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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

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to comment on the parliamentary secretary's statement about spending by the board. The board has a fiduciary duty to protect the board and the interests of wheat farmers. That is why that money was spent.

I am pleased to rise today in the debate at third reading on the Conservative government's bill that would effectively kill the Canadian Wheat Board. It is an honour because I truly believe that when putting forward legislation such as this, legislation that would not only touch the lives and livelihoods of farmers across the western provinces but would profoundly change the face of agriculture in this country, there should be fulsome debate. Sadly, the Conservative government decided in May that it would not listen to any voices but its own for the next four years. Not only do Canadian farmers who voted to keep the Canadian Wheat Board deserve better, so do Canadians across this country who understand that their bread does not come from the bakery or the grocery store but from the hard work and dedication of Canadian farmers.

Having walked away from the election with only 39% of the vote, meaning that 61% of Canadians do not support the government's measures, the Conservatives have treated their majority as an excuse to walk all over farmers who do not share their ideological beliefs. I remind the House that according to the existing Canadian Wheat Board Act, an affirmative vote of wheat farmers is required under section 47.1 before a change as significant as this is made.

Regardless of pre-election promises by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in Minnedosa in March of this year to have a farmer vote and not act arbitrarily, the government shut out the voices of farmers by refusing to hold a farmers vote and smearing anyone who dared stand up to its ideological steamroller. In August the Canadian Wheat Board held its own farmers vote, wherein a majority of western Canadian grain producers voted to maintain the single desk under the Canadian Wheat Board. What did the government do? It is no surprise. It smeared the results. How can a government maintain that Canadian farmers know best on the one hand while refusing to actually listen to a single one?

The Conservatives limited debate, giving the House only three shortened days to speak to a bill that would fundamentally alter the face of farming and would change rural life in the prairie provinces forever. Then the government referred the bill to a special legislative committee, not the regular agriculture committee, limiting its review to only the technical elements of the bill, not to the impact on small farms and the effect that attacking the family farm will have on small town rural economies.

The legislative committee did not even travel out west to hear from farmers, despite my seeking consent in the House to do so. To add insult to injury, the committee was restricted to only two evenings of hearing witnesses, only two nights for people to testify to the detrimental impact this bill will have before the committee was restricted to one short night of clause-by-clause examination of the bill, refusing all amendments designed to put control of even the new Canadian Wheat Board into the hands of farmers. Fearing the truth, Conservatives held farmers back and silenced tens of thousands of farmers' voices, pretending to Canadians that no opposition to this bill ever existed, an all too familiar deception that characterizes the government.

What the Conservative government does not want to hear is that farmers are profoundly concerned about the clout and strength they will lose once they are no longer able to negotiate, sell or market their wheat, durum and barley through the single desk. Where is the Prime Minister who said only hours after winning his majority that he would govern for all Canadians? I do not recall him explaining that there is an exception for western grain farmers who tried to speak through their Conservative MPs but could not even get a return call or email response on the issue. They were completely ignored. What of the farmers in Ottawa right now who cannot get a meeting with Conservative senators? It is shameful.

Post-election democracy no longer exists with the government. This is more severe than the back and forth of debate in the House. It is much more than every question that the minister or his parliamentary secretary have deflected. These are farmers who have worked their whole lives on their farms, who support the Canadian Wheat Board, who are being ignored because the government does not want to hear what they have to say.

With the removal of the single desk, a great piece of armour is being removed from the farmers' arsenal. Vital infrastructure that links the marketing, sales and transportation needs of western Canadian farmers is being destroyed. In the absence of any meaningful action on the rail service review for nine months now, farmers are concerned that they will no longer have the hammer that they need to deal with the overwhelming strength and appetite for profit of big grain companies and the railway.

Western grain farmers have shared their tragic stories of the abuse they suffer at the hands of the railways. The railway companies have such a callous disregard for farmers that they will often send railway cars with holes in them without any consideration for what grain will be lost along the way. Farmers individually are up against a behemoth where their collective clout enables them recourse in the face of such poor treatment. That clout will now be gone.

Many farmers have approached me because our Competition Act is not nearly effective enough in dealing with anti-competitive behaviour. In this infrastructural vacuum, farmers will be left to struggle and die. Not only will farmers be left to fend for themselves, but even the farmers who stay with an interim wheat board will lose their voice in the organization.

This bill does not allow for any elected directors upon the coming into effect of the new law, and leaves five government-appointed directors. These directors, unaccountable to grain producers, are no more than puppets of the minister with the new sweeping powers set in place by the bill that require the board to be operated by whom? The Prime Minister's office.

