House of Commons photo


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was forward.

Last in Parliament May 2004, as Progressive Conservative MP for Brandon—Souris (Manitoba)

Won his last election, in 2000, with 37% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Canadian Wheat Board Act February 17th, 1998

Madam Speaker, there were some wonderful questions in that rhetoric.

First I should point out that my hon. colleague is, without question, the strongest defender of not only the Canadian Wheat Board but, obviously, of monopoly selling, single desk selling and the inclusion clause. He was the author of the inclusion clause which is in Bill C-4.

I learned a long time ago that philosophically I differ with some people on certain issues. This is one of those cases. I have learned that as much as I argue my position I will never convince that individual of my position, nor, conversely, will the hon. member in his arguments convince me to think his way. So we agree to disagree.

I will answer his questions. Yes, I said that there have been some changes made to the Canadian Wheat Board Act by Bill C-4 which are positive. I said that governance has been changed and I like the governance. The fact that producers can cash buy now as opposed to pooling is a positive change, but the government did not go far enough. It did not manage change into the 21st century.

The hon. member, who probably wants to be minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, talked about the best marketer ever.

If that is the case, and it may well be, then what is the concern of the Canadian Wheat Board to open itself to the competition?

If it is the best marketer ever and if it gets the best price ever, every producer will continue to be a customer of the Canadian Wheat Board. What is the member afraid of? If it is that good, it should be able to compete.

I made a comment in this House not long ago. It happened with other utilities that were afraid to compete. They were opened to competition, telephones, electric and gas. They are now open to competition and those monopoly utilities are just as good now if not better than they were as a monopoly.

Why is the Canadian Wheat Board afraid to compete on that basis if it is the best marketer of that commodity?

Canadian Wheat Board Act February 17th, 1998

I obviously made a mistake by giving my age away here. Anyway, I am giving a passionate speech here.

In 1943 the right decision was made. However between 1943 and 1998 a number of changes occurred not only in farming techniques as we have seen, and I could get into a five hour debate on that, but also in marketing techniques. The CWB has not kept up with the final marketing techniques.

As was mentioned earlier, we recognize that the Canadian Wheat Board in 1943 brought three pillars to the Canadian farmer. It brought a pooling system where at that time all farmers in wheat, oats and barley would pool their crops and would sell them as a single desk seller. It brought in what was known as a government guarantee. The farmer would have an initial payment which would be the lowest amount the farmer would ever get for his commodity. Usually it was lower than what the market would pay but it was guaranteed. It also brought a single desk seller. The farmer could not sell it to anybody else and that individual or corporation would go out and sell it to the marketplace.

Those pillars are still in place at the present time but times have changed. It reminds me of an adage I have heard many times, that it is much better to manage change than to have change manage you. Unfortunately the government with this legislation is not managing change. The change is managing the government and it is not going to work.

I would also like to talk about the process. As members are well aware, I have not had the opportunity of being in this House very long. It has been about a six or seven month period. The first piece of legislation that was thrown on the table was that of the Canadian Wheat Board, my area of responsibility as critic. I wanted to follow the process of this legislation.

Like my colleague in the New Democratic Party, I was perhaps a little naive to say the least because I felt very honestly that in the committee forum we would be able to have input. I thought the federal government would listen to well thought out logical concerns about this legislation.

I have always said I will be constructive in my comments. I will give the government some constructive opportunities and alternatives to what it has put forward as this piece of legislation.

In my estimation the process in this legislation was flawed. Bill C-4 went from this House to the committee. We were told that the minister would listen not only to the people who would make presentations before the committee, but also to the other members on the committee, particularly those from the opposition. The process was rushed. It was flawed. Everybody who talked to us, the witnesses, had concerns, opinions and problems with the legislation. None of those concerns and problems was dealt with at committee stage, when the legislation came back to this House, or at this third reading stage.

It should not work that way. I like the committee. It is an opportunity to share with not only members of government, but other opposition members. It should be the venue where we can work out our differences, where we can put forward some of the more positive alternatives than what have been presented by government.

