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House of Commons Hansard #55 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was prairie.

Topics

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-18, An Act to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board and to make consequential and related amendments to certain Acts be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. parliamentary secretary has three minutes left to conclude her speech.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

November 28th, 2011 / 3:20 p.m.

Portage—Lisgar Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I will quickly summarize what I began my speech with and that was the great benefits that the farmers and the producers in my riding and throughout the province of Manitoba will receive once Bill C-18 is passed and they have true marketing freedom in order to market their wheat.

I also couple that with the fact that all of us want to see a successful Canadian Wheat Board, a voluntary Wheat Board. We want to see it maintained and be successful. We think that we can have a successful Wheat Board as well as marketing freedom for Canadian western wheat farmers.

I was also giving some quotes from some of the farmers in my riding, who indicated their support for us giving them freedom and choice. I want to quote Lorne Hulme. He is from Hulme Agra Products, which is in MacGregor, Manitoba, a great little community in my riding. This is what Lorne said:

I should have the right to decide what to do with my grain. Not to be dictated to by people who have little or no involvement in western Canadian agriculture…I strongly encourage you to continue on your path to assure that each farmer in western Canada has the right to market his/her grain as they see fit.

Then he thanks us all for our efforts and encourages us to not give up. I am pleased that we have not given up on this and we will be ensuring marketing freedom for western Canadian farmers.

I did receive correspondence, emails and phone calls, and I had discussions with individuals in my riding who wanted to keep the monopoly. They were concerned that the Wheat Board would fail if a monopoly was not intact. Therefore, about three years ago I met with members of the board of directors from the Canadian Wheat Board in my office. At the time I told these individuals that as leaders they needed to see that progress could not be stopped. Progress can never be stopped in a democratic and free nation.

Individual farmers and farmers groups were asking for marketing freedom, so my message to those members of the board of directors was for us to work together to have a win-win scenario where we can have a viable Wheat Board which is voluntary and also marketing freedom for farmers.

Unfortunately, their message to me was that they got up and walked out of the room and said they would not be party to that, that they did not want to see that happen.

I can say that the opposite was true when I would talk to farmers who wanted freedom. None of them were interested in destroying the board. They still wanted to see the board viable. They just wanted their own freedom and options. Therefore, it is very disappointing to see some of the approaches that have been taken by certain supporters of the monopoly and specifically some of the board members.

Can a board survive without a monopoly? Absolutely. We see it each and every day. We see it in the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan where voluntary pools and marketing boards are successful.

I met last week with members of Peak of the Market, which is a very successful voluntary board, who market their potatoes and other vegetables.

That is the example we need to follow in this debate as well as with respect to the issue of marketing freedom. We need to give individual farmers the ability to market their grain. At the same time, we need to see a voluntary Wheat Board with a new attitude, maybe some new blood, maybe new ideas, and maybe a board of directors who do not want the Wheat Board destroyed, but truly want to see it successful for those farmers who choose to use it.

I urge all members to support the bill.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague. I found it funny that, in the last three minutes of her speech, she talked about farmers having the right to choose what to do with their grain, even though this government is not even allowing them to decide what to do with the Canadian Wheat Board. So, that is the first question. Do farmers not have the right to decide whether to keep or abolish this board? The government made that decision without consulting them.

Does she plan to hold a referendum to really know, once and for all, what farmers want to do with the board and with their grain?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would be very happy to take the member to my riding and have him visit some farms where individuals are growing not just wheat or durum, but all kinds of other crops that they are marketing freely. As I mentioned, Peak of the Market is a voluntary vegetable marketing board. The beauty of this bill is that the Canadian Wheat Board will still be in existence but it will be a voluntary board. Individuals can absolutely choose to be part of that board and to market their wheat through the Canadian Wheat Board, but those who choose not to can go another way.

The beauty of our country is the freedoms that we all share and we take for granted. I am not sure if the hon. member represents farmers but he should try to understand the restraints and the ball and chain that has been put on western Canadian wheat farmers because of this mandatory Wheat Board and its monopoly.

