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House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Disturbance in GalleryPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I understand that when these types of disruptions occur, it evokes many responses from members.

I would say that the member for London West raises a good point about not encouraging that type of behaviour from the galleries. One day, you may agree with what is being said in terms of the disruption, the next day you may disagree. I think it is important, if we are going to continue to debate in an orderly way, that members respect, and certainly members of the gallery respect, the existing rules regarding behaviour in the galleries.

The Chair has tolerated some back and forth on this because I understand it affects members and gets people very excited but I do think we need to move on.

I see the member for Ottawa—Vanier is rising so I will recognize him. I do hope it is a point of order and not continuing a debate about the merits of what just took place.

Disturbance in GalleryPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we say things we should be careful to not include everyone if that is not the intent.

I agree with what the member for London West said, but not with the way he said it. He insinuated that every member on this side applauded. That was not the case. I think he should be very careful about what he says, because I might raise a question of personal privilege.

Disturbance in GalleryPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will respond to that. There were clearly a number of members directly opposite me who did not stand up for that. For any member who did not respond by sitting down, and not responding to the actions in the gallery, then I applaud them. They are examples that we can all look to. If that particular member was one who did not stand, I acknowledge that that was the appropriate action.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-18, An Act to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board and to make consequential and related amendments to certain Acts as reported with amendments from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here to participate in this debate today on a very important piece of legislation that our government believes will position Canadian farmers well with their businesses to capture the marketing opportunities that are open to them.

Western grain farmers want the same marketing freedom and the same opportunities as other farmers in Canada and around the world. Western Canadian grain farmers have what it takes to succeed in an open market. They have shown this very clearly in recent years with the tremendous growth of the canola and pulse industries. The government wants to give wheat and barley farmers in Western Canada the same freedom to market their products as farmers in the rest of Canada because we know this will create new opportunities for them and put more money in their pockets.

The marketing freedom for grain farmers act will give western Canadian wheat and barley farmers the freedom to market their grain as they choose. It will open up a world of possibilities for them, unlocking the economic potential of the prairie grain sector by removing the requirement that they market wheat and barley for the Canadian Wheat Board.

Many farmers have said that the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board has prevented them from getting the best prices for their grain. Jason Ranger, a farmer from Saskatchewan, said that one of the big issues with the Wheat Board is that there is a huge lack of transparency and they cannot see the price that it is selling their wheat. When passed, this legislation will allow western Canadian wheat and barley farmers the freedom to make decisions based on what is best for their business.

On November 9 four picketers were outside my riding office in Saskatoon protesting Bill C-18. James Findlay, an 88-year-old gentleman who lives in my riding, dropped by my office and let me know that he had approached those picketers. He told them that he was a World War II veteran that fought for Canada and fought for freedom. Mr. Findlay asked the picketers what they had done for Canada. He said he was not saying that because he thought he was better than that generation, he was just securing the liberties for which his generation fought. The poorly timed protest to prevent freedom for western Canadian wheat farmers was not lost on this veteran.

I would like to take a few moments to outline some of the key features and timelines with respect to the transition once the bill becomes law and the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly no longer operates as a monopoly. Once Parliament passes the act, western Canadian wheat and barley producers will be able to forward contract wheat and barley sales for delivery after August 1, 2012. As well, grain companies, end users and the Canadian Wheat Board will all be able to offer farmers contracts for delivery after August 1, 2012, and western Canadian producers will be able to sell future contracts for wheat and barley with delivery dates after August 1, 2012.

I am pleased to say that the Winnipeg exchange has announced its plans to offer new Canadian wheat and durum contracts if the legislation is passed. After that date of August 1, 2012, western Canadian farmers will be able to deliver wheat and barley to any domestic or export buyer. Export licences will no longer be required. At the same time, a new voluntary check-off will be put in place to support research and market development and it will be collected at the point of sale.

The new wheat board will have the ability to buy wheat and barley and pooling arrangements, but other details such as terms of delivery and requirements for prior contracting will be communicated by the wheat board as it develops its plan for operating voluntarily. The 2011 and 2012 pool accounts will be closed in the usual way and final payments should be issued by the end of 2012.

Farmers and members in the grain value chain have also expressed concern about the ongoing availability of producer cars as well as the overall grain handling and transportation system in a marketing freedom environment. I would like to address this issue.

The government is in agreement with recommendations made by the working group on marketing freedom. Through this group the government heard from more than 50 organizations and received 20 written submissions from representatives from all aspects of the grain value chain.