My colleague on the government side, the member for Westlock—St. Paul, once wrote the following to his constituents:

Canada is a democracy and one of the underlying tenets of a democracy is that fact that citizens vote to elect their representatives, be it an MP, a mayor or a Director of the Canadian Wheat Board.

I am saddened that my friend has abandoned his commitment to democratic institutions. There is a very important truth in that statement. Members on both sides of this House have argued that farmers know what is in their own best interests. Therefore, when the western Canadian farmers elect their directors to the Wheat Board and 80% of the directors elected consistently support the single desk, one can only assume that the democratic process has been respected and the wishes of the electorate have been satisfied.

Many of the same farmers who may have helped to elect my friend the member for Westlock—St. Paul or any number of members opposite from the government party also voted to elect representatives to their Wheat Board and support the single desk.

A number of members opposite have questioned my position on behalf of prairie wheat and barley farmers in the past because I am from Ontario. Well, I will say to those members that people from Ontario and everywhere else in this country know that their food comes from farmers and not the grocery store. The Conservatives have make the false link between the single desk and western Canadian provinces and the Ontario Wheat Producers' Marketing Board. I will clear up some of the errors in their argument before they rise during the period for questions and comments.

We are entirely committed to giving western Canadian farmers the same choice as Ontario farmers. In the late 1990s, the Ontario farmer-elected board of the single desk began a transition, supported by producers, to move to an open market. Farmer-elected directors supported by Ontario farmers made this choice, not a government talking down to producers, the majority of whom voted to sustain the single desk.

There is no question that Canada produces the best grain in the world. However, there are different grades of grain, and the members opposite need to keep that in mind when they are considering this bill. Ontario production is one-tenth that of the western provinces, and produces a soft wheat, one used primarily for pastry, cookies and doughnuts. The western provinces' hard red spring wheat is used in making bread, and their durum for making pasta. Ontario mills rely on prairie wheat for flour.

Most of Ontario's wheat is sold within Canada or the northern United States, while the majority of western wheat is shipped around the world. The transportation costs for western wheat and its markets are not at all comparable, nor is the clout required to sustain the western wheat industry.

What is the bottom line? If the members opposite would like to continue making the comparison between Ontario and the western provinces, they should first allow western farmers a vote to determine their own future.

Any way we look at it, the will of western Canadian wheat, durum and barley farmers is being ignored by the government. A majority of farmers elected the farmer directors. A majority of farmers supported maintaining the single desk and a majority of farmers are furious that their Conservative MPs are muzzled by the Prime Minister's office, will not listen to their wishes or their needs and are now endangering their livelihoods.

When asked about why there will be no farmer-elected directors on the interim Canada wheat board, members at committee were informed that it was necessary for such oversight given the expenditure of taxpayer money. This, of course, raises a new concern. How much taxpayer money will be spent killing the Canadian Wheat Board? With the single desk, the Canadian Wheat Board is an organization with annual revenue of $5 billion to $8 billion, which generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year for all farmers.

Presently, there is no cost to the Canadian taxpayers and yet the government has not released a single estimate of how much this is anticipated to cost, nor has it released a business plan for a new Canadian wheat board. What business starts without a business plan? I thought perhaps the government was considering funding its failed enterprise on the back of farmers.

A week and a half ago, it was discovered that the government had raised the cap on the Canadian Wheat Board's contingency fund, originally developed to allow the Canadian Wheat Board to pursue more innovative marketing, as well as to gradually build a buffer to protect farmers. The reserve was capped at $60 million for the last 13 years. Everything above that went to farmers through the wheat pool of funds. At the 11th hour, just in the past week or so, the Conservative government suddenly raised the cap to $200 million. I could only imagine that even the farmers who support the government's position are furious to learn that their hard-earned money now provides for a Conservative government's slush fund, a fund designed to pay for the minister's new farming folly and the further liabilities of dismantling the Wheat Board.

Farmers could use this money. With the fragile state of the world economy, the Canada Wheat Board is more important than ever to grain exporting prairie provinces. This money is the financial backstop for their clout. These farmers have heard the prognostications of big grain companies like Viterra, Cargill, Richardson and even Bunge, most of whom have seen share prices spike with the news that the Conservatives would be killing the Wheat Board. Even today, Cargill announced that it will create their own wheat pool for farmers. What chance does an interim Canada wheat board have to survive? Almost nil.

Just weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal welcomed the demise of the Wheat Board, noting that under the present single desk system, “More money goes back to farmers than under an open market system”. It went on to say, “Grain handlers such as Cargill Inc., Viterra Inc., and Bunge Limited, could see their roles and returns in Canadian grain markets grow”.