We have seen farmers go to jail because of this. We have seen farmers abandon the whole wheat industry. We have seen many value added industries go to the U.S. or not be here in Canada. This is a good bill because it is a balance.

We do not want to destroy the Wheat Board. We want to see the Wheat Board be voluntary and viable but we want individual farmers to have the rights that they deserve as Canadians.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not agree at all with my colleague's comments, and she is well aware of that.

I have a very genuine and sincere question to ask. I am not looking for pre-fab lines that have been prepared. Where does the member stand with respect to supply management? She keeps talking about freedom for farmers. Surely that must include freedom for dairy farmers, egg farmers and poultry farmers. Could she tell us where she stands on supply management?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that question because I am also very proud to represent dairy farmers in my riding. I am not sure if my hon. colleague represents dairy farmers. I do represent dairy farmers, as well as grain and livestock farmers. My dairy farmers are very happy with the way supply management is working. It is a successful program that our government supports.

The member opposite needs to be honest about something. As I said to the Canadian Wheat Board members three years ago, we cannot stop progress. When young, innovative farmers are saying that they want to be set free from a monopoly and a Wheat Board that they do not want to be a part of, it is our responsibility to lead the way. Many times, the people we represent are far ahead of us on a lot of these issues. We just need to open up our eyes and lead the way on issues like this.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member to expand on what this means for value added on the Prairies. For us in Saskatchewan, Regina and the area, will benefit very much from a brand new processing plant that has investors who will be making major investments. I would like the member to expand on value added.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, across Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, across western Canada, farmers are excited and getting ready for this change because there are so many new innovative ways that they can add value. We will be seeing new plants springing up across our provinces. We will see jobs created and more value added for our agricultural industry.

It is time to get on board. The opposition somehow seems to think that when there is a free market it will mean cheaper grain. That has to be the most irresponsible logic I have ever heard. We live in a country where we have commodities, where we sell our products, then add value to it and we sell the product here in Canada. It is good business and our farmers are some of the best business people in the country.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

It is with a great deal of sadness that I rise to speak to Bill C-18 today. Ever since I was elected in 2006, we on this side of the House have done all in our power to prevent this reckless dismantling of farmer control by the Conservatives.

This past weekend, I had the privilege of attending the National Farmers Union convention in London, Ontario. There, I saw many farmers, both young and old, who believe that the government is on a disaster course. In his speech to the delegates, the chairman of the CWB, Allen Oberg, raised a number of interesting issues, such as with the firing of elected directors, the government effectively takes control of this farmer controlled institution. This is obviously a blatant example of the further erosion of farmer influence on agriculture in our country. According to Mr. Oberg, the factors driving the Conservative agenda are, in order of their importance: ideology, industry, U.S. and European farmers, and lastly, the interests of Canadian farmers.

Clearly, the interests of the big corporations and farmers are not the same. The main objective of these companies is to increase profits by increasing the margin made from individual farmers. It is, therefore, difficult to see why this small group of farmers against the single desk does not understand it. They believe that somehow they will be able to compete and obtain a premium price from the very companies that wish to maximize profit.

We must not forget that all profits generated today by the CWB, some $530 million to $655 million annually, go back to farmers. The value of the Canadian Wheat Board mechanism for direct farmer influence on the marketing agency cannot be overstated. The small and medium sized wheat and barley farmers have an agency that provides a level of service that neither single nor even a small co-operative of even the largest wheat and barley farmers in western Canada could emulate.

The CWB has both the trust of the buyer and the seller. It ensures that the product is delivered with consistent quality, on time and to the scale required, while it connects with markets to negotiate the best price and to guarantee farmer payment.

With the loss of the single desk, this capacity will be gone. No longer will the CWB be able to put farmers first against the railway monopolies, provide a strategic advantage to ship from Churchill, protect against WTO harassment and maintain producer cars, fight against GM wheat or maintain a quality reputation in the world.