Nobody has a lock on the best possible legislation. There is always a chance for improvement and we had that. We had it with some amendments that were put forward but unfortunately the government would not do that.

Not only that, but in talking about the process, the bill came back here from committee. We asked to have the minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board come back to the committee so we could tell him what we had heard. We were told that the minister could not be there, that this legislation had to go through and it had to go through then. It had to go through before the Christmas recess. Unfortunately it is now February. It did not go through before Christmas. Why could we not have talked to the minister once again and told him what we had heard at that committee session?

Why could we not have heard from the Ontario Wheat Board which is a parallel organization? It could have explained to us what is good and what is bad about that organization so we could try to implement the good into the Canadian Wheat Board. Why could we not have heard from it? Because we did not have time in committee. Unfortunately we had the time but the government did not want to give us the time.

Then the bill came to this House. This was the opportunity to talk to the House, to the government, to the opposition, to the minister and put up our amendments to the legislation. Good amendments in some cases, not so good in other cases.

Then the government decided that too much debate was going on in this House on C-4, so it implemented closure. Closure is not a good term. No, no, it was not closure. I am told it was time allocation. I accept the argument of the government that it was time allocation, semantics. The government said “We no longer want you to talk about this legislation because we do not like what you are saying, we do not care what you are saying and we are going to stop the debate”. So the government stopped the debate.

That was the process I had the opportunity of taking part in for the very first time. I hope beyond hope the next time a piece of legislation is presented by government that we do not follow the same process. I hope it will be much more open, that it will be much more honest and that we will have the opportunity to put forward what we consider to be good, solid, well thought out changes to a flawed piece of legislation.

Let me go on to some of the areas which we still have concerns with. I said there were some good things in the legislation, and I mean that sincerely. The Canadian Wheat Board right now under its form of management and governance does not work well. But do not forget, this was put into place in 1943 so there should be some changes. A commissioner form of governance does not work as management.

Anybody who has any dealing with the private sector, with private business, knows that a single CEO or manager or owner is the best and only management for a corporation. Instead of having a commissioner form of government where there are up to five commissioners making the law or rules for the board, the government said it will have one individual to be the CEO, a very good move. Unfortunately it did not go far enough because it said it would appoint that CEO. It was the wrong thing to do. The government was almost there, but it did not go far enough. We now have a chief executive officer of the Canadian Wheat Board to be appointed by government.

Then we go to the board of directors. The government was almost there. It said very emphatically and passionately that this board is to be controlled by the farmers, the producers. It is a farmer-producer board. But it did not go far enough. There are 15 members on the board, 10 elected and 5 appointed by government. If the government really believes in what it says all 15 members should have been elected and the CEO should have been appointed by the board. Then it would have been truly accountable to the producers it is supposed to be working for.

There was an amendment I cannot believe the government turned down. It came from the Reform Party and me. It said simply that the corporation should be working for the farmers. The corporation will be working for the producers. The government turned it down. The corporation is working for the corporation, not for those producers the government says it wants it to represent. I cannot believe it turned that amendment down.

Let us talk about accountability and access to information. If it is true that the government believes that this is for the producers why not be open to the producers, the same people who own the corporation? Let them have access to the corporation, its books and its operations. There was an internal report done in 1992, some six years ago, and the producers cannot get access to it. What if the corporation is not working in their best interests? They should have access to information.

We talk about choice. There were some amendments put forward that would allow producers a choice with respect to opt-in, opt-out and hedging. The government would not accept those as well.

The last one is the one I have the most serious concern with, the inclusion clause. That clause was never in place in Bill C-72 when it came before this House, before the last election. Now all of a sudden it rears its head. It is the clause that has to be put into this legislation, Bill C-4. It means to include other commodities on a single desk selling basis, a monopoly basis. Quite frankly I have not found anybody who wants that clause. I have not found anybody who says give us the inclusion clause. I am very disappointed.