The working group recommended that the reform of Canada's grain marketing approach must be aligned with and supported by the modernization of the Canada Grain Act and the Canadian Grain Commission, as well as timely implementation of the government's response to the rail freight service review. That makes sense.

The working group also recommended that the government give market forces every opportunity to work, which we are very pleased to do.

Contractual arrangements between terminal operators and non-terminal companies have worked successfully for other crops. We expect that facility owners will actively seek arrangements for additional grain volume and profitability.

To address anti-competitive behaviour, the government is considering a range of options, including working with the value chain to monitor any anti-competitive behaviour or systematic issues should they arise. The grain value chain will also continue to have access to long-standing tools, including the Competition Act and the Competition Bureau.

The marketing freedom for grain farmers act will not cause a change to the current state of access to producer cars.

The right to producer cars is set out in the Canada Grain Act and the Canadian Grain Commission allocates these cars to producers. We will continue to protect this access.

It is important to point out that most producers have used producer cars but only if the returns are higher than if they were to deliver directly to a primary elevator. Currently, only about 4% of western Canadian grain shipments are shipped by producer cars.

Short line railways and inland terminals will continue to play an important role in getting western Canadian wheat and barley to both domestic and international markets.

Members of the House will be interested to know that when the government's response to the rail freight service review is fully implemented, it will give producer car shippers the ability to establish service agreements with the railways, promoting more predictable and efficient service.

As we announced in March 2011, the government is implementing its response to the rail freight service review with a view to improving the performance of the entire rail supply chain.

We will initiate a quick facilitation process with shippers, railways and other stakeholders to negotiate a template service agreement and streamlined commercial dispute resolution process. We have recently appointed a facilitator to lead this important work.

As well, we will table a bill to give shippers the right to a service agreement to support the commercial measures.

Our government will also establish a commodity supply chain table to address logistical concerns and develop performance metrics to improve competitiveness. We will do this by involving supply chain partners that ship commodities by rail.

In collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Transport Canada will lead an indepth analysis of the grain supply chain to focus on issues that affect that sector and help identify potential solutions.

We have announced a crop logistics supply chain. This will be a forum for the agricultural value chain to consider the performance of the supply chain for all crops and to exchange views and information on issues arising from the transition to marketing freedom.

We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to ensure an orderly transition to a system that will allow western Canadian wheat and barley growers to market their wheat in the way they think is best.

Sylvain Charlebois said, “The end of the monopoly will benefit the Western agricultural economy as a whole”. Our government agrees. The end of the monopoly will benefit the western agricultural economy as a whole.

Our government is committed to delivering on our longtime promise to give western Canadian grain farmers the marketing freedom they deserve.

Last week a gentleman by the name of William Cooper attended a formal agriculture committee hearing held in my riding of Blackstrap. The topic was “How young farmers cope”. Witnesses had to be under 40 years of age. The observation that William Cooper made was, “Every witness under 40 year noted that 'They would not include CWB grains in their 2010 rotations because there was no way to manage risk'. They were talking over $200.00 per acre input costs at seeding time and had to have contracts on a portion of their acres, which they could achieve by seeding canola, oats, peas, or feed grains contracted with Pound-Maker feedlot or ethanol plant. Their bankers understand contracts but they do not understand the CWB pool return outlook”.

The other interesting item was that the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly discourages value-added investments. Stats Canada reported--

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. The hon. minister of state's time has lapsed. Perhaps she will be able to add remarks during questions and comments. Questions and comments.

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her speech on this very difficult subject.

The minister of state did talk a lot about the transportation system. Working on the transportation committee in the past and talking with the various producers in western Canada, it became clear that size matters with the railways, that the opportunities to move grain, or other agricultural products, effectively and efficiently in western Canada are linked directly to volume. The opportunities for small producers have turned out to be not so good

The minister of state talked about all the wonderful things that the government is going to try to do to improve the rail service agreements. How can she guarantee success in this regard for those small farmers who are going to be on their own?

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Madam Speaker, that was addressed in my speech, about the producer cars and such.

If the member's concern is about the farmers selling their grain, like ours is, there are many farmers who will find their markets. One of the areas that I was starting to talk about was the value-added investments.

For the first time in western Canada, a pasta plant—

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. Could I have some quiet while the minister of state is speaking. I would ask members to please take their conversations outside to the lobby, if they wish to continue them.

The hon. Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification.

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for his concern. I did address the rail, as I said.

The concerns of farmers being able to sell their grain and getting their price will all work well when there are value-added investments, such as the one that was just announced in Regina, all private money building a pasta plant.