A very disturbing article appeared in the Leader Post on November 26. It mentioned that, under direct orders from the minister, the CWB's contingency fund was raised from $60 million to $200 million. The author of the article, Bruce Johnstone, said that this did not “have anything to do with putting more money in farmers' pockets”. He went on to say:

In fact, farmers are going to help bankroll the Tories' new voluntary wheat board whether they want to or not.

[The]...government wants to use the contingency fund to cover the costs of operating the new wheat pool company and wind up the old farmer-directed board, including severance payments for CWB officials.

These wind-up costs are estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, including liability costs of breaking or renegotiating contracts, obligations, pensions, severance payments and other asset purchases. Allen Oberg estimates this to be between $200 million and $400 million. In other words, money will be taken from farmers to advance the government's agenda so it can ram this through.

This does not make any sense and, I would submit, it is morally wrong. Shame on the Prime Minister and shame on his corporate stooges.

We need to look at the cost factor of this massive, tragic transformation. Most analysts predict that grain prices will fall after the elimination of the single desk. Another likely outcome is industry consolidation as large producers squeeze out smaller producers. Large grain companies, such Viterra, Cargill and Bunge, will have a huge new supply of sellers competing to unload their products.

In Australia, with the loss of the single desk, the market share of the Australian wheat board collapsed to 23% of Australian exports, as its reputation for quality is being lost.

The CWB grains account for 95% of shipments through the Port of Churchill. This does not cost the government any money at all but the government is now proposing to provide $5 million of taxpayer money per year for five years to support the shipping of grain.

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, the CWB contributes a gross output of $94.6 million to the city of Winnipeg. The employment spinoff from the CWB is 2,000 jobs, with a total labour income impact on the city of more than $66 million and, at the provincial level, $140 million.

What is tragic is that there has not been an economic analysis by the Conservatives of this legislation. Based on analysis of the situation on the open market, it can be expected that there will be a reduction of between 16% to 23% on return to farmers and losses in the millions related to payment defaults and arbitrary reductions by grain companies.

Today, the CWB earn farmers between $500 million and $655 million every year. No one will be able to influence any of the big five grain companies that will take over. There will be no pooling of premiums. These will go directly to the company, which does not guarantee payment to farmers for all grains delivered.

In the past, the CWB has also assisted farmers in legal challenges, such as the lawsuit against CP Rail. There is no credible evidence that any single farmer on the prairies has the resources to do any of this. Based on historical precedence, there will be losses in the millions of dollars per year to farmers on demurrage charges, as well as freight rate overcharges. There is also credible evidence that the farmer-loaded producer car option will end. This will results in a direct loss to the farmer of between $1,000 and $1,500 per year.

This is a black day in the history of our country. Whether we are dealing with the issue of crime in this country or the collective interests of farmers, we have a Conservative government, elected with only 27% of the vote of eligible voters, that is determined to transform this country based on an ideology and not on sound analysis or research.

Farmers in western Canada have spent many years building an organization that provides them clout in dealing with their trading partners and transnational corporations at no cost to the taxpayers. In their wisdom, through the election of their directors in the recent plebiscite, they have chosen to retain a strong, collective, united front through a single desk.

What we are seeing here is a battle of ideologies. The co-operative position of strength versus this rugged, every person for himself individualism. Some will survive but many will not. The tragedy is that this ideological agenda will further erode the family farm and the quality of our western Canadian rural life. Unfortunately, there will be no turning back once farmers' rights and powers are taken away.

In closing, we could say that history will be the judge as we see the dismantling, and it is a dismantling. The evidence and the research that I have read and we have seen on this side of the House is that a single desk entity will not be able to survive in today's ruthless market when we have the United States, through the WTO, unsuccessfully challenging the Wheat Board 13 times, but this organization has been able to stand up on behalf of farmers.