We have been dealing with this for six months. I have been dealing with it for six months and others have been dealing with it for much longer. The inclusion clause has always been an issue. Yesterday, three hours before the final vote on the amendments, we were approached by the minister who said we are prepared to talk about some minor amendments to the inclusion clause. Where was the minister and where was the government six months ago when we talked about this? It cannot be done three hours before the amendment is going to be voted on.

The only way we can deal with this logically and legitimately is to have this government send this legislation back to committee and let us talk just about the inclusion clause. Let us talk about some amendments to that clause that are going to be accepted by everybody in the House, including the opposition.

I see that my time is up. It has been a very interesting process, to say the least. It has been an interesting piece of legislation. When it is passed today it is still not going to solve the problem. The government has not managed the change.

Canadian Wheat Board Act February 17th, 1998

It is with trepidation that I speak to Bill C-4 perhaps for the last time, unless the government in its wisdom allows the legislation to go back to committee for further debate.

Quite frankly the legislation before us at the present time is not what I and certainly a number of my constituents would consider to be a good piece of legislation which deals with and resolves the issues of the Canadian Wheat Board. I say that to my colleagues on the Liberal benches and plead with them not to stop the ongoing debate that is happening currently with Bill C-4.

I would like to speak on a number of issues in a number of areas. First, I am not a producer. I am not a farmer. A number of my relatives gain their living from agriculture and in certain cases grow a substantial amount of wheat and other products including products which are not included in the Canadian Wheat Board. Also, I represent a community that with great pride announces itself as the wheat city. It has been known as that particular city since its inception in 1982. The wheat in the wheat city is the backbone of our economy and is reflected in the Canadian Wheat Board legislation.

I want to talk about my philosophy, that of my party and the reason I ran for this party. Our philosophy is fairly simple.

We believe in free enterprise. We believe in choice. We believe in a free market system, as was seen by the NAFTA legislation which was brought forward by the last Progressive Conservative government. We believe in less government and less government control. We believe in more individual freedom for people and people's responsibility for themselves. I say that because I can make the connection between that philosophy and the philosophy of producers in the Canadian Wheat Board.

For those people who are listening I would like to make an analogy. There has been a lot of ranting and raving, rhetoric, flailing of hands and gnashing of teeth over this particular issue. The fact is this is a very important issue for producers in western Canada. I would like to make the comparison as to what we are talking about here.

A farmer, a producer, an agriculturalist or whatever we want to call that individual is in fact a small business. In lots of cases it is more than simply a small business and is a very large business. The producer capitalizes and buys land, a substantial amount of land in some cases because the more land he has, obviously the more he can produce. There is a large capital cost for that.

The producer then accesses what is referred to as inputs. He accesses pesticides, herbicides, seed and fertilizer. He plants the seed in the land which he has purchased with in some cases substantial capital. He then nurtures that seed until it grows and it produces and then it is harvested. When he harvests the crop and he puts it in his bin, he has produced the product.

Unfortunately while the crop is in that bin, if it is wheat or barley, that producer does not have control or ownership of that product. He must be at the whim and unfortunately the nature of the Canadian Wheat Board. The Canadian Wheat Board will tell that producer what price he can sell his product for and to whom he can sell it. And he can only sell it to one purchaser, the Canadian Wheat Board and no one else.

When the producer puts that seed in the ground he is given an initial payment based on what his cash flows are going to be over the next crop year. Sometimes those initial payments change and sometimes they do not. There are adjustments. The fact is he can only sell to one purchaser and that purchaser is the Canadian Wheat Board. If he does not sell it to the board, that crop will sit in that bin forever or until it rots because he cannot sell it to anyone else.

I will use the analogy of a manufacturer whether he is in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick or Newfoundland. The manufacturer makes a product, controls the capital to produce that product and controls the inputs. When he has that final finished product in his hands he can sell it to whomever he wants.

If it is below the cost of production, the manufacturer will not be making that product very much longer. If he does not have competition here in Canada to purchase his product, he can sell it internationally. He can sell it to the United States or to Europe. When the manufacturer makes the product, he has the option to sell it to whomever he wishes.