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Madam Speaker, the minister in her remarks spoke a bit about value-added processing.

I wonder if she could explain to the House what several value-added processors or proposed processors mean when they say that they must negotiate grain prices directly with farmers rather than through the Canadian Wheat Board, because they, the processors, need to get lower grain input costs in order for their operations to be profitable?

What exactly do they mean by the importance of negotiating directly with producers to get a lower price for grain? That is good from the processors' point of view, not so good from the farmers' point of view.

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Madam Speaker, I spoke about that.

Pound-Maker was one of the companies. I know that member knows who Pound-Maker is. That is one that will be taking advantage of the cheaper grain. I would assume it is going to be better for the farmers because they do not have to pay for the freight to go all the way to the ports now. The farmers will be able to deal directly with the processor.

I know that farmers in my area will be paying $1,400 to $2,000 in freight rates to get their product to port. Sometimes those costs escalate and also are rejected.

It is a very important part of the whole marketing freedom process. Farmers will be able to sell directly and negotiate their price, not be price takers as they have been under the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board. Farmers will have that freedom. They will get their dollars.

I am surprised that that member would ask this question because he is from Saskatchewan. He knows, more than anything in the world, what it means to Saskatchewan farmers. Of course, he must not represent farmers when he is in this particular Chamber.

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, today and the few days that we have spent talking about Bill C-18, I believe will be remembered as the days where the Conservative government stood up for big agri and against the wishes of so many farmers across western Canada. These farmers have asked for the most fundamental of actions: the right to vote. In fact, it is not only farmers who have asked for it, it is in section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act.

Many government members come from a part of the country where so many people depend on agriculture, have been part of building the Canadian Wheat Board and have benefited from the work of the Canadian Wheat Board. Why is the government refusing to listen, in many cases, to its own constituents?

Is it because a plebiscite that came out at the end of the summer indicated that 62% of western grain growers actually wanted the Canadian Wheat Board to exist? Is it because the Conservatives are afraid of opposition from people on the ground? Is that why they rammed through legislation, not just here in the House, but also through the technical committee?

Why is the government so afraid to listen to the voices of the people across western Canada? Why is it is so afraid to listen to its own constituents, some of whom have spent days on Parliament Hill asking the government to take some time, to see the analysis and to be heard on the insecurities they have about something as fundamental as their livelihood?

When asked about the analysis, researchers indicated that it was not there, that there was no plan. Many of the people I represent in Churchill are extremely unsure about their job security. They talk about having to leave and uproot their families. They know that as the last shipment of grain goes through, their livelihoods are immediately at risk. They have not seen a plan. Officials at all government levels have indicated a similar position and people are left in chaos and with a great deal of uncertainty as they go forward.

The same is applicable to farmers across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. So many have contacted not just members on our side of the House, the NDP, but members on the other side of the House as well. Many were told by their own members of Parliament that they were too busy to meet with them and many did not get their calls and letters answered.

At the most fundamental level, those members of Parliament were sent here to represent the interests of their constituents. However, today, in voting to finish debate so quickly on Bill C-18, the theme has been to stand against farmers, to stand against the recognition that we need to hear from the very people who are most affected by the legislation. People have said that there is no hurry and they want to take the time.

We have heard the minister talk about goals and deadlines. Whose goals and deadlines are these? They echo the messages from Cargill and Viterra, the largest argribusiness corporations here in Canada and around the world. Those are the deadlines that the government is working on. It is not listening to the voices of farmers and western Canadians.

There are so many questions that must be asked as the government rams through this legislation.

I asked a question in committee and I will ask it again today. What about the contingency fund that is made up of money from farmers? We have heard that the government will take this money and hand it to the institution it is creating, instead of giving it back to the very farmers to whom it belongs. Yet more questions , but no answers. Will the money go as severance or will it go toward the parcelling off that would inevitably take place by large agribusiness corporations?

There are so many questions, but the lack of answers indicate that farmers are not being heard. The money that they have invested year after year will not be given back to them.

What does this legislation mean to so much of what the agricultural economy involves in western Canada, to the Port of Churchill, through which so many tonnes of Canadian wheat has gone around the world; to short line rail that is not just critical for the movement of grain, but also the connection that communities need across rural western Canada; the future of inland terminals and the kind of infrastructure that dots the prairie landscape;and the future of so much infrastructure that is not just about livelihood, but is essentially about livelihood, but it is also about the future of rural families and rural communities across western Canada?