We will see in a few years what will happen. Those of us on this side believe that this is not a happy day and it is not as exciting as many on the other side think that it will be.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeMinister of State (Western Economic Diversification)

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about the shipping through Churchill. The Wheat Board bought some ships, on which the farmers had no say, and those ships do not go to Churchill. They use the lake head. The farmers paid for that.

He talked about severance packages. That is part of the reason that perhaps the costs will be higher for this voluntary wheat board.

However, there were times that the Wheat Board made some decisions that did not reflect the farmers. I can think of a Christmas three or four years ago when the Wheat Board gave those who were working in Winnipeg stress leave. It gave $500 per worker in Winnipeg for stress leave but nobody paid the farmers for the stress they had in ensuring their grain got to market.

When the member talks about unfairness, the farmers did not have a voice in some of the decisions that were made, for example, the buying of the ships. I would like the member to expand on that.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, as in other farmer control organizations, a board of directors is elected. If I am not mistaken, the member mentioned the stress leave that was granted. After that, farmers elected most of the members who support the single desk. Therefore, the democratic right was exercised within the farming community to elect directors who represented their views in a free and democratic process.

Why is it not possible then for the government to have this democratic process take place so that farmers can decide for themselves whether they want to go down this route or whether they would like to continue to retain a single desk?

The problem is that there has not been a democratic vote. During the election the minister stated that farmers would have a voice, but this has not happened.

There is something quite wrong here: a farmer-based organization making decisions through its elected board of directors versus a government decision that is being rammed through in legislation.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I had the pleasure of working with the member while we fought against the government over the last four or five years to prevent it from destroying the Canadian Wheat Board, which seems to be what it wants.

The Minister of State for Western Diversification got up a moment ago and talked about stress leave bonuses for the people who worked at the Canadian Wheat Board. Of course, they were stressed because they were always under attack. The government is using its position to provide misinformation consistently on the Wheat Board and its operations.

If the member wants to talk about bonuses, look at the bonuses for the senior bureaucracy in the Government of Canada. What the Wheat Board paid out would not have a patch on that.

We have heard in the House member after member on the government side get up and talk about value-added processing. The facts are, and I think the member knows it, that Canada processes three times more malting barley per capita than the United States. Wheat milling capacity in western Canada has grown by 11.8% in the last decade compared to 9% in the northern states of the United States. There were four new western Canadian mills built during that period while the number of mills in the northern United States has remained the same.

On the value added by the government, what is really going to happen here is that farmers are going to have to sell their grain more cheaply and take greater losses in their operations so that it adds value to somebody else's end profits. Is that not what is really happening? Is the government supporting the--

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is anybody in the House who understands farmers more than my colleague does. He has been working on behalf of farmers for many years, whether through the National Farmers Union or right here in the House.

There is misinformation. There is a spin that somehow there is not enough value added because of the single desk. The member just stated that there is value added, there are new mills and capacity is increasing, whereas across the border this is not happening.

The member is entirely correct. Once this is thrown open, obviously people will not open up new plants unless they can get a cheaper price. The only way they could get a cheaper price is if farmers get less. It is a simple matter of economics.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, we want to talk some more about Bill C-18 and about Canadian institutions; the Canadian Wheat Board is an important one. In Bill C-18, we can clearly see the government's desire to destroy another Canadian institution to the advantage of private corporations, which are very often foreign-owned.

Let us speak clearly about the dangers to all the institutions affected by Bill C-18, because, in destroying the Canadian Wheat Board, the Conservatives are also attacking a whole range of Canadian institutions.

The first of those institutions is democracy, this country's most important value. It is the right of farmers themselves to manage the board that markets the fruits of their labour. It is essential. On this issue, the government offers a very special interpretation of the concept of freedom for farmers, which also involves the existence of the right to vote on the choice of who they want as partners to sell their wheat. The right to a referendum is their most sacred right. But, in fact, they are being denied such a referendum. It was promised to them during the election, but once the election was over, it was obvious that the Conservative government wanted so much to destroy a Canadian institution that it forgot to honour its big promise. The Conservatives wanted people to vote for them on the basis that they would protect, respect and consult farmers. But once they were in power, the only people consulted were foreign corporations. That is typical of the Conservative government—a Conservative government, not a Canadian government.