Very simply, that is the free market system, being in business and selling to whomever one wants. Unfortunately today with wheat and barley the producer does not have the same options.

Let us talk a little bit about the history of this which is very important. I will get into my philosophical beliefs with respect to the Canadian Wheat Board. The Canadian Wheat Board is a very good institution, make no mistake about that. The problem is that it is not prepared to deal with the 21st century, nor is government today prepared to deal with the 21st century. Let us talk about history.

There is a reason the Canadian Wheat Board came into being a number of years ago. In the early part of the 20th century a lot of producers who were growing that crop I talked about felt they were not getting a fair return for the product they were producing. They voluntarily, and I stress the term voluntarily, got together and said they would have a much better opportunity to sell their product at a higher price if they pooled it. They felt that if they put it all together it would be a bigger commodity and they would be able to go out and sell it to the best buyer.

This was done on a voluntary basis with the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, the Alberta Wheat Pool and the Manitoba Wheat Pool back in the early 1920s. It worked because they felt they were being taken advantage of by the corporations.

Unfortunately in 1943 the voluntary sale of that product to a pooling system was made mandatory. Now the producers had no choice. When it was voluntary they could do what they wanted. They could pool it with their neighbours or they could go somewhere else and sell it. In 1943 for any number of reasons and probably very good reasons for the times, it was made mandatory. Make no mistake about that, it was probably done for the right reasons in 1943. I was not around as I was not even born yet. However, it was probably for the right reasons and probably was the right thing to do at that time.

Canadian Wheat Board Act February 17th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, It is with some pleasure and some trepidation that I rise to speak at third reading—

Canadian Wheat Board Act February 12th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that leniency. I did not realize I had that much time but I can certainly spend that much time speaking to this very important piece of legislation.

It is nice to see members of the committee on the government side still in the House, obviously listening to some of the more proactive amendments that have gone forward.

As I mentioned on this particular group of motions, the major issue that is being dealt with here is the inclusion clause that has been put into this piece of legislation.

In Bill C-72, when it was tabled prior to the election, there was no mention of any inclusion, the inclusion clause being that of canola, flax, rye and oats. We were told in committee after Bill C-4 came back and this inclusion clause appeared mysteriously in the legislation, that when the committee went throughout the country on Bill C-72 it had heard from hundreds and hundreds people who wanted to come forward and have the opportunity to include these other clauses as a single desk seller on the Canadian Wheat Board.

Well, surprise, surprise. When we sat in committee and dealt with Bill C-4, very few of those hundreds of individuals who wanted inclusion came forward. As a matter of fact the majority of the people who came forward to committee spoke totally in opposition to this particular clause, that of inclusion.

There were some individuals who did suggest that inclusion was fine, but almost all of those individuals and organizations who came forward spoke totally in opposition to inclusion. Let me give some names.

The canola growers. These are the same producers that this government suggests it is going to represent, that the Canadian Wheat Board represents the producers of western Canada. These are the same producers that came forward and said emphatically that they did not want to be part of the board with this particular commodity. They said that canola should be out of the board with no option at all of having it put in. These are the same producers that this government says it is trying to represent and have represented on the Canadian Wheat Board.

My most serious concern is with the loss of industrial opportunities in this country because of this inclusion clause. That comes specifically from the canola processors. They were in front of the committee and they said again emphatically “If we are to invest industrially in western Canada, why would we do it when our raw material could be jeopardized?” Just the simple fact that the word canola is in this particular legislation will scare investment out of our country. That is not scaremongering, it is fact.

I have talked to the chief executive officers of these corporations which I assume members of the government have not done. B.C.O. said “Why would we invest tens of millions of dollars into a commodity that we may not have access to if in fact this legislation goes through?”

Our area of western Manitoba and western Canada depend on this type of industrial job creation. If we do not have the ability to develop our own markets and our own raw material, then we will not develop those jobs.

The flax producers also came before the committee. They do not want flax put in as an opportunity of inclusion into the legislation. The same producers that this government says they want to represent are saying “Do not represent us. Get it out of the legislation”.