The government, in acting the way it has on Bill C-18, in its vigour to dismantle an institution that has shaped the economy and the social landscape of prairie Canada, in showing such contempt for the important institution of the Wheat Board, it is showing contempt for western Canadians and their voices.

At what point will much of Canada also realize that this is about all of us. We are seeing this increasingly happen as the government moves time allocation on issue after issue to which it feels many Canadians are opposed.

As Canadians across the country see the kind of contempt that the government has shown to the collective work that farmers have done through the Wheat Board, they know that tomorrow this might also mean other marketing boards, that the day after that it might also be the future of our public broadcaster, the CBC, and that the day after that it might also be the future of an institution that is so critical to us, medicare.

Why does the government not believe that Canadians ought to come together to make the kind of decisions that matter to us in terms of our livelihood, the future of our families and the future of our communities? What do the Conservatives have against listening to the very people they claim to represent, western Canadians? Why do they not allow time in this debate? Why do they not allow a vote for western farmers? Why do they not allow for the proper research to take place as to what would happen once the Wheat Board is dismantled?

Why do the Conservatives not answer the questions as to how our fate will be so similar to that of Australia where month after month the livelihood of farmers has suffered as a result of the loss of the Australian wheat board, and where their once proud brand has taken a beating because it is now no longer an Australian brand, but belongs to Cargill and other global corporations that have a piece of the pie?

Is that where the government wants to take our country, to give the hard work of farmers, that important question of who produces our food, that has allowed it to be the best wheat in the world and to throw it away and hand it over to corporations such as Cargill that will not be reinvesting in our communities the way farmers who have been involved in running the Wheat Board have, that will not be investing in the Port of Churchill and that will not be investing in short line rail and the kind of infrastructure that our rural communities need?

Even in our urban centres we know that losing the Wheat Board means real loss, for example in Winnipeg and the loss of jobs that will occur there once the Wheat Board is lost.

There are so many questions that remain unanswered but there is one conclusion. The Conservative Government of Canada, which claims to speak for western Canadians, has, today, failed them. We need a government in this country that represents all regions of Canada.

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened to the comments of my colleague and absolutely nothing could be further from the truth.

She asked why we were not listening to farmers. We are absolutely listening to farmers. We are not throwing farmers in jail anymore the way that previous governments have because they took their grain, their product, and tried to get the best value they possibly could for it.

In recent years, since that incident took place, farmers have been speaking with their seed drills every spring. They seed a crop for which they get world price. That world price is paid for Canola, mainly on the prairies, which has now outstripped wheat as the number one commodity of choice. Why? It is because they are getting world price for it. Why? It is because it is outside the Wheat Board's mandate.

The study, on which we heard testimony in committee, and my hon. colleague was there and heard it, too, showed that farmers today are subsidizing the Wheat Board and the single desk by somewhere between $400 million to $600 million a year.

My hon. colleague asked why we as government are moving this along. It is because farmers need that freedom of choice.

How can my hon. colleague stand in her place and advocate for farmers when she really does not have many farmers in her riding, not like the rest of the prairies. She should respect what happened on May 2, which is--

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would like to give the hon. member time to respond and many other members want to ask questions.

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5:25 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, given the discussions we have had at committee, I would ask the member and his colleagues why they are so afraid to give farmers the chance to vote. Fundamentally, why will the government not follow legislation and allow western Canadian producers to have a say in the future of the institution that they built? It is a simple question. Not only is there a failure to answer, but instead we see the ramming through of legislation in an unprecedented manner. The altering of the prairie economy fundamentally tied in history to agriculture, is being changed in a matter of weeks without proper research and without listening to the voices of western Canadian farmers, some of whom the member represents, as do I. I also represent the people of Churchill.

As a proud western Canadian, I want to see a government that will actually listen to the voices--

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Malpeque.

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5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed the remarks of the member for Churchill. Between the member for Churchill and the member for Yellowhead, it is the member for Yellowhead who is absolutely wrong.

One of the key points the member raised is that there are so many questions that remain unanswered. There are a lot of unanswered questions. I have here the remarks from the Australian wheat board which was somewhat similar to Canada's at one point in time but is now gone. Jock Munro, a farmer, said:

We estimate we have lost $4 billion as growers since the wheat industry was deregulated three years ago.

The loser is definitely the Australian wheat grower, and the winners are the huge companies that control the logistics chain and are end users themselves.

Why has the government not abided by the vote? Why has it not held hearings? Why have we not investigated the Australian situation, which was similar to ours, before we go down this road that could be an absolute disaster for western farmers?