Where will this growth come from? It will come from profit that would have been in the pockets of western farmers and small town economies, thanks to the Canadian Wheat Board. Do we need more proof? Alliance Grain Traders are just now opening a pasta processing plant in Regina, one that would not have been feasible before, unless it knew it could get the lowest possible price for farmers' wheat and durum, noting that the best way now to combat their market erosion is, “by negotiating lower prices from growers”.

Once the protection of the single desk is gone, these businesses will begin to divide and conquer farmers, negotiating them down to the lowest possible price, making farmers price takers instead of price setters, until inevitably, as was the case in Australia, there is only one large agribusiness left.

Western Canadian farmers on both sides of this debate should take a much closer look at the Australian model. Its example leaves so many questions unanswered but has demonstrated that deregulation has led to major agribusiness controlling the logistic chain, leaving farmers out in the cold.

Jock Munro, a grain farmer from New South Wales, Australia, in an article in Grain Matters, lamented:

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

The math just does not add up, unless the government is deliberately ensuring that Canadian farmers are the losers at the end of this deal.

Not contained in the bill is any contingency for 10 to 15 years down the road. We know that small farms and small town economies will now be in danger of failure, even The Economist magazine agrees. In an editorial at the outset of this debate it wrote:

Smaller producers, faced with mounting marketing costs, will inevitably have to sell their farms to bigger rivals or agribusiness companies...devastating small prairie towns, whose economies depend on individual farmers with disposable income.

We already know that the government will not intervene unless it is to pull the strings of the board of directors, so farmers are left at the mercy of the grain and rail companies. We know that any extra money that might have been returned to farmers this year is being held hostage by the minister and his government.

What of food sovereignty? I am concerned, as are farmers across the western provinces, and Canadians across this country, that once small farms start failing on the Conservative government watch they will be bought up by large agribusiness or even foreign countries that are more concerned with their own profits and internal interests than our food sovereignty.

Recently, the government has made a number of moves that are less than encouraging for Canadian agricultural industries. Having bowed to most of the United States' protectionist measures, the government has now placed supply management of eggs, milk and poultry on the table to negotiate away. First it was the Wheat Board and now it is supply management.

The precedent set by killing the Canadian Wheat Board is causing a great deal of concern among supply managed farmers. Farmers remember the Prime Minister telling the members of the trans-Pacific partnership that supply management was on the table, just as clearly as they remember him telling our European partners that it was on the table, just as clearly as they remember this quote from the same man, their esteemed Prime Minister, who said, “Take for example, ‘supply management’, our government-sponsored price-fixing cartels”. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food have always been clear that they favour the free market regardless of the cost to our Canadian farmers, Canada's food sovereignty and food security.

The bill is not about fairness or freedom. We have said from the very start to let farmers decide. The Conservative government, from the very start, has cut off any expression that opposes its ideological obsession with killing the single desk.

With that, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following:

This House declines to give third reading to Bill C-18, An Act to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board and to make consequential and related amendments to certain acts, because members of the committee were unable to hear testimony from the primary producers affected by and concerned with the future commercialization of the Canadian Wheat Board.

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The amendment is in order.

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Medicine Hat.

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to part of the hon. member's speech and found it very disturbing. In fact, as I recall, he said that no western MPs responded to any phone calls, emails or letters from farmers in their ridings. That is not true at all. I responded to every phone call, email and letter from farmers. There was one fellow who was about 92, another who was 80-some-odd, another in his 70s, and many hundreds of others who supported our position on this.

I would ask the hon. member how many of his farmers actually supported his party's position.

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, to comfort the hon. member somewhat, I did not use the word "no". However, I can say that I have received thousands of signatures in the form of petitions, which we have presented in this House on a daily basis. The members opposite were present when those petitions were presented.

It is important to remember that 62% of wheat farmers and 51% of barley farmers, who were forced to hold their own plebiscite, voted in favour of maintaining the single desk. Yet, I hear from so many Conservative MPs over there that they are not hearing from anybody about the need to keep the Wheat Board. What kind of nonsense is it that they would have us believe that nobody is emailing, writing or asking them to maintain the board?

While the member may have received people in his riding office or he may have responded, he is welcome to come to my office and I will give him a list of the members in his party who would not respond to their constituents on this matter.

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech and for the opportunity it gives us to ask some questions and take part in the debate, given that, with the limited time available, we do not have much opportunity to have our say on the matter.

I wonder if my colleague from Guelph could elaborate a little more on the potential consequences. We have seen many changes in agriculture in recent years. In the member's opinion, what sort of consequences could abolishing the Canadian Wheat Board have?

