A valid point, Mr. Speaker. I will not do that.
We should have been able to hear from pro-Wheat Board and anti-Wheat Board farmers but we heard from none of them. We had two evening meetings of four hours each. The witnesses were mostly technical witnesses to explain what effect clause (a), subclause (b) would have in terms of the administration of the Wheat Board. However, there was no broad consultation.
Surely it is reckless and irresponsible to turn the Prairie economy upside down on its head without at least that basic level of due diligence. It is crazy. It is the act of an ideological zealot, frankly, to ignore all of those things that we should be able to do. It is infuriating to me.
The parliamentary secretary tried to walk us through some kind of a history lesson of the Wheat Board. I have a chart here, a convenient graphic illustration that we made up. I know I cannot show that to the House as a prop. However, in those periods of time when there was no single desk, the price of wheat went down. In those periods of time when there was a single desk, the price of wheat went up. During the time when it was a voluntary dual marketing Wheat Board, the price of grains went down. The time when it was a single desk, the price of grains went up.
That is the accurate history of the experience of the Wheat Board from the 1920s. It is disingenuous to try to imply otherwise. Those are the kinds of facts that we could have benefited from in our deliberation of this bill. We are just trying to do our job here but those guys are so overwhelmed by their passion to destroy the Wheat Board, by their irrational hatred of the Wheat Board, that reason, logic, economics, science, due diligence, oversight and scrutiny are foreign concepts to the Conservatives. They rely on the anecdotal information of their personal experience.
I can sympathize with the parliamentary secretary. If he had some disagreement with the Wheat Board, maybe he should get involved in the Wheat Board elections and change the Wheat Board from within or allow a plebiscite vote, a fair question and a fairly conducted vote. If that vote were 50% plus 1 for abolishing the Wheat Board, members would not hear a word from us. There would not be this push-back because we would have consulted farmers, they would have spoken and their voices would have been heard and respected.
However, the government will not put it to a vote because, I believe, it is afraid of the outcome. Whenever we do consult farmers, it is split, admittedly, but the majority has ruled and that has been the magic of the Wheat Board. Its universality has been its greatest strength and its success.
Having a voluntary Wheat Board, we know from actual experience, is chimera. It is a myth. It is some notion that the government is trying to project on its way to the full abolition of the Wheat Board.
It is funny how the Americans recognize the advantage of having the Wheat Board. In fact, there is evidence of that. I try to back up my comments with actual documentation as opposed to the ideological notions, the whims, the flights of fancy of the minister and his parliamentary secretary. The Americans recognize that it is a huge advantage to Canadian farmers, so much so that they have filed 13 separate complaints to the GATT and the WTO claiming that the Wheat Board is such an advantage to prairie farmers that is constitutes an unfair trade practice and should be abolished as such. They lost 13 times because the WTO ruled that there was nothing unfair about producers acting collectively to get the best price for their product and to reduce their transportation costs and to share the risk by pooling the risk, sharing the profits and operating on a non-profit basis.
That might be contrary to the best interests of Cargill and the for-profit grain companies, but it is certainly not a violation of any kind of trade agreements that Canada has stipulated to. It is just good business sense. They realize that in unity there is strength, that collectively they could get the best prices and reduce their costs. One of the main complaints that the parliamentary secretary has is that they bought some ships. They bought some ships in order to provide the best possible transportation costs to their clients, the prairie producer. It is a non-profit operation.
I heard one of the members, I cannot remember his name, the long gun registry guy, calling it “lifting the iron curtain from grain marketing”, as if it were communism. Perhaps we have gotten to the root of the Conservatives' hatred here, their ideological zeal against the Wheat Board. They view it as communism for prairie farmers to act collectively in their own best interests. Therefore, they think it must be stamped out. That is how goofy it is. They are laughing about it now, but we know behind closed doors that is how they view it.
In fact, the experience has been one of the largest and most successful grain marketing companies in the world, the guarantor of the best premium quality grains in the world. The Wheat Board has given Canada a branding and reputation that add value to our product. I guarantee, and this is one of the things that I can also back up with documentation, we will lose that top quality branding if American grain companies start mixing Canadian product with batches of American product in their marketing operations. We will not have the oversight of the grain commission. We will not have the intensity of the research that comes from the grain institute, that complements the grain production, that gives the Wheat Board the number one premium brand in the world and our reputation.
