Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and honoured to represent the riding of Portage—Lisgar, an amazing riding in rural Manitoba, full of producers, agriculture, manufacturers, small business, individuals and families that have built lives and communities on agriculture and the importance that agriculture brings to our country. I appreciate being able to support and represent farmers as their member of Parliament.
I want to thank my colleague, the member for Prince Albert and others who have worked so hard on this issue. Many of them are farmers. I want to give my colleagues the due respect they should have for the hard work they have done, as well as opposition members, who we disagree with on what we should do to help farmers. However, I believe the intent of the majority of opposition members is honourable in supporting farmers. I hope at the end of this debate we will be able to put aside all of the angst and division and we will truly see a viable and successful Canadian Wheat Board as well as choice for Canadian farmers.
First, I very strongly support Bill C-18. I will begin with the premise of freedom, freedom that all of us enjoy in the great country of Canada. We enjoy freedom as individuals, of faith and free speech. Business people enjoy the freedom of being able to market their goods and services. As long as the goods or services they market are legal, they should be able to market them within the regulations and laws of Canada. This is a freedom that so many western Canadian farmers who grow wheat and durum have been unable to experience. If all Canadians listening today begin with the thought of freedom for western Canadian farmers to market their wheat and durum just like farmers across the rest of Canada are able to do, that is a good foundation to build on the strength and validity of Bill C-18.
The legislation delivers on our government's long-standing commitment to give western farmers the marketing freedom they deserve. Just like there is a lot of excitement around the Jets coming back to Winnipeg, Manitoba, there is a lot of excitement among farmers and producers around the opportunity to have freedom in marketing their wheat.
I am proud of the role that agriculture plays in keeping our economy strong and stable. In 2009 the agricultural and food industry brought $4.8 billion to the farm gate in Manitoba in total farm cash receipts. It generated just over $4 billion in exports and the agricultural industry directly employed 30,000 Manitobans. The agricultural industry is booming in Manitoba. Some of the best crops are grown in that province. Right across our great country, the agriculture and agrifood industry accounted for over $100 billion in economic activity and over 2.1 million jobs.
I want to speak for a moment about some of the industries in my riding.
Can-Oat, which is an oat processing facility, has done remarkably well since it has been given the freedom to market oats. I visited the facility in Portage la Prairie. I am very proud and I know the people who work there are very proud of the work they do.
Keystone Grain, another business located in Winkler, Manitoba, is able to process all kinds of grains, market and sell them around the world.
Bunge, which is located in Altona in my riding, also processes canola and does a fantastic job. It has just expanded its facilities. We have contributed with Canada's economic action plan. We helped the town of Altona support Bunge and we have another value-added industry in my riding.
Quaker Farms grows and markets vegetables.
What is not in my riding is a pasta plant. There are no value-added industries for wheat or durum. No matter what side of the issue one is on, we want value-added industries to grow and I want them to grow in my riding.
These businesses are tremendous and show what our hard-working farmers and food processors can do when they have the liberty to run their businesses in a free and open market. For too long, Manitoba wheat and barley growers have had that field tilted against them.
On October 18, the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food introduced legislation that aimed to level that field by giving farmers the right to choose how to market their wheat, durum and barley independently or through a voluntary Canadian Wheat Board. The marketing freedom for grain farmers act will give every farmer in western Canada the freedom to choose how to market their grain, whether that is to a buyer who pays the full price on delivery or through a pool offered by the Canadian Wheat Board. As has already been indicated, it is our intention to have this marketing choice system in place for August 1, 2012.
Western Canadian farmers want the same freedom and opportunity as other farmers in Canada and around the world and they want to be able to market their grain based on what is best for their own business. Again, just like any other business person in Canada, they want the same freedoms to market their wheat.
I just want to quote a couple of individuals from my riding, people who are producers and who are contributing to our economy.
Lyndon Thiessen a farmer in Winkler, Manitoba, wrote to me and said, “We market all our other crops and are looking forward to doing our wheat completely on our own”.
Mark Elias, from Morden, Manitoba, which is my home town, wrote:
I am writing to encourage you to keep working at removing the Board. Please remove the board. It is costing us all very dearly. I know of businesses in your home town who cannot process wheat and sell products because of the Board. As a local producer I also do not have the option of selling my wheat directly into the US market thereby reducing my profits and the productive potential of Manitoba.