Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Winnipeg North.
The motion that is before the House today is:
That, in the opinion of the House, farmers have a democratic right to determine the future of their own supply management tools and marketing boards; and recognizing this right, the House calls on the government to set aside its legislation abolishing the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) single desk and to conduct a full and free vote by all current members of the CWB to determine their wishes, and calls on the government to agree to honour the outcome of that democratic process.
How could anyone in the House oppose that motion? The motion gives voice to western Canadian farmers, in a balanced way, to have their say on their marketing institution for the crops that they want to market.
I begin from the point of supporting the motion. Western grain producers and, I believe, our supply-managed commodity groups are at risk from the government. On the issue of whether western farmers have a right to vote in an honest plebiscite to determine the future of the Canadian Wheat Board, section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act provides for such a vote. In fact, the Wheat Board held a vote on its own, with 62% support, but the government is failing to abide by that section that is in the law of Canada. In my view, it is violating the law.
The only reason such a vote has not been held is that the government knows it would lose the vote, so rather than being defeated by western grain farmers, the government simply refuses to allow them the right to vote at all. In fact, the Wheat Board's greatest critic, and this is ironic--crazy, actually--is the Parliamentary Secretary Responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, who through his whole career as Parliamentary Secretary Responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board has provided misinformation. In fact, in his own riding, the farmer-elected director who won in that riding is pro-single desk and is against the parliamentary secretary's using his MP's office and his office as parliamentary secretary to propagandize against the particular director who won the election.
The legislation to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board single desk is now before a committee. The question the Conservatives have yet to answer is whether they will allow the committee to travel. If they will not allow farmers to vote, then will they at least allow farmers to have a voice and allow them to speak to the committee in western Canada?
The Minister of Agriculture has told the House that the spring election was a mandate to basically destroy the single desk. That is not true. That is wrong. The law of the land says it clearly, and farmers who voted in the election knew the law of the land. They felt they were going to have the right to vote and determine their own destiny on this specific issue. They may have supported the government on gun control and other issues, and I expect they did, but in western Canada they did not vote for one single issue, the Wheat Board. The law of the land at the time of the election stated in section 47.1 that they would be given the right to vote on their own destiny, and the government is ignoring that law.
During the election, the Minister of Agriculture told an audience in Minnedosa, Manitoba, “Until farmers make that change”--i.e., to vote for the removal of the single desk--“I'm not prepared to work arbitrarily. They are absolutely right to believe in democracy. I do, too.”
What was the minister doing? If he is not having a vote, then he obviously was not telling the truth.
That said, the government is deliberately betraying western grain producers in not allowing them a say in determining their own marketing institution.
I have heard the minister, his parliamentary secretary and others stand up in the House and say that the Canadian Wheat Board was brought in the way it is in 1943 and has not changed since. That is absolutely wrong. The board was changed in 1997 under an act of Parliament. It was designed at the time to give producers control, meaning that they would elect 10 directors and five would be appointed by the government. In other words, farmers in western Canada who market their grain would be able to determine their own destiny, run the Canadian Wheat Board and make the changes necessary, and there have been all kinds of changes over the last number of years exercised by those farmers.
Bill C-18, if passed, would do away with the elected directors of the Canadian Wheat Board. The fate and control of the board would be turned over to the five appointed government hats that the Conservative Party has put in place to do their bidding and destroy the farmers' grain marketing organization from within.
Let us look at the people the government would fire.
There is Stewart Wells. He is an organic farmer from Swift Current, Saskatchewan. He holds a Bachelor of Agricultural Engineering from the University of Saskatchewan, has served eight years as president of the National Farmers Union and is a Saskatchewan Wheat Pool delegate. He would be gone.
There is Cam Goff. He is an owner-operator of a 5,000-acre grain farm and agriculture supply business near Hanley, Saskatchewan. He would be gone.
There is Bill Woods. He is one of the founding members of West Central Road and Rail, a large producer car loading facility that has provided innovative grain marketing options for producers throughout western Saskatchewan. He is also a leading advocate for grain shippers' rights. He would be gone.
There is John Sandborn, owner and operator of a 3,300-acre grain farm near Benito, Manitoba. John holds a certificate in management leadership from the University of Calgary and a Bachelor of Science from Brandon University. John was a founding director of the Parkland Crop Diversification Foundation and a district representative for Keystone Agricultural Producers of Manitoba. He is a former director of Manitoba Pool Elevators and Agricore Co-operative Ltd. He would be gone.
There is Bill Toews, owner and operator of a large grain and oilseed and specialty crop farm west of Kane, Manitoba. He has international development experience. He is a former director of Keystone Agriculture Producers. He served with the Manitoba Farm Products Marketing Council and the Prairie Region Recommending Committee for Grains subcommittee. He has a degree in agriculture and a post-graduate degree in soil science. He would be gone.
These are not small, outdated, out-of-touch producers who are afraid of marketing on their own; they are the best and brightest, elected by their peers to represent their interests on the only grain marketing entity that still belongs to farmers.
What would Bill C-18 do? It would turf them. They would leave the Canadian Wheat Board in spite of the fact that it is the farmers' grain and it is the farmers who would still be paying every last cent of the Canadian Wheat Board costs. This would leave the board in the hands of unelected government representatives with huge ties to the private grains trade, the very companies that stand to gain from the loss of the Canadian Wheat Board.
The bottom line here is that these producers were elected by their peers. They are not outdated producers. They are good producers who made the changes that producers asked for. Producers voted 62% in favour of maintaining that single desk selling agency. Eight out of ten of those directors are pro-single desk sellers. With the government's representation in the bill, without giving farmers a voice to have their say in the marketing institution, they would all be fired. Left in their place would be five directors appointed by the government.
Why are we seeing this in a democracy? Is the government's ideology just to ignore the facts and disallow the right of primary producers to have a say in their own destiny and the specific institution that they want to market their grain?
How can anybody, and especially those backbenchers in the governing party, sit there and allow themselves to be run by the top? How can they sit there and not support this motion by the member for Churchill?