Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 52(1), I request leave to make a motion for the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a matter that I believe to be of great urgency, of national importance and timely relevance, namely the announced intention of the government to transfer at no upfront cost all of the assets and majority stake in the former Canadian Wheat Board to a partnership between the American agrifood giant Bunge Limited and the wealth management fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
It is disturbing and confusing to my constituents that in making its decision the government inexplicably dismissed a cash offer of $380 million to purchase the Wheat Board and its assets, which came directly from western Canadian grain farmers themselves. Bunge Limited and Saudi Arabia are paying nothing for the Wheat Board and its assets except for a promise to invest in their own company at some later date.
This wholesale giveaway of the Canadian Wheat Board's considerable assets was announced during a break week when the House of Commons was not sitting. Therefore, members of Parliament have not had the opportunity for the examination, the scrutiny, the oversight and the due diligence of this preposterous disposal of assets as is our right, our obligation and duty as parliamentarians. In keeping with the criteria for granting an emergency debate, I ask that you take note that this is the first opportunity we have had since the deal was announced to bring it to the attention of the House. I also believe the matter should qualify as an emergency because the impact on this important strategic industry will be permanent and irreversible if this corporate giveaway is allowed to proceed further.
Until it was dismantled by legislation, the Canadian Wheat Board was one of the largest and most successful grain marketing companies in the world. It was a Canadian success story as it was owned and operated by Canadian grain farmers for Canadian grain farmers, with revenues of over $6 billion a year. It not only provided the best possible return for producers, it ensured orderly marketing and reliable deliveries, and protected the premium quality brand and reputation of our Canadian wheat and barley products. It is a bizarre irony that, while this government administration is openly hostile to the concept of state-owned enterprises in Canada, it is allowing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to be a major partner in the takeover of this great Canadian institution.
This issue is urgent. There has been little disclosure of details of the transfer. Misinformation abounds and many questions cry out for answers. For example, how can the minister say there will be greater competition in grain marketing by this takeover when in fact the merger will result in one less actor in the market? How can the farmers expect a higher price for their product with this new company when the Wheat Board was a non-profit entity and by legislation returned all profits to the producers? In contrast, Bunge Limited paid its CEO $6 million last year and earned $207 million. That money came from somewhere.
It is only fair to all parties that this debate be held today so that Canadians and particularly Canadian prairie farmers may understand the implications and details of this shadowy “sale that is not a sale”, so that they can know what time-sensitive options are open to them both in terms of the sale itself and how that might affect the business decisions they must make right now about spring planting and planning their crops in the future. Taxpayers have a right to know why their government would give away the assets of this great Canadian institution to foreign interests for nothing except a promissory note that the company will invest in itself at some future date. How is that good business by anybody's standard?
For these pressing and urgent reasons, I request that there be an emergency debate in this House to further discuss this matter. Should you require any additional information about this situation that would assist you in reaching a favourable decision on my application for leave, I would be happy to supply it.