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for Malpeque for once again raising the example of the Australian wheat board, which the government has failed to look at in terms of where the fate lies for western Canadian growers as the Wheat Board is dismantled and as big agribusiness takes over. Farmers lose out. Farmers' families lose out. Rural communities lose out. Many communities the Conservatives claim to represent will see a negative impact as a result.

To add insult to injury, the Conservatives will not even do the due diligence of allowing farmers to have a say in the future of an institution that they created, not even the decency to allow farmers' voices to be heard.

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today to support people within my constituency, people who are affected by things. It is not often we can say that we have somebody directly affected by something that is talked about by opposition members who really do not represent the people they pretend to represent. We recently heard a member from the Liberal Party, who has no effect whatsoever on his riding because he is from Prince Edward Island. It is unfair to put onuses on one part of the country and have the other part of the country not required to follow that law, as is the case in this instance.

However, I want to talk about the future, my future, my children's future and Canada's future, which is so important. I do not want to talk the past, as the previous speaker did.

Our government's top priority is clearly the economy. We have one of the best performing economies in the world. The agriculture industry plays a very vital role in that. We recognize that on this side of the House. That is why we want to, and need to, give farmers freedom, freedom to decide what to grow and freedom to decide to whom to sell it. That is what we are doing with this legislation.

We believe all Canadian farmers should be able to position their businesses to capture the marketing opportunities that are available to them. This is clearly available to almost all types of businesses in our country, whether it be a fast food restaurant or some type of service. Canadians can decide who to sell to and from whom to buy the product. That is not the case in this instance.

This debate is so often cast as a generational issue, with the older farmers wanting the security of the Wheat Board and the younger farmers eager to harness new technology and go it alone. While there is definitely some element of that, there are just as many farmers at retirement age who see the open market for wheat and barley as a new door of opportunity, an opportunity that was not given to their fathers. This will keep the next generation on the farm.

As most Canadians know, farms are closing their doors because they cannot be competitive on the international stage. This bill, this opportunity to give marketing freedom, is the opportunity that farmers have wanted in western Canada for decades.

According to the 2011 CWB producers' survey, “76 per cent of the younger generation of farmers surveyed want something other than the status quo, a monopoly”. That is from the Winnipeg Free Press, dated July 29.

It is clear that young farmers want the opportunities that were denied to their fathers. I have heard across my constituency, because I actually represent farmers who are affected by this legislation, that they want marketing freedom. These young, business-orientated entrepreneurs are the future of agriculture. That is why I want to talk about the future. Young farmers are ambitious, they successfully market their other crops across the world and they want this chance today. They need new solutions, not old rhetoric from the opposition and not restrictions, not the status quo. They want new opportunities.

There is no doubt that agriculture faces a major succession challenge over the coming decade, and I have heard it clearly. I have heard from farmers that they have to decide whether they can afford the gas to go to church on Sunday rather than pay their hydro bill. On the campaign trail in northern Alberta, they clearly indicated to me that they wanted choice, that they wanted marketing freedom.

According to the last agricultural census, the average age of farmers in Canada is 52. I come from a community where the average age is 29. We do not have a lot of seniors in Fort McMurray. If the average age is 52, then we have a large dilemma coming, especially because Canadian farmers feed the world. More than 40% of those farmers surveyed are over 54, while less than 10% are under 35. Those are astonishing statistics. Clearly, our government is taking action because we see the future and the future is not what is current.

Despite all of these challenges, however, Canada must capitalize on the entrepreneurial spirit of these young farmers. They are entering the sector with their innovative ideas and their new ways of doing business, and they have clearly shown this. Our government is absolutely committed to helping these young people take over the farm.

Opposition members ask us why we are limiting debate. It is because we have been talking the same language for decades on this side of the House. Clearly, our young farmers want choices. They want to have the opportunity that other farmers have, whether it be in Ontario, southern British Columbia or P.E.I. They want the choices that are given to other Canadians across our country. They have been denied those choices for many years.

The Minister of Agriculture said, “handing over the farm must not be seen as a form of child abuse”. That sounds pretty draconian, but the truth is many of us in the west, many of the farmers in the west especially, feel this has been the situation. We cannot tolerate that on this side of the House.

As a farmer from Manitoba recently wrote to the hon. Minister of Agriculture, “Our twenty-two year old son is more encouraged than ever to be part of agriculture, thanks to the actions and the proposed legislation of [this] government”.