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, if we look at this from 20,000 feet or from 1 foot, the sales and marketing arm of over 60,000 farmers is being torn away from them. Many farmers, many of them older, will not be able to make the transition. I have heard this from farmers who support getting rid of the Wheat Board. They have acknowledged to me that there are many farms that will fail because they will not have the resources now to step up and create their own sales and marketing department.

With the failure of those small farms, we will have small town economies, which are dependent on those incomes, dependent on being fortified by the spending of incomes in those small communities, being compromised. This is not my notion. I have read this many times in many different articles from economists, including The Economist magazine which predicted the failure of small town economies. Not only is the Prime Minister changing the face of Canada, he is disfiguring the face of Canada in our western provinces.

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I truly believe that the Prime Minister of Canada has had a very strong personal hatred for the Canadian Wheat Board long before he even became the Prime Minister of our country. I think this whole Bill C-18 to get rid of the Wheat Board has more to do with the personal opinions and feelings of members of the Conservative government. I say that because over 20,000 prairie grain farmers from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba sent a very clear message to the House of Commons, to this Prime Minister, saying that they see the value of the Canadian Wheat Board and that they do not want the government to get rid of the Canadian Wheat Board. This is the message that I believe the prairie farmers sent to the Prime Minister.

Would the member agree that the vast majority of prairie grain farmers are sending that message to the Prime Minister? Why does the member believe the Prime Minister is not listening to the pleas of the prairie grain farmer today.

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend and colleague from Winnipeg for the incredibly hard work he has been doing on behalf of western grain farmers. I have worked with him on this file and have been out west with him to talk to farmers. It is purely ideological. It is getting rid of any organization that resembles a collective coming together for the benefit of the many.

Fragmented, the board will lose its clout. It will lose its clout with the railways and with the large grain companies. It will lose the strength that it needs to be price setters instead of price takers.

However, in response to my friend's question, it is pure ideology. There is not one business case that has been presented to this House for the new Canada wheat board or the interim Canada wheat board. I suspect that within four years, now with the introduction by Cargill of a pooling system, this wheat board will not even exist. At whose expense? At the farmers' expense by the $200 million that the minister is already collecting from their pockets in order to fund his folly.

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for my colleague from Guelph, but he is being incredibly misled.

My colleague talked about the marketing arm of the Wheat Board being torn away. Quite honestly, I have to wonder what he means by that. This is about giving farmers freedom, not unlike the freedom that grain farmers in Ontario have. The Wheat Board would still be represented, and they would still have the opportunity to market.

The scenario that my colleague is painting is that we are asking farmers out west to accept all of the responsibility and the liability for growing a crop, but we are telling them that they do not have the good economic sense to be able to market it. In fact, we would be giving them the opportunity to choose whether they want to market their grain through the Wheat Board or whether they want to market it on their own. To me, his comments are a slap in the face to the ability that farmers have.

Why is my colleague not seeking input from farmers in Ontario, who have freedom of choice? Why does he not ask them for their opinions on how well it works? It will work out west.

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a great deal of esteem for my friend from Lambton—Kent—Middlesex. We work on the agriculture committee together and we have accomplished a lot.

If my colleague wants to speak of being misled, then he needs to understand how misled he has been on this democratic institution and on the rights of farmers to decide.

The farmers in Ontario decided for themselves, and farmers in our prairie provinces have the right to decide for themselves under section 47.1. However, notwithstanding farmers' pleas for a vote to be held, as is required by the legislation, the government has refused to hold one. Many petitions have come to the House indicating that farmers will live by the results of the vote, whether pro or con, yet the government has refused to hold a vote.

I am saddened that my good friend is participating in this incredible and dreadful erosion of democracy and farmers' rights.

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and an honour to get up to speak today as the member for the riding of Prince Albert. When I look at the things we would like to accomplish as a members of Parliament and what our constituents want us to accomplish, I can see that this bill is one that does both. The change to the Canadian Wheat Board is one that both I and my constituents want to see happen.

We have heard a lot of talk today about the Canadian Wheat Board and what is going on. The Liberal members would have us believe that the Canadian Wheat Board would be totally disbanded, everyone would be thrown out of work, and the Wheat Board would not exist. That is not true.

What is happening is that the Wheat Board is being transitioned to a functioning entity that farmers want. Farmers who want to participate in it will be able to and will have the option to participate in it; farmers who do not want to will have that option also. It is the same right and privilege that farmers right across Canada have, and farmers in the designated area will now also have the same right and privilege.

This has been a very divisive debate for the last 40 years. There have not been any new arguments brought to the table in the last three weeks or six months or year that would change a member's mind or change a constituent's or farmer's mind on where they sit on this debate. Everyone has their ideology when it comes to this debate. Everyone has their reason for believing what they believe.

