Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-4, an act to amend the Canadian Wheat Board Act.
My colleagues in the Bloc and I agree with the government's intention to amend this act. It is interesting to see that, finally, the government seems to want to give more decision making powers to grain producers. I say seems to want, because the amendments to the act are being made by the government, not by and for the producers.
It would have been in order for the government to first seek a consensus among producers before making these amendments, but it did not do so, if we are to believe what we are hearing in this House. I will not get into the technical aspects of the act, but I will raise the issues of fairness, honesty and patronage as they relate to the legislation.
I firmly believe, as do the majority of members sitting on this side of the House, that the Auditor General of Canada should have the right and the authority to look into the activities of the Canadian Wheat Board. I sometimes wonder. Why are government members opposed to the auditor general doing that? Why are they opposed to the auditor general checking into the Bank of Canada? Why are they opposed to him looking into the Canada Post Corporation? Why are they opposed to him checking into the Canada Ports Corporation? I could go on and on.
These are corporations which are funded by us, the taxpayers. The auditor general must not just write an annual report. His primary role is to check on how public money is spent and then report on it, so that this government can make the necessary changes.
I have here a few questions. What would have been the government's response to cases involving the Canadian Wheat Board if the auditor general had looked into this? It is all very fine and well to use chartered accountants—my colleague, the member for Frontenac—Mégantic, said they will check the books—but accountants do not make recommendations about mismanagement of a corporation.
I also wonder how it is that our friends opposite did not pay attention to the Canadian Wheat Board mini-scandal over the revamping of Churchill Falls.
How is it that our friends opposite turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the mayor of Thunder Bay? How is it that the mayor of a city in Ontario is forced to turn to a member from Quebec for support? The mayor of Thunder Bay, like all residents of Ontario in the Lake Superior area, is wondering why the federal government invested $44.5 million on window dressing in that city. Why did this government's Department of Transport give $16 million to CN in compensation for selling off the Winnipeg—Churchill Falls section to Omni Tracks, which Omni Tracks operates on Hudson Bay Rails? CN received $16 million in compensation for this.
Why is the Department of Transport investing over $14.4 million in a dust control system in the port of Churchill and $1.6 million in a system to unload trains? This unnecessary spending adds up to almost $50 million.
What purpose will it serve? Instead of grain going to Thunder Bay, across Lake Superior and then up the St. Lawrence to Europe, it will go to Europe through Churchill Falls, a port that is not open 12 months a year.
This change, according to figures provided by the city of Thunder Bay, will send 700,000 tonnes of grain through Churchill Falls instead of through Thunder Bay, which will deprive Thunder Bay of $35,750,000 annually. This pointless spending will cost 12 Thunder Bay employees their jobs. In addition, this policy will cost Thunder Bay $1.7 million in taxes annually. To put it plainly, the government is robbing Peter to pay Paul.
The experts—not me, but the experts—say that from a common point between Vancouver and Redford, Saskatchewan, and from Redford to Thunder Bay or to a port on the St. Lawrence, the cost per tonne of grain, of wheat shipped, differs—