Second, the Canadian Wheat Board is also a world headquarters, located here in Canada. Decisions that matter to the world are made here in Canada. The Wheat Board has developed its staff and expertise in Canada. The Conservatives would replace it with offices that receive faxes, emails and orders from foreign corporations located elsewhere. We are going to lose a national resource. For the world, it has been an institution whose words were listened to, one that could intervene in global markets and affect prices and market trends around the world. It is being replaced by nothing at all. That is a major impact. The Canadian Wheat Board generated 2,000 jobs in the city of Winnipeg. But the Conservative government has so little respect that it has not even considered what would become of this world headquarters.

The Canadian Wheat Board is also a provider of transportation. It owns railcars. It even owns ships. It is being criticized for owning ships and other means of transport by those who have never considered that having railcars and ships has enabled Canada to reduce transportation costs and therefore get a better price for its wheat. No, they have not done that analysis. They do not want to. They simply say that the Canadian Wheat Board has ships and should not have them. Personally, I do not agree, because I think it should own ships. If the board decides that having ships gives Canadian farmers an economic advantage, then why give up that advantage? To please the competition? To please the Conservative government's limited vision? I say no.

And if other Canadian companies were to follow this example, we could finally have a Canadian merchant marine. But that would be something truly Canadian, and we know that this government is attacking all the important symbols of Canada, except the flag and the Queen's portrait. It is important and creates many jobs but, once again, they are not worried about these issues.

The Port of Churchill was developed to provide access to the north, to give direct access to all world markets through a deep sea port, and to be able to take advantage of the opening of the Northwest Passage through the Arctic. But again, Churchill is Canadian and that is less attractive than revitalizing the railroads in the United States, because they will use this economic sleight of hand to increase their share of transportation.

It is profitable for them, but it may not be for Canada, and certainly not for Churchill. We have invested in Churchill, a Canadian city and port inhabited by Canadians who deserve to be listened to and supported by a government that, unfortunately, is anything but Canadian. That is a major problem.

The issue is not just the Port of Churchill, but also the Port of Vancouver, the seaway and the Port of Thunder Bay—all these institutions and all this infrastructure. The Canadian workers who work in these places are not being listened to or considered. There has not even been a study on the impact this will have on them. All we have heard are slogans and unflattering remarks. All we have seen is the government's demonstration that it does not know what it is doing and that it wants to destroy Canada in a fit of hysterics.

In conclusion, the serious problem with this bill is that its very essence is anti-Canadian. It destroys an expertise and will make our country's institutions obsolete. Our country is vast, it is big and it depends on a number of institutions that helped build it. The Canadian Wheat Board plays an essential role, since it uses Canada's railways and railway cars—Canada's means of transportation. The Canadian Wheat Board helped build this country. It is not the only one, but it is important, just like the CBC, which the government is also trying to destroy. It wants to support Mr. Péladeau. The government is going after another Canadian institution. The government wants to destroy it and replace it with something else. Those things are never Canadian and never defend the interests of Canadians. That is a major problem with this government.

The government systematically shows up with nothing but lies, nothing but fabrications. When we ask the Conservatives for an assessment of how their suggested alternative will affect the economy, they never give anything. It would be nice to have economic studies on the impact this would have on the Port of Churchill, the St. Lawrence Seaway or the Port of Vancouver, but the government never has that. All it has are comments, such as the fact that it gave out $500 for stress leave. What does that change?

With regard to wheat trading by American companies, do you know what premiums, commissions, perks or gifts are given? Do you really believe that these people will trade Canadian wheat because they like us and want to help out Canadians? They are there to make money. The more they can make off us, the happier they will be and the less they will hesitate, especially with a government that is encouraging them, a government that is telling them to take everything and give nothing in return.

