Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the opposition day motion brought in by my colleague, the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, which indicates that the government has been very ineffective with respect to the care and due diligence of this nation.
In particular, I want to say that damaging Canadian industries and diminishing Canadian economic stability, as he has pointed out in his motion, are certainly things that we care about every day in the House. We hear it from our constituents when we get back to our constituencies on weekends and during constituency weeks. It is certainly a situation that I have heard about quite regularly from my constituents.
My colleague, the member for Durham, has just pointed out that there is a huge deficit in place in Canada although the Liberals talked about small deficits during the election campaign. They have outgrown that by $30 billion, which is about 30 times what the Liberals said they would have. That is terrible mismanagement. Our future generations are going to have to pay for that every day of their lives as they move forward, not to mention the fact that all of us in this chamber today will share in that burden as well.
There are three major areas of concern that the member has pointed out: the softwood lumber deal, the carbon tax, and in particular, the current rail service agreement with respect to rail transportation in the Prairies.
The member has talked at great length about the softwood lumber deal, so I do not need to say much more. Suffice it to say that thousands of jobs are dependent upon an agreement between Canada and the United States. With the tariff that has been put in place by the United States today, we clearly see that the government did not have an answer when it came up with about $870 million as payment to cover some of the costs that will be borne by our industry. We need to find long-term leadership with respect to this matter. These stopgap measures are not good enough. That is what we are seeing in the other areas too.
The carbon tax that the government has implemented or is forcing upon provinces is certainly something that is going to continue to put people out of jobs. There were 200,000 jobs lost in Alberta alone. There are jobs lost in my constituency. We have a very small oil industry in western Manitoba, most of which is in my constituency. People have been put out of work there as well. We are only seeing some stability back in that area because of the stability in the price of oil right now, as well as an upgrade in the American economy. There has been a bit of a boost there. That is giving us some stability right now in Canada. However, it is very nebulous as to how long that may continue and if it will be on a long-term basis.
The area that I want to speak about today is mainly the current rail service agreements that ensure that our farmers can get their products to market.
In the spring of 2014, through the winter of 2013, our government brought forward Bill C-30, the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act, with our transportation minister, at the time, and our agriculture minister. They did an exceptional job of putting a program in place that would allow farmers some protection with respect to the movement of grain. There were extenuating circumstances, for sure, that winter. At that period of time, we had some of the coldest weather we have ever had. However, we are used to that in Canada, particularly in western Canada, so that is not an excuse with respect to being able to get grain to port on time.
There were three or four areas that were very important in that whole venue with that act. One of them was allowing interswitching to move up from a 30-kilometre basis to 160 kilometres, which made it quite effective to have a bit of competition in the industry, which we do not have most times when we have two railroads with, basically, a duopoly with respect to being able to move grain in the Prairies.
Trucks can only move so much grain effectively and we do not have the processing plants to process all of the grain in the Prairies. In fact, at that particular time, about 50% of the grain in Canada was going for export. That is why we desperately need to have that kind of openness and a bit of protection against the movement of other products. We cannot just leave grain, because of the massive volumes of it alone, and because it is basically in a captive area. It has to be grown every year. It has to be moved and marketed, perhaps not all in one year, but it does have to be moved, and it is a perishable product in the long run.
That is why it is so important that we move forward for Canadian families and businesses on the Prairies and in Canada as a whole, because wheat contributes greatly to the gross domestic product of our nation. Millions of jobs in Canada depend on the shipment of grain in the agricultural industry.
The minister has brought forward Bill C-49 but there is great concern as to whether it will have any teeth and whether it will get passed before we rise in the House for the summer. I commend the minister for bringing it forward, but I would encourage him to talk to his colleagues and move forward with it. If the bill does not move forward there is going to be a huge gap in this whole area. Bill C-30 will take over again, and it dies on July 31. That would leave the huge gap I referred to earlier and farmers will go into the coming harvest without any type of rule or regulation in place that will allow for the convenience of knowing the conditions under which grain can be shipped for the coming year.
I referred to interswitching rights earlier. Long-haul interswitching could be utilized. It certainly allowed for competition within that 160-kilometre radius. Interswitching is a tool that we brought in with Bill C-30. It is a much better rule than using competitive line rates, which have been in since the change in the Crow benefit in 1995. Competitive line rates, while sounding good, really were an ineffective way of providing the certainty that farmers and grain companies would have some competition. That is why the grain companies and the farm groups have joined together to lobby the government to put a stronger rate in place, a much stronger and more useable mechanism to use in that area.
A number of groups in Saskatchewan, and a growing chorus of western Canadian groups, have called for an extension of the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act that we had in Bill C-30. I am calling on the government today to extend that again. It was extended once by the government but it needs to do it again. That will provide fairness and equity and predictability in regard to the movement of product into the fall.
The government is talking about proroguing the House. If the House is prorogued this summer or early in the fall, the legislation would die on the Order Paper and the government would have to start all over again. This would provide unpredictability in the industry for some extended time down the road. It would be the spring of 2018 at the earliest or the fall of 2018 before we would have any kind of predictable rules to carry on with the movement of grain products in western Canada and to get grain to port in the just-in-time fashion that is required today to meet the markets that we built up so extensively through the 40-some free trade agreements that the Harper government signed with our trading nations. Keeping markets open is one of the best things that a government can do in relation to our agricultural industry.
The government needs to also look at the coordination of the grain grading system between Canada and the United States because there is much grain movement back and forth. A lot of livestock goes back and forth. Having sat on the western standards committee of the Canadian Grain Commission for a number of years as a farm representative, I know how important access to the U.S. is.
There are other things that I would ask the Minister of Transport to do. One of them is to get the Minister of Agriculture on side to move forward with some of these areas as well. He is looking at removing deferred grain tickets, cash tickets, and that would not be helpful to farmers either. The Minister of Agriculture needs to move more quickly in regard to the PED virus in hogs and cleaning trucks in Manitoba.
There were nine cases last month, and there has still been no action on that to make sure we maintain a strong hog industry.
All of that fits into the transportation of product. We are talking about the transportation of grain, but the movement of livestock is part and parcel of the use of grain on the Prairies.
I look forward to any questions.