It is interesting that when we look back at the history of this file, we see a report from the Canadian Wheat Board, paid for by the Canadian Wheat Board, saying that it extracts premium. Then we can also go back and see a report by the George Morris Centre saying that there is no premium. Those types of arguments have been going on and on in the Prairies for probably the last 40 years.

However, one argument that cannot be fought against is freedom. We cannot fight against the right to our property. We cannot tell people that we are going to take what is theirs and make it ours. That is improper. That is not right.

People can argue all sorts of reasons on why they want collective marketing. They can argue all sorts of reasons on why they want the CWB. Those options are there, but it is farmers' hard work that creates that crop. It is their hard work that will make that wheat and barley grow, and they should be able to receive the rewards for their hard work.

I do not want to forget to mention, Mr. Speaker, that I will be sharing my time with the member for Portage—Lisgar.

Through this last summer, the CWB knew exactly what was going on. It knew the transition was going to happen. It had all the tools in front of it to go forward and it decided not to. The board, instead of working with farmers, the government, accredited exporters, and their customers, decided to do the opposite: to become a bunch of political agents and work for the NDP and the Liberal Party. It decided to do that with farmers' money. It took farmers' money without asking and started a campaign. It was not so much for what it believed in--it is just its own ideology that it believes in--and it did not represent farmers.

The CWB could have gone out this summer and sold wheat and barley over the next four or five years, but instead it did a plebiscite. It identified voters, people who would support the CWB. Why did it not go and ask those farmers to sign up acres? Why did it not go to them to say that if they supported the single desk and the concept of pooling their product with the Canadian Wheat Board, it was still able to do that. It could actually have moved forward, taken the farmers' acres and marketed them on their behalf at pooled prices. The Canadian Wheat Board could have set up a program to do that, but it did not.

It is interesting that when I talk to different accredited exporters who have been through the House of Commons, there is concern on their side too. They are looking for an entity to work with to source grain on the Prairies. Again, they are familiar with the Canadian Wheat Board and familiar with the staff there. The directors just had to give the staff the green light to go ahead. Did they do that? No, they engaged in a political debate. They engaged in their own self-preservation, their own ideology.

Actually, that is why they needed to be removed and a transition board needed to come forward. It was not only to protect the employees of the Canadian Wheat Board, who are good, hard-working people, but also to protect the farmers who wanted to use this chance of pooling and wanted to use this entity to market their wheat.

It is going to be interesting as we look forward to this new CWB and what it can become. There are no shackles on it. It can actually do what it wants to do. The farmers who support it can actually lead that organization to where they want it to go. If they want to handle pulses and can find a market where they can tie pulses into some wheat and barley, they can do that. If they want to handle canola, they can do that. If they want to handle oats, or wheat and barley out of Ontario or Quebec, they can do that. They have the ability to take the organization where they feel it needs to go.

That is something that farmers have never had with the Canadian Wheat Board. That is something that has never been represented in the way the CWB operates and runs.

Many times in the Prairies we have seen value-added entities come up. A good example was the Weyburn Inland Terminal's pasta plant. Here was a group of farmers who wanted to build a pasta plant. They got together, raised the funds and found the market for the pasta. They had everything to rock and roll and were ready to go, but the CWB stepped in and said no.

The CWB is not there for itself; it is there for farmers. That is its main goal. It is a tool to be used by farmers. However, in this situation the CWB refused to adapt their tool to allow farmers to use it properly. Instead of farmers being able to appreciate the CWB, work with the board and figure out a way around it so that the pasta plant could go forward, the CWB said no.

That has been a problem in how the CWB has operated in past history. It was never there necessarily to work for farmers, but to protect its own single desk ideology. It never worked with guys who wanted to proceed with niche markets or other opportunities. The CWB would say that would do buy-back options and would look at other options for farmers to buy back the product, but it always made it either a hurdle or impossible.

There is another interesting thing about the buy-backs. A few farmers who went through the process talked to me about it. They found their own market and did the buy-back. On the buy-back form they actually had to name who they were selling their wheat to. They would put, in good faith, the name of the company they were selling their wheat to across the line or overseas; the next week, they would get a phone call from their customers telling them that the CWB had gone in and undercut them.

One wonders how hard the organization was actively searching for markets for farmers' grain, or whether the CWB was just a little comfortable in how it went about doing it.

The changes in the legislation that I think would be positive for the Prairies and for farmers as a whole are that they would have a variety of options in marketing a product.