The grain industry is vital to the area that I represent, the prairie region. Grain is our oil, the backbone of our economy. This is going to constitute a transfer of wealth, the likes of which we have not seen since the big pharma drug giveaway by the Liberal government when it gave 20-year patent guarantees to pharmaceutical companies.
This is a transfer of wealth of a magnitude that we have never seen on the Prairies. Hundreds of millions of dollars will be taken out of the pockets of prairie producers and will be put into the pockets of the shareholders of the big grain companies that have been salivating over this market share ever since the Wheat Board was created. They never gave up. Just like the enemies of public health care have never really given up, they have just been waiting in the wings for somebody to come along and finally do their dirty work for them so that they can get that market share back.
Just this weekend, I drove down Wellington Crescent, the richest street in Winnipeg, and was reflecting on this change that is going to take place. Every mansion on Wellington Crescent was built by the robber barons in the 1900s, 1910s and 1920s, who gouged prairie farmers so mercilessly that they were forced into some collective action to protect themselves.
Those robber barons put on a nice disguise now. Villainy wears many masks, but none so treacherous as the mask of virtue. We will hear virtuous statements from the agents of treachery in this debate. We will hear the parliamentary secretary. Let us guess what his next career will be. He will be a member of the board of directors of Cargill. He probably has job offers already with any kind of luck. If he is smart, he is negotiating that on the phone as we speak. “Guess what? The day has arrived. We finally stamped out the Wheat Board”. Villainy and treachery. J'accuse.
We already know the experience of Brian Mulroney. Where did he end up? On the board of directors of one of the big three. Guess what his billings were from 2009 to 2011. His billings as a director of Archer Daniels Midland were $650,000. Normally, a member of a board of directors is not compensated $650,000 just for attending one meeting a year to vote on the compensation of fellow directors. He is delivering something. He is delivering the Canadian Wheat Board back into the hands of the robber barons who have been drooling over this market share ever since this important change took place.
It is a sad day for democracy when such an important and transformative change to the rural prairie economy takes place without even the scrutiny, the oversight and the due diligence of Canadian members of Parliament.
This is the tragedy here. Perhaps we should be sounding the alarm.
I was accused of using an obscenity on Twitter recently, while I sat here lamenting closure. The real obscenity is the calculated abuse of Parliament, disrespect for Parliament and even disrespect for the courtesy of presenting a reasonable case. The real obscenity is not asking a single farmer, or ordinary producer, to come as a witness before a parliamentary committee to speak for or against a bill that would change things forever. And let us have no illusions about this, this change is irreversible. We will not get a Canadian wheat board back if we do not like, in the next five years, what is going to happen to this one. Some people will be happy about that; maybe those who are lucky enough to have a large acreage right on the American border and who could drive their product down to some mill in Montana.
However, let us deal with some of the myths that the parliamentary secretary and his minister, in some free market flight of fancy, are sharing. They say that as soon as they get rid of the Wheat Board, all kinds of value added and secondary industry will spring out of the ground like mushrooms all over the prairie region.
First, there is the untruth associated with this. In the last 10 years, milling capacity has increased 50% in the rural prairie region and four new institutions have popped up for value added. It is not as though it is impossible.
At the same time, south of the border, the milling capacity increased 9% and there were no new installations.
They would have us believe that it will be nirvana, that for a nominal fee they could reach nirvana tonight, that old myth. They are trying to promise all kinds of changes that would occur overnight because there is one guy who is waiting to open his doors as soon as they get rid of the Wheat Board. Do members know why? Because he would be able to buy grain cheaper. The Wheat Board did not offer a premium to producers, because their mandate was to get the best price for farmers. The only way to get grain cheaper is to give farmers less for it. Is that in the best interests of the prairie producers?
That is only one of the inconsistencies in their argument. If we were given the luxury of time at a parliamentary committee, we could study many others. I guarantee that their own members would have serious questions about why they are ramming through this ideological crusade in the absence of reason, logic, a business case, or even an economic case of why it might be a good idea.