The oats producers also came forward. In fact oats used to be a commodity under the Canadian Wheat Board. It was a single desk seller. It was taken out of the wheat board's jurisdiction and surprise, surprise, they do not want back in. They say that since oats has been taken out, their value has increased in that commodity, that in fact it has reached world markets, that in fact its marketing costs have dropped by about a third from the point when they were in the Canadian Wheat Board.

The same producers that this government says they want to represent in the Canadian Wheat Board do not want to be represented.

If the government is going to go forward and pass this legislation with respect to the Canadian Wheat Board with wheat and with barley, my plea if you will, is please do not extend that to other commodities. We do not want it. The producers do not want it. We do not know who wants it quite frankly, perhaps with the exception of one hon. member on the government side who is going to destroy the wheat board with this type of clause.

Another organization has some serious concerns and it came to committee. That organization is the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange. The Winnipeg Commodity Exchange deals in canola futures. If it were a single desk seller, those canola futures would not be available to the Winnipeg Commodity Exchange. That organization has substantial employment in the province of Manitoba and certainly develops a market for the canola product that is produced by western Canadian farmers.

We are having an excellent debate, if I can just share that, with the proponent of inclusion and everyone else who is opposed to inclusion, but perhaps there could be order.

When I approached this government, this minister and these individuals who are so bent on having the inclusion clause, the answer they gave me for having the inclusion clause was, first of all that everybody wants it, which they do not. Second was that if you have exclusion, then you have to have inclusion. Guess what. We would be more than happy to get rid of the exclusion clause with the Canadian Wheat Board to in fact achieve getting rid of the inclusion clause in this particular piece of legislation. There are no more other answers.

There was one more which was really ridiculous but I will share it. The other answer was, “Hon. member for Brandon—Souris, do not worry about it. It is never going to be triggered, it is never going to be enacted”. That was the answer I got back from members of the committee, “Do not worry about it. Inclusion is in the act but it is never going to happen”.

Guess what. If it is never going to happen, get it out of there. Do not leave the inclusion clause in. It is putting fear into the marketplace. That fear in the marketplace is going to have a dramatic impact on the industrial development not only of the crop itself for the producers but also for jobs that we can create in western Canada based on these crops, based on the value added of these crops. Just having it in there is a very scary situation.

I will pass my time on to others whom I know speak as passionately as I to this particular clause. If there is one amendment that the House listens to honestly, to all the people who have spoken, this is it. Make no mistake. The inclusion clause must be taken out of this legislation.

Division No. 72 February 12th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I take the opportunity to do at least two or three minutes prior to the break because it is nice to have members of the committee from the government side listen to some of the comments I am about to make.

I know that when I give these comments and they are done in a logical fashion, they will listen to logical arguments. I know they will do that.

First of all I would like to state emphatically that this House has introduced closure, even though they wish to say it is time allocation. There are a number of issues, a number of things that should well be said on behalf of our constituents by individuals who are elected to this House, the parliamentarians, to give forward their views and their thoughts on the amendments. The hon. member who sits on the committee gave us his closing arguments on Bill C-4.

We are dealing with group 7, the amendments that have been tabled. We have dealt with groups 1 through 6 and there are a number of good amendments.

This section is the one I have the most concern with. I have said to the minister, to other members of the committee and to my own constituents who do not like this legislation that, in fact, if this particular clause were removed from the legislation I would reluctantly consider looking at the whole legislation in favour.

However, the inclusion clause is the clause that scares the living daylights out of me. I should tell you why. The inclusion clause was not in the original piece of legislation that was tabled, Bill C-72, prior to the House adjourning for an election. During the period of time from April to June 2, it seemed there were literally hundreds and thousands of people who approached government who wanted to include into this piece of legislation an inclusion clause that would allow other commodities to be put into the legislation to be on a monopoly single desk selling basis.

Division No. 72 February 12th, 1998


Motion No. 43

That Bill C-4 be amended by deleting Clause 26.