That is the problem with this government. It does not defend the interests of Canadians and time and again is nowhere in sight when it comes time to defend Canada. There is nothing Canadian about this Conservative government. When referring to the current Conservative government we cannot call it the Canadian government. The Canadian Wheat Board is a fine example of this.

We could also discuss the impact this will have on co-operatives. It is the same problem, not just with co-operatives, but also with supply markets. The Conservatives consider them to be constraints on free and open trade.

I will conclude by saying that this government, with its anti-Canadian practices and its way of destroying all Canadian institutions, has proven that it has no heart.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeMinister of State (Finance)

Mr. Speaker, I am very troubled by the hon. member's comments. No criticism against the individual, but I wish he would have actually researched what he was talking about because there were so many misconceptions in what he was saying.

The member talked about foreign companies. My question when I get to the end of this will be, where is the headquarters of Viterra, one of the largest grain companies in the world? Where is the headquarters of Richardson International?

I would like to leave it with those two questions, but the hon. member also talked about ships. This government actually said to the Canadian Wheat Board that it is not within the Wheat Board's mandate to own ships, trains or railroads. It has made such a mess that we want to make sure it keeps out of the transportation industry. The member suggested that the Canadian Wheat Board manage producer cars. I managed my own producer cars. I did not need the Canadian Wheat Board to do that.

Is Richardson International headquartered in Calgary or Winnipeg? Is Viterra headquartered in Regina or Calgary? They are Canadian companies. I would ask the member to please get that accurate.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to reply to the Conservative member who is obviously deliberately turning a blind eye. The Canadian Wheat Board is not simply a place where faxes from parent companies in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles are received. It is where decisions are made. And those decisions are made by members elected by farmers. That is what bothers the Conservatives: Canadians making decisions for Canadians. That is unacceptable to them, which is why they refuse to hold a referendum for farmers. They are afraid of what the farmers might decide.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the minister talked about how big Viterra was.

I will put it on the record right now. I remember when the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool thought it was big too, and where is it today? It is gone. The difference will be that Viterra will find itself under the same kind of pressure, because although pools worked for the farm community and profits went back to the farm, with Viterra the profits go back to the shareholders.

The fact is that it does not matter whether it is Viterra, Cargill or Archer Daniels Midland. The Canadian Wheat Board ensured that the maximum return went back to primary producers; Viterra, Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland will ensure that they gain at farmers' expense in order to provide returns to shareholders.

The United States has challenged the Canadian Wheat Board 14 times, and Canada won every time. Who does the member think the minister is working for? Is he working for the American grain sector? It seems to be only the minister who wants to get rid of the Canadian Wheat Board. Challenges from the U.S. could not get rid of it.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, who is the minister working for? Clearly he is not working for Canadians. He is working for his own personal future. If he respects farmers so much then why will he not let them have a referendum? This is so typical. He says that he represents and defends farmers, but when they ask him to poll their opinion, he is not there for them. He is not the Minister of Agriculture, nor the minister of farmers. He is his own farmer and he is negotiating his future job, nothing more. He is not a Canadian member of Parliament. He is a man who defends anti-Canadian interests.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeMinister of State (Finance)

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand for the first time to speak at third reading on this piece of legislation. However, it is very frustrating to listen to some of the statements. I am not too sure how to phrase this, but I find it very frustrating because we cannot explain why people are making statements that they know are not factual. That is about as far as I can go in parliamentary language.

The Canadian Wheat Board is not like the CBC and is not likened to a whole lot of the arguments, so let us stay on the issue. This piece of legislation, the marketing freedom for grain farmers act, would provide the same freedom to western farmers that farmers in the rest of Canada have. It is nothing more complicated than that. It is simply an opportunity for western farmers to be able to choose, in the same way that an automobile manufacturer can choose where it markets its cars. Farmers growing peas in Saskatchewan can choose where they market their peas and farmers who produce apples in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia can choose where they market their apples. It is no more complex than that. It is something that I personally have been looking forward to for over 35 years. I cannot explain how excited I am to see this happen, and happen here today.