We heard people complain a lot on the level of railway service. If we want competition for the railways, the best competition is value-added. The best competition is not to use the railways, but to process the grain there and then and create a product that does not necessarily have to go in a hopper car. That is the best way to get competition for the railways, and that would happen on the Prairies. That was not allowed to happen, and could not happen, on the Prairies in the past. However, now we can look across the line at the malt plant or at the Alix malt plant in Alberta that is going through an expansion.

I look forward to those types of opportunities coming forward to our producers, as well as the opportunity for the barley growers who want to ship four or five containers of barley to Indonesia. In today's day and age, it is not a big deal. It is not the 1940s or 1930s, when we had telecommunication and travel issues. People hop on planes daily now. They talk across the waters all the time. People watch the Chicago grain markets daily. It is not the big issue that it was in the past.

I will sum up with some of the things that I have seen happen around here.

I am very optimistic for the future of wheat and barley farmers. I am very optimistic for farmers in general, and for their future. I am more optimistic now, I have to say, then I have ever been in my farming or political career.

We would not have got here without the help of a lot of great individuals. A lot of people fought in the trenches on this file. A lot of farmers put their own blood, sweat and tears into this file. There are farmers who went to jail to have the right to sell their own product. My hat goes off to those farmers, and I thank them. They kept the torch alive and they did not do it for themselves, but for their kids and the whole industry. They actually had the ambition and drive to think that they could do better.

Again, I take my hat off to these guys and thank them for being there and doing that job. The guys who went to jail made an ultimate sacrifice in giving up their time with their wives and families and going through the court system. I remember driving down to Lethbridge to watch one of the court proceedings and talking to a few of the guys. My buddy, Rick Strankman, took me down there. He said: “Hoback, you've got to see these guys. They're pure, and pure through”.

They were not doing it because they were greedy. They were not doing it for any reason other than they thought it was the best thing for the market, for farmers and for their families, and they should have the right to market their grain as they see fit.

That is what we are going to do here today. We are going to create a new entity, and how this entity moves forward will be decided by farmers. It will go through a transition board and then a transition period to rediscover itself. At the end of the day, the whole farm sector will be the stronger for it, and at the end of the day, a lot of constituents will say that this debate on whether to have a single desk is finally over.

Again, I would like to thank the minister and my colleagues. I encourage the members of the opposition to work with us as we move forward in agriculture in western Canada.

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, picking up on my hon. colleague's mention of blood, sweat and tears, we should all realize that a lot of blood, sweat and tears have gone to build this organization that has gained a worldwide reputation. Now we are pulling the rug out from underneath it.

I appreciate the work my colleague has done on the committee and I enjoy working with him. However, I want to defend those farmer elected directors who he is attacking today. I do not think that is right. These people have been elected by farmers. They represent the majority of farmers and now they are being replaced by five government robots, or stooges, and I do not think that is right.

We talk about moving wheat across the border. A lot of us have been involved with the American regulations, the country of origin labelling. We have seen how the border has been shut down to our pork and our beef. Now we think farmers will be able to move their wheat across the border. However, in this climate of protectionism, this buy America first, does he believe it is possible the border will be shut down to our wheat if we get enough wheat that goes across the border? In other words, are the Americans going to stand for having all of our good quality wheat going in to be mixed up with theirs? Could he answer that question?

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I enjoy working with my colleague on the agriculture committee as well. I appreciate his passion for agriculture, even though we disagree on maybe how agriculture should move forward in the future.

He asked a question that is speculative in nature. When we look at trade, one thing we have done as a government is we have gone abroad and we have worked on trade agreements, creating proper rules so that science-based trade can proceed without interference. Those are things we have been working on with our American partners, through NAFTA, the free trade agreement, and those are things we have been working on across the board.

However, the misconception he is spreading is a combination of things. All of a sudden, everybody thinks that on August 1, 2012, all these trucks are going to be lined up at the border, heading south. The reality is the basis will change and it will reflect off a futures price that will be either out of Winnipeg or Minneapolis and then reflected back to the town of Prince Albert. That then will be the price they get at the truck.

Again, to say that we will ship all this grain into the U.S., I do not think that will happen. What will happen is farmers will look for value-added opportunities. They will look for other markets and they will use the new entity to sell into other markets. It is just that they will have a choice in how they do it.

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have worked with the member on committee, as well, and I think we work reasonably well together, although we may disagree strenuously on this issue.

However, I take issue with the fact that he said that the members of the elected Canadian Wheat Board were not there to work for farmers. He is absolutely wrong on that. They were elected. The board changed at the beginning of 1998. It came out with somewhere around 10 options for farmers that it never had before. There are actually more options under the Canadian Wheat Board than there will be under the open market. They stood in election. They won their elections. Eight out of ten of them, pro single desk selling, won their elections and the government is taking the voices of farmers and votes away by this legislation. It is rolling over it, getting rid of the legislation, firing the board and coming in with a government appointed board.

