensive and because individual farmers cannot survive right now. Prairie farmers have a long history of uniting in order to prosper, which is why the board was created in the first place. This is the legacy that the Conservatives want to consign to oblivion, at the expense of western Canadian farmers.

It is clear that the Conservatives are using Bill C-18 to try to destroy family farms. There is no other foreseeable outcome from this decision they are making with no regard for the clearly expressed opinion of the farmers.

The Conservatives' dogmatism and ideological stubbornness are undeniable. They are going to completely ignore the will of western Canadian farmers and shove their own interests down the farmers' throats. This government has long been looking to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board at all costs, regardless of what anyone here might say. Are the Conservatives bending to pressure from big American corporations, as they often do? It would not be surprising; it is practically a tradition for them. We are concerned about the reasons behind the decision they are making today.

Since the beginning of this debate, the NDP has been saying that any decision on the future of the board has to be made by farmers for farmers. That is part of the act governing the Canadian Wheat Board. The members opposite seem to have forgotten about that detail. We keep reminding them, but to no avail. Let us hope that this time, my voice, added to the others, will have an effect.

The majority of the farmers want to keep this single desk system, and that is what the NDP is asking the Conservatives to do today. The government has to stop being so stubborn and start respecting the will of the farmers. This government has to stop gambling with the prairie economy and withdraw Bill C-18.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, earlier today I pointed out that it is important for members of the House to be sure that they are presenting factual information. It is quite obvious that this member did not take heed of that admonition, because in her intervention she made a number of comments that are totally inaccurate.

She said that we are dismantling the Wheat Board, that it will be unfortunate for farmers without the Wheat Board, that we are doing away with the Wheat Board, that we are doing away with the collective approach and that we are consigning the Wheat Board to oblivion. In fact, her colleagues earlier today used similar rhetoric. They said that we are abolishing the Wheat Board, that we are ending the Wheat Board, that the Wheat Board will be gone, that we are destroying the Canadian Wheat Board.

Numerous times today, and indeed prior to today, members on this side of the House have tried to bring the truth to the table. The truth is that we are not ending the Wheat Board; we are simply giving western Canadian farmers the right to market their grain freely. The Wheat Board can continue to exist. We believe, on this side of the House, that Canadian farmers deserve that freedom.

Why would she and her party be opposed to giving farmers the freedom to market their produce freely?

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, what I have gathered from the debate is that the Conservatives want farmers to be able to live freely in poverty. Eliminating the Canadian Wheat Board's single desk has the same impact as completely dismantling the Wheat Board. Producers will not have the same power on international markets to negotiate and to sell their wheat and barley at the best price. I thank my colleague for providing the opportunity to clarify once more the government's true agenda.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, the government is being very disrespectful to the farmers. A member stands up and says, “Well, we are not killing the Wheat Board.” The government will have to respect me for not listening to what it is saying, as opposed to listening to what over 20,000 prairie grain farmers are saying today, which is that they want the Canadian Wheat Board.

No matter how often the minister stands up and says that the government is not killing the Wheat Board, the prairie farmers have spoken very clearly through a plebiscite. Over 20,000 say that the government is killing the Canadian Wheat Board.

My question to the member is this: does she believe the 20,000-plus farmers who are saying it means the demise of the Wheat Board if the bill passes, or does she believe a member of the Conservative Party who, in trying to defend the government, continues to stand up and say that the government is not killing the Wheat Board? Who does the member believe?

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his very pertinent comments about this matter and for his straightforward question. I believe that the voice of farmers is louder than that of certain Conservative members, who are here to defend their own interests and not those of the people at the Canadian Wheat Board.

I believe the Canadians who have spoken to my colleagues throughout the country and various organizations and institutions that are asking that the Canadian Wheat Board not be dismantled.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher for a very short question.

Opposition Motion--Canadian Wheat BoardBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be brief. I would like to ask my colleague what she would call a government that does not obey the law and that does not respect a valid plebiscite such as the one conducted.