Mr. Speaker, I seek your approval to share my time with the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre. I would like to keep going for 20 minutes, but that hon. member wishes to speak as well, so I ask you to allow that, Mr. Speaker.

The new Canadian wheat board would be voluntary. The present-day directors had a great opportunity to actually move forward with an option that they know full well most farmers wanted to see, because those same farmers actually have a voluntary method of selling all of their other products. It is nothing new to those farmers. It is simply a choice that is necessary for us, as farmers, to be able to hedge our risks.

We carry all of the risk on a crop that is put in the ground in the spring. We carry every penny of risk on that. Whether it is weather risk, market risk, whatever it may be, we carry that risk, but we have no way of actually guaranteeing that risk. I can for my other crops, for peas or for lentils. I can hedge a price on those crops and lock in a price in the future. It is very simple for those crops. I would encourage all hon. members to recognize that other farmers have this right and that farmers west of the Manitoba-Ontario border do not.

We are quite looking forward to the opportunities in value-added operations. We have heard many times in speeches in this House about the new pasta plant going up just outside Regina.

I would refer anyone who has travelled south on I-15 down into the United States from Alberta to the massive malt plant that should have been in Alberta, and would have been, had the Canadian Wheat Board had not said it would refuse to sell barley to that plant if it were to be built in Alberta. I have no idea why. The fact is that there is a large malt plant; the barley now goes down Highway 2, right past my farm and down to Montana, and we do not see any of the benefits or the jobs. The benefits are going to the Americans employed in that facility.

Let us look at canola. I have had farmers call my office and ask, “Why are you trying to get rid of the monopoly Canadian Wheat Board?” My answer starts out with one word: canola.

Farmers in this country used to grow oilseed rape or rapeseed. When it was taken out of the Canadian Wheat Board, the plant scientists took it, expanded the opportunities, increased the trade potential of it and increased the oil content of it. It was the Cinderella crop of Canada. The acreage has grown exponentially.

Canada is known for its canola. Unfortunately, it is not known for its wheat. Because we have kept the Canadian Wheat Board in place for so long, it has stifled any potential and trait-specific qualities that could have come forward to expand our acreage on wheat. The wheat acreages have diminished. However, going forward I look forward to a vibrant industry around wheat and durum in this country.

I will refer also to feed barley. Feed barley used to be under the control of the Canadian Wheat Board. When it was removed, we actually developed a feeding industry in Alberta, partially because we got rid of the Crow subsidy but also because we had an opportunity to value-add to barley. It is called cattle. That is where Alberta beef comes from. Everyone in the House knows how wonderful our Alberta beef is, even the members from Saskatchewan.

We watched canola and corn yields increase. We have watched acreages go up. The last time I spoke in the House, I spoke to the fact that Canada will be called on to feed a growing population. We need to take advantage of these new crops to be allowed to contribute to feeding the rest of the world. It is a great opportunity.

I would like to talk about many things before I run out of time, but one thing is near and dear to my heart. I want to pay tribute to some of the individuals who have virtually worked all their lives to see this day. Some of them are not with us.

I think of Clare Taylor, who farmed just outside Regina. He was an incredible gentleman. One could not find a finer gentleman. He had a white shock of hair that most men would be jealous of when they were 18. He had it the day he died. However, he never had the freedom to market his own wheat. One day he said to me, "I hope you live long enough and I hope I live long enough to see the freedom to market our wheat." Unfortunately, he did not make it.

Another gentleman is Art Mainil. Art's nephew, Dale, is with us in Ottawa today cheering us on--silently, of course, in the gallery, but cheering us on. Art Mainil fought hard and long to have the freedom to market his wheat where he chose.

Another gentleman is Wally Nelson, one of the founding board members of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, an incredibly dedicated man. Along with Clare Taylor, they were two gentlemen who finally made sure that farmers actually got paid for the protein content in their wheat, because the Canadian Wheat Board never recognized that for years and years. It was a tough battle just to get that.