Why did the government not do the proper study and take the time to do it right? The government has a majority. It could have held hearings in the west to hear from farmers. It could have seen the trouble spots. What about the transportation and collection system? What about producer cars? What about short line rails? How is the government going to ensure that they stay and are protected for farmers' interests?

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member talks about short line rails. Short line rails and producer cars, which I think is more what he is referring to, are under the Canada Grain Act. They do not have anything to do with the Canadian Wheat Board Act. That right is being preserved and we know that will be used as they move forward.

Let us talk about the directors' elections. It is one thing that I always found very frustrating. In this so-called plebiscite that was held, I think 68,000 ballots were sent out 22,000 producers who actually produced wheat. Where did the extra ballots go? That has always been a frustration with the type of election the Wheat Board ran. No one knew who got to vote for whom. No one knew exactly how these ballots were being consumed.

The other thing that was never reflected in the ballots was if there was a combination of a producer who would farm 1,000 or 2,000 acres, maybe 10,000 acres, and grow thousands of tonnes, that person would have one vote and the guy who actually only had 100 acres and produced maybe only two to three tonnes, or a very small quantity, had the exact same number of votes.

Again, the Wheat Board is not a political organization. It is not a governing body. It is a business. Therefore, if we wanted to have a proper vote, then we should have had a vote based on tonnage or acreage that would have reflected what farmers who were in the commercial business of farming would have voted. However, there is no way that member or the Liberals would ever set up a system like that because they know the results would be exactly what will happen here today.

As far as this debate, it has been going on and on. Farmers are tired of it. They want to see this move forward. They do not want to see us catch up or have to spend a lot of time educating our opposition members on why this needs to change. They just want to see it done, and that is what we are going to do.

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Portage—Lisgar Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

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.

Marketing Freedom for Grain FarmersGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Portage—Lisgar will have three minutes when the House returns to this matter.

National ParksStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, a new study confirms something that every Albertan already knows. Nothing matches the experience of a visit to Alberta's majestic Rocky Mountains. The study entitled “The Economic Impact of Parks Canada” finds that visitors to Alberta's national parks account for more than half of the entire contribution that our world-class parks system makes to Canada's economy.

My riding of Wild Rose is home to Banff National Park, Canada's first and greatest national park. People from around the globe flock to this special place where tourists enjoy some of the world's most pristine wilderness combined with incredible visitor experiences.

This past weekend I was honoured to represent our government at the WinterStart Festival in Lake Louise featuring men's World Cup skiing, with the women's races to follow this coming weekend.

The slopes at Lake Louise are in superb condition and there is tons of snow. I look forward to another great ski season in Banff with visitors from around the world increasing the tourism dollars that our parks contribute to Canada's economy.

Reebok-CCM HockeyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Tarik Brahmi NDP Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, we were dismayed to learn last Friday that Reebok-CCM Hockey in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu would be cutting 85 of its 125 jobs.

This company, which specializes in manufacturing hockey equipment, was a leader in the Haut-Richelieu manufacturing industry. In a region that has been hit hard by plant closure after plant closure, yet another source of jobs will be moving production to Asia.

With only a few weeks until Christmas, this announcement is a real tragedy for the families of those who will lose their jobs. It is also a blow to our community, since manufacturing jobs are good-quality jobs. While the Conservative government has been patting itself on the back every day, on the ground we are seeing the loss of hundreds of well-paying skilled jobs that enable Canadian families to live with dignity.

I want to reiterate my support for Michel Courcy of the United Steelworkers, as well as all of the workers, and I want to let them know that they can count on me and my NDP colleagues as they go through this difficult time.

Woodland CaribouStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Centre-North, AB

Mr. Speaker, on November 25 our government announced the woodland caribou captive breeding partnering arrangement. This partnership, which involves Parks Canada, the British Columbia and Alberta governments, and the Calgary Zoo, aims to reverse the decline of woodland caribou and restore low population herds within the mountain parks region.

This conservation strategy will focus on breeding woodland caribou for reintroduction into the wild and will re-establish a breeding population of caribou in Banff National Park.

This partnership will take advantage of the expertise of the Calgary Zoo's Centre for Conservation Research which specializes in reintroduction programs for some of Canada's most endangered species.

The caribou has achieved emblematic status in Canada among other animals. Our government is committed to protecting Canada's wildlife and ecosystems. This conservation strategy for the woodland caribou is one of many important initiatives our government has undertaken for Canadians and our environment.

TributesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, in the last few months, Cape Breton has lost two pillars in our community, police chief Myles Burke and community leader Freddie Jackson.

Chief Burke was born and raised in Louisburg. He began his policing career over 30 years ago and became our chief in 2009. He was well respected not only in policing, but also for his volunteering. Chief Myles Burke will be sadly missed and forever remembered by his wife, Jayne, and daughters, Nicole and Janine.

Freddie Jackson was born in St. John's, Newfoundland and spent many years as managing editor of the Cape Breton Post. He was also known for his involvement in several community organizations and for his many years of coaching and contributions to sport. Freddie will be sadly missed and forever remembered by his wife, Beatrice, and his five daughters, Stephanie, Melissa, Jillian, Nicola and Carmen.

Both of these men became my personal friends and I, along with many other people, will miss them dearly. They will continue to be great inspirations for their dedication and commitment.

Charles Sauriol Environmental DinnerStatements By Members

November 28th, 2011 / 2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, on November 3 I had the honour to attend the 18th annual Charles Sauriol Environmental Dinner in Toronto. This annual event to celebrate the great conservationist and visionary, Charles Sauriol, is truly an inspiring event that not only raises funds to protect Toronto's natural areas, but also raises awareness of just how important conservation is to us.

Our government has made it a priority to secure the long-term protection of Canada's natural assets. Our vision and commitment with programs like the natural areas conservation program stand in support of the vision and legacy of Charles Sauriol.

Charles Sauriol's commitment to preserving the natural areas of Toronto is commendable and has resulted in the conservation of thousands of hectares of land for future generations to enjoy.

The dinner was truly a wonderful way to express support for the Conservation Foundation of Greater Toronto and the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust. I want to thank members of these organizations for their commitment to a healthy environment.

Prince Andrew High School Politics ClubStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to acknowledge a special group of students from Prince Andrew High School in my riding of Dartmouth--Cole Harbour. I visited their class last month and I challenged them to become more politically engaged.

In response to my challenge, they began working with their teacher, Mr. Tim Halman, and together they have created a non-partisan, open invitation politics club. They have written a mission statement and have established goals for participation. They even plan to reach out to other high schools in the area.

On behalf of the House of Commons and Canadians everywhere, I would like to recognize the founding members of this group: Aref Taherzadeh, Thais Schlunzen, Cody Veinotte, Ian Kennedy, Brianna Titus, Julianna Robertson, Robbie Neate, Kimberly Halliday, Lily Levy, Brenna Levy, and Brennan Curry. They have answered the call to participate, and for that we should all be grateful.

Fishermen Helping Kids with CancerStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Conservative Delta—Richmond East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in praise of the many volunteers across Canada who make a difference in our daily lives. I know for myself that some of the most significant and long-lasting endeavours that I have been involved in came from my volunteer activities.

I want to highlight Fishermen Helping Kids with Cancer which will take place in Steveston, B.C., in my riding of Delta--Richmond East next week, December 3 and 4.

Cancer has touched every Canadian family, including my own. It is somehow doubly tough to lose our children to this devastating disease.

B.C.'s commercial fishing community is holding its first annual charity herring sale, which is open to the public. All proceeds will go to the B.C. Children's Hospital Foundation to benefit children with cancer.

The inspiration comes from personal losses and by the ever popular charitable herring fishery that was a tradition in B.C. for over 50 years until 2007 and raised over $250,000 for orphaned children. All aspects of the event are being donated.

Well done; this is a good cause championed by good people.

Marketing Freedom for Grain Farmers ActStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, today is a great day for western Canadian farmers. This afternoon Bill C-18, the marketing freedom for grain farmers act, will be voted on at third reading in the House. For many of the MPs on this side of the chamber, the fight for freedom has gone on for years, but for farmers in western Canada, their quest has gone on for decades.

More than 60 farmers have paid their own way to Ottawa to witness today's vote. They cannot wait for the day when they can finally market their own grain. They are here because they believe in freedom. Mr. Speaker, through you, we say thank you to them.

Mr. Speaker, through you to those farmers that went to jail because they believe in freedom, we say thank you.

Mr. Speaker, through you to the thousands of farmers across Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and B.C. who have fought season after season because they believe in freedom, we say thank you.

Mr. Speaker, through you to the young farmers who are so enthused about the freedom in their future, we say thank you.

Mr. Speaker, through you to farmers like Art Mainil, Art Walde and Lionel Byrd, who believed in freedom but who never lived to see this day, we say thank you.

It is their commitment to freedom that gives us the determination to bring real choice to western Canadian farmers.