Mr. Speaker, let me start off by saying hallelujah, marketing freedom is merely hours away.
There have been producers in the country, and many of them are going to be with us tonight, who have been waiting for decades upon decades to achieve the fundamental right of freedom that every other Canadian takes for granted in our great country. However, after years of inactivity and opposition from parties on the left, we have finally come to the point that in less than three hours from now Bill C-18 will pass third reading in the House and will be sent to the Senate to achieve the marketing freedom that so many producers in western Canada have fought for all of their lives.
This will be an historic vote. This will be a celebration of unparalleled heights because we have farmers, and my colleague, the hon. Minister of State for Finance has named many of them, who have fought for years to achieve the same basic rights of freedom that other farmers in other parts of the country and in other parts of the world have taken for granted for years and years.
Unfortunately, the debate on Bill C-18, the debate on marketing freedom, has been jaundiced because there have been so many misrepresentations about what Bill C-18 will do. Instead of trying to get into some technical arguments, I will put the Bill C-18 question the easiest way that any Canadian can understand a bill like this. That is the test of common sense.
Without questions, western Canadian producers are among some of the smartest business people in Canada. If the Canadian Wheat Board were providing all the benefits to farmers that the opposition claims it does, there would be no need for this debate. There would be no need for Bill C-18 because there would not be a farmer in Canada who would want to change the Canadian Wheat Board, if the Wheat Board were doing what all of our opponents have say it does, and that is to provide unparalleled benefits to the farmers.
Unfortunately, western Canadian farmers know better. They know the Canadian Wheat Board does not provide them the benefits that my opponents purport it to do. Quite frankly, it costs farmers money. My colleague, the Minister of State for Finance, gave a couple of examples. Let me also give one.
A constituent of mine, who will be here tonight, about three or four years ago wanted to sell his own barley. At that time, members who have been around the House for awhile will remember, we attempted in 2006 to remove barley from the Canadian Wheat Board. It looked for a time that we would be able to achieve that. My constituent had a price locked in to sell his barley on the open market, but the opposition reared its protectionist head, refused that freedom to market his own barley and cost my constituent $250,000.
I have heard the member for Malpeque and the member for Winnipeg Centre say on many occasions that the Wheat Board is the best thing going for western Canadian farmers, that if the Wheat Board were somehow changed or altered to remove the single desk provisions, the sky would fall and farmers would lose out on great opportunities. The constituent who lost $250,000 will be here tonight. I would invite the member for Malpeque and the member for Winnipeg Centre to engage that constituent of mine in conversation and please, I would love to hear that conversation. I would love to hear how the member for Malpeque would say to my constituent that this was a good thing that happened, that losing a quarter of a million dollars was a good thing because we saved the Canadian Wheat Board. It makes no sense whatsoever and farmers know this intuitively.
We also have evidence, not just anecdotal evidence such as the story that I shared with members here, but we have empirical evidence. We have seen what happens when certain grains are removed from the Canadian Wheat Board.
Over 20 years ago, Charlie Mayer was successful in getting oats removed from the Canadian Wheat Board. What happened? Productivity went up and lo and behold, prices went up. Was there any great hue and cry from oat producers to have oats returned to the Canadian Wheat Board? Absolutely none, because the proof was in the pudding. Their productivity, acreage and prices went up. As a result of their oats not being controlled by the board, they were making more money than they did when they were controlled. There are similar stories with respect to canola, pulses and oilseeds. The benefit to farmers by giving them the ability to sell their own product is immense.
Some may argue, and I will accept their argument, that there are producers out there who want to remain selling through the board. They will have that opportunity. We are not getting rid of the single desk or the Wheat Board completely. We are merely making a voluntary marketing agency.
I hear time and time again misinformation coming from my colleagues opposite. They say that we are getting rid of the Wheat Board. We are not. We are simply turning it into a voluntary mechanism to allow producers to make their own choices. Some may want to continue selling their wheat and barley through the Canadian Wheat Board. They will have the ability to do so. We are simply giving producers the option and allowing them the freedom to make their own choices.
Since when is freedom a dirty word? According to the opposition it apparently is. According to the opposition, giving farmers the freedom to market their own product is something we should not even be discussing. It makes no sense. It certainly does not pass the test of common sense because freedom is inalienable. It is a right of all Canadians.
Do we restrict other manufacturers or other businesses in Canada from selling their product to whom they wish? Outside of some legalities and some sort of health concerns, we do not.
My friend the heckler from Malpeque does not want to hear the truth. He merely wants to settle with the same ideological arguments. He comes from Prince Edward Island. I point out to him, as I have many times in the past, that I have yet to see the potato farmers of P.E.I. clamouring for a potato marketing agency. They never will because they now have the fundamental right as other producers in Canada—