Another gentleman is Jim Chatenay, one of the first elected members to the Canadian Wheat Board. He was a very articulate gentleman who worked long and hard to try to gain us freedom. Unfortunately, he sat on that board for enough years that it retired him, and he did not quite accomplish it.

Hubert Esquirol, from Meota, Saskatchewan, is another good friend of mine who worked with the wheat growers trying to get marketing freedom.

I will also mention Glen Goertzen, from Alberta; Ike Lanier, from Lethbridge; Bill Cooper, who I believe will be here to celebrate with us this evening; and Paul Orsak from Manitoba.

Unfortunately, Art Walde is no longer with us either. He fought the battle. He did not lose it; we will win it for him today, and his son Robyn will be with us to celebrate tonight.

There are also Tim Harvie and Brian Kriz, and another person we should recognize is a former member of the House, the Honourable Charlie Mayer. He managed to get oats outside the Canadian Wheat Board. We will never forget him for doing that.

Mr. Speaker, I see that I am running out of time. I was just about to get to some of the points that I would like to reflect on, points on how the board actually lost me money over the years, but I will share that with you sometime over a glass of wine.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of State for Finance.

Earlier, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture was asked whether there were any studies to back their initiatives and their bill. The same question was asked about other bills, and the Conservatives have failed to produce any studies to back their plans a number of times now. Often they tell us that their constituents said this or that, or that they met someone who told them this or that, so they created a bill and are moving ahead with it.

I would like to know whether the Minister of State for Finance has any studies to back this initiative and whether there is anything to truly prove that this will be beneficial to western Canadian farmers.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, a study went on for 35 years of my life. It was called a “reality check”. I would hate to add up how much money I lost. Let me reflect just one experience, and this is a good case study.

One year, on my farm we harvested some of the best wheat that Canada could produce. I could have delivered it to Shelby, Montana for $1.35 a bushel more than I would get but I could not because that was illegal. I would have ended up in jail. I could have delivered it right off the combine and got $1.35 a bushel more. I probably had somewhere in the neighbourhood of 80,000 bushels that year, so do the math.

I ended up selling it to the Canadian Wheat Board. It took 18 months to finally get the cheque. If I had delivered it in Shelby, I would have had the cheque in my hand as I drove out of the elevator. I lost $1.35 a bushel and I waited 18 months to get my money. What more case study do we need than that?

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague points out that there are some farmers who want to do away with the single desk Canadian Wheat Board. We know that. There are also farmers who would like to keep it. There was a survey. Unfortunately, we do not know what the real numbers are. They seem to be in majority with respect to wheat and a slight majority with respect to barley, but we never did have that plebiscite, so we do not know for sure.

One thing for sure is the government has never, at any time, come across with constructive and reassuring language to those farmers out west who believe that it is important to keep the Canadian Wheat Board single desk. Basically, those farmers have been ridiculed for not wanting to change the way the government wants them to change.

Does my hon. colleague have any reassuring words to give to those farmers who are genuinely concerned about the fact that the Canadian Wheat Board will no longer be a single desk? They believe in that and so far the government has not tried to send any reassuring and comforting words that everything is going to be okay.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is not accurate. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food approached the Canadian Wheat Board and ask if it would please make the plans to put in place a voluntary wheat board.

When oats was taken out, there was no such thing but guess what happened with oats. The acreage grew, the volumes grew and it is a wonderful market. Guess what happened when canola was taken out. The acreage grew, the productivity grew and it is a world-class product now.

The same can happen with wheat. I could not name one farmer who has not grown something other than wheat. Therefore, farmers have the ability and understand how to market their grain, but they have been bound under this monopoly so they could not sell their wheat or barley. All farmers out there have the opportunity to market their other products and they have actually understood how to do that. Therefore, it is nothing new. If the present board had actually done what it was asked and what its fiduciary responsibility was to do, we would have a new board ready to set up an option and it would have worked wonderfully for them, just as for those who want their freedom.