No matter what age, western grain farmers want the same marketing freedom and opportunities as other farmers in Canada and around the world. Clearly, if our farmers have those opportunities, they will not just compete, they will succeed. They will do better than their competition because we have a competitive advantage in our country, not just in our vast farmland but also in the people who run those farms, the younger people, the next generation of farmers. They want to be able to position their businesses to capture the marketing opportunities that are open to them. Our government, our Prime Minister and our minister will clearly make sure that happens.

One key way we are opening doors for our young people is through this legislation. It is interesting that in a university class of future farmers in Saskatchewan not just 60% but almost all of those young farmers favoured moving away from the single desk to give them choice. Choice is opportunity and they want that opportunity. Why not? Young farmers do not need single desks; they need many options, just like other entrepreneurs have.

This bill, which I am so proud of and which was one of the pillars that I ran on in my very first election in 2004, will give them that opportunity. Marketing freedom will allow grain growers to market based on what is best for their own businesses and help them make that decision.

Brian Otto, the president of the Western Barley Growers Association, said:

With a commercial market place, young farmers will have the tools to manage their risk and create wealth, for themselves and for their communities. We will finally have an environment that will attract young people back to the farm.

I hear some talk from a member from P.E.I. on the other side who has constituents who are not affected by this legislation. Clearly, he is not listening to what my farmers tell me and those farmers represented across this caucus.

We have already seen some encouraging signs, not just signs from this government. We have seen an overview by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada which indicates a younger generation of farmers is on the horizon and that younger generation sees clearly the actions of this government and are very pleased.

The overview reports that close to 8% of farmers are young farmer enterprises and they actually perform better than other farmers in Canada. That is amazing, but it is a good hope for the future. These are managed solely by farmers between the ages of 18 and 39. They tend to be well-distributed across farm types, size and province and because they have more opportunities, they are likely to have higher profit margins to share with their families, a higher share of on-farm family income and higher gross farm revenues. Young farmers are our future in more ways than one.

As well, a survey by Farm Credit Canada found that young producers, age 40 and under, felt their farm or business was better off today compared to five years ago. Over 80% were optimistic about the future success of their farm or business over the next five years.

Creating a successful farming operation is more than just the Wheat Board and more than just control mechanisms by outdated opposition members. It is clearly about planning, expanding, diversifying and meeting the needs of a community in the world today for the future of tomorrow.

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I have said in the House before, my grandfather farmed for 36 years on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan. He was a lifelong Conservative, and a proud one, but he also was a lifelong supporter of the Wheat Board.

One of the prime differences between the two sides of the House is over the question of whether farmers support the government's action. The government has pointed to the results of the May 2 election as somehow being a mandate given to it to dispense with the Wheat Board. There are farmers like my grandfather who may vote Conservative for certain reasons, but want like heck to keep the Wheat Board.

There is an easy way to resolve this. If the government thinks it has the support of the farmers of the country, it should put it to a vote by the farmers of western Canada. I will respect the result of that vote in the House. We will know one way or the other.

This is a simple question. Will the government let the farmers decide? If you are so confident that you have the support of the farmers of this country, put your money where your mouth is, let them vote and let us will live by the result. That is what you do in a democracy, is it not?

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5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I would remind hon. members to direct their comments and questions through the Chair.

The hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, there was a vote. It is called a majority. The majority of Canadians said that they wanted us to decide what would happen with farmers and the Canadian Wheat Board. I will not interfere in the business of the member's constituents and I would prefer he did not interfere in the business of my constituents.

Do members know how many phone calls and letters I have received in the last six months asking to keep the Wheat Board? Zero. I represent 30% of the geographic area of Alberta and I have received zero letters and phone calls. Maybe they will start because people will hear me today, but I doubt it. This is clearly before the people. They want the Canadian Wheat Board to offer choices and we will offer that freedom from the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly.

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca loves to attack members who are not from the Wheat Board area, but I have spent many years in the Wheat Board area and I hear from wheat growers every day.

The key point is this. He said that other Canadians were not under the Canadian Wheat Board. However, with other marketing institutions, whether it is in Quebec, the Ontario Wheat Producers' Marketing Board, whatever it may be, those people were given a vote on their marketing institutions. Canadian Wheat Board producers have in legislation, under section 47.1, the right to that vote and the government has denied them that right.

Why will it not allow a vote of western producers? Is it because it knows it will lose and it wants to steamroll over them, just like a dictatorship? Is that what is wrong, that it does not want to admit in the House—

Report StagePoints of OrderGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. We are getting short on time and the hon. member needs time to respond.

The hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.