Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this historic legislation which is opening such an exciting time for farmers in my home province of Manitoba and right across western Canada.
Contrary to what the members opposite think or say, our government was elected on a platform to deliver marketing freedom to farmers, and we are following through on that with this legislation.
As other members have already said, this bill will end the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly over the sales of wheat, durum and barley in western Canada. It will give wheat and barley farmers across western Canada the same rights that farmers in Ontario and the rest of Canada enjoy.
It is interesting how members on this side of the House present this debate versus how members opposite present the debate. All the members opposite ever talk about is process. I am not going to comment on the process that they are criticizing. What we focus on is results, good policy creating good results for western Canadian farmers and rural communities.
Policy is very important. The focus of this government on good policy that will generate real and tangible results is the right thing to do.
The removal of the monopoly will allow farmers to sell their grains directly to a processor, whether it be a pasta manufacturer or a flour mill, or any other venture that adds value at the farm gate. That not only grows businesses for the farmers, it creates new jobs for the rural economy.
I am being approached with increasing frequency by constituents who have terrific value-added ideas for what they can implement after the Wheat Board monopoly has been changed. In fact, just last week during the break week, two young entrepreneurs approached me with a very exciting plan to build a microbrewery in my constituency. I can hear applause from all across the chamber, and I can understand why.
These young constituents are the kind of creative entrepreneurs that Manitoba, western Canada and all of Canada need. Two young men with a great idea want to make a difference for their communities. They specifically pointed out to me that the removal of the CWB monopoly is the trigger that is going to make their enterprise work. They are very excited.
We in rural western Canada simply cannot continue to export jobs south of the border to places like North Dakota. An open wheat market will bring jobs back to the west and to cities like Winnipeg. This legislation will reduce costly red tape and inefficiencies, leaving farmers more time to drive our economy.
We saw a perfect example when a previous Conservative agriculture minister removed oats from the Wheat Board monopoly. Almost instantaneously Can-Oat Milling, a company in Portage La Prairie, sprang up. It is in the constituency of my good friend, the member for Portage—Lisgar.
The Can-Oat plant in Portage La Prairie employs 125 people. These are well-paying jobs in a rural community. What is really neat about Can-Oat as a company is that it has become the largest industrial processor of oats in North America. That is what happens when the creative power of entrepreneurs is unleashed.
I listened with great interest to the member for Malpeque's speech. I can refute every single thing he said with one word: canola.
What happened with canola after some very important research was done to create a crop that the marketplace really hungered for is that the production of canola on the free market and marketed through free market principles absolutely exploded. I think it has eclipsed wheat as the Cinderella crop in western Canada. Not only that, it is a very high-value crop that is marketed through the “evil grain companies” that members opposite are so quick to denigrate. Farmers are growing canola in droves, and the price right now is very high.
In addition, 30% of the canola that is produced in western Canada is processed in western Canada and represents 1,000 full-time jobs. There are more canola plants going up all the time.
Once the changes are made, there will be added demand from farmers for strong marketers, business analysts and other specialists in the grain trade. Even the promise of an open market is encouraging the value-added investments that I am so excited about in western Canada.
In September the Prime Minister was in Regina to celebrate the launch of the first commercially significant pasta plant for Canadian durum in the west. Members on that side talk process; we deliver results. That is the difference. This facility will create an estimated 60 new full-time jobs and 150 construction jobs.
Again, as a member who represents a rural, agricultural, western Canadian constituency, I have lived there long enough to see the population decline in many prairie rural communities. If the Wheat Board was that good, why did that occur?
I am convinced that policies that promote the export of raw product from an area really are not that good for small communities. Processing what we grow at home is what will help grow our rural economy.
Western Canadian processing plants are expanding for all crops, except for wheat. Now with wheat and barley, we will see this expansion and the pasta plant in Regina is just a beginning.
A very important concern for Manitoba MPs in particular and many Saskatchewan MPs too is the port of Churchill. Under this change there will be a period of adjustment for the port of Churchill, as it admittedly relies heavily on CWB grains. However, it is no secret that Canada's north is the cornerstone of our agenda. We understand the importance of the port of Churchill as a valuable asset, and it will remain the Prairies' Arctic gateway to the world.
Jim Carr, president and CEO of the Business Council of Manitoba agrees with us. He said that the business council sees Churchill as more than a port for grain, but as the Arctic gateway.
When our new bill is passed, the port of Churchill will remain an important shipping option. It is no secret that our government has already provided significant support to the port over the years, and we will continue to support it for use by businesses across the Prairies.
I have met with the Hudson Bay Route Association. Many of the municipalities in my constituency belong, and they see some tremendous opportunities.
As part of our ongoing commitment to farmers and the importance of the port as a shipping option, our government is making significant investments to ease this transition and help the port continue to be a viable northern shipping gateway.
We will provide an economic incentive of up to $5 million per year over the five year transition period. Our government will also provide support through funding of up to $4.1 million over three years to sustain infrastructure improvements and maintenance of the port during this transition period.
In addition, projects with the Churchill Gateway Development Corporation will be given more time to finish, with an extension of two years, or until 2015.
These significant investments are complementary to our other strategic investments, such as Transport Canada earmarking more than $13 million to implement upgrades to the Churchill airport. This is in addition to operating the Churchill airport and subsidizing VIA Rail service.
Since 2007 the government has also committed $20 million for rail line improvements, $4 million for port improvements and $1 million for marketing and development of the port.
I will finish with a quote from Mike Spence, the mayor of Churchill, who said:
I'm the type of person who is always optimistic. I'm looking in a positive direction, hoping that we'll be able to secure more grain and the port will diversify.... I think we can do that.