Division No. 72 February 12th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, I do not know why you should be so lucky or have the luck of the draw to be able to listen to my pearls of wisdom on this bill, but it seems you are always in the House when I get up to speak. Congratulations, Mr. Speaker.

I am extremely disappointed with the motion passed earlier today effectively stopping the democratic voice of not only parliamentarians but the numbers of producers this legislation will affect.

When I came to this House a raw rookie not that many months ago I expected that I would have the opportunity to put forward the views of not only my constituents but constituents who are affected by this legislation. Now I find that the government has decided that the voices of parliamentarians should not be heard and that the voices of western Canadian producers should not be heard. It seems there is an obvious move afoot to have a piece of legislation put through this House without forethought and, quite frankly, the understanding as to how the clauses in this legislation will affect those very producers we represent.

I have put forward an amendment in Group No. 6. Before I go through the amendment, I would like to say that there are a number of excellent amendments that have been put forward to the House but unfortunately they are not being listened to by the drafters of that legislation, the government of this country. In fact, if the government would listen, if it would understand the need for these amendments, I am sure it would appreciate that they should be implemented into this legislation.

On Group No. 6, I have put forward an amendment. I will read the amendment. It states that the corporation may enter into agreements with a producer at the beginning of the crop year authorizing the producer to market independently of the corporation a specified percentage of the wheat or barley produced by that producer in one crop year.

That speaks to options. It speaks to choice. I would like to emphatically state at this point that we are not opposed to the Canadian Wheat Board. That is not what the speakers before me or after me have said. I believe sincerely that the Canadian Wheat Board can compete effectively with other competition that is now in the marketplace.

As examples of that I put up the deregulation of utilities which has happened across this great country of ours in the past numbers of months, the deregulation of gas utilities, the deregulation of telephone utilities. I will give a brief glimpse into the future, the deregulation of hydro or the electricity industry that is going to come to this country. Those corporations did not wither and blow away into the wind. They worked harder to compete for the customer they were serving and have done so in a very efficient manner. It has produced efficiencies for the consumer or in this case it would produce efficiencies for the producer.

That is all we are saying. They can and should compete on the open market. The Canadian Wheat Board in my conservations with it will not even consider this particular tenet of what it should be looking at for the next number of years. Its head is stuck firmly in the sand and firmly with a monopoly situation. It is not going to happen.

With international trade, with the fact that the producers are not going to accept this piece of legislation, they are not going to be satisfied with what is put forward, there is still going to be substantial opposition to this legislation and to the Canadian Wheat Board.

Please, if there is one thing I can plead with the government and with the Canadian Wheat Board, it is put into place now what is necessary for the next year, two years or three years to make choices and options available.

My motion speaks specifically to that. It is a nice little segue into what is going to happen into the future. Let producers have a particular percentage of their product they can now sell on the open market on a cash basis, on a hedge basis, can go to the Chicago exchange and can hedge the type of cashflow they require in order to run their operations. A number of the amendments in this group speak to that very thing which does speak to choice.

Not all the producers, and I accept that, necessarily want to have that choice. But what they would have is the ability still to go to the Canadian Wheat Board under the pillars they are still guaranteed under the Canadian Wheat Board. They then could pool their grain. They could get their initial payments the way they would like to and plan their future in their farming businesses from year to year.

Quite frankly, when it happened in the other utilities a number of those customers stayed with the original utility because there was loyalty, because they wanted to, because it was convenient, because it was simple. If those are the reasons why producers wish to remain with the Canadian Wheat Board, so be it, and let the Canadian Wheat Board compete on that basis.

By the way, I would suggest at that time that the Canadian Wheat Board be able to compete on other commodities, not simply barley and wheat. Let it openly compete with the other commodities at that time, the canola, the flax, the rye and the oats. That is fair. Fair competition is fair for everybody. Let it have that ability. Do not simply have a monopoly for two crops.

The motion put forward by the Reform Party speaks basically to the same amendment I have put forward, perhaps a bit more detailed. It does speak to certain percentages of hedging available to it but in essence what we are simply saying is please allow for the options to be made to the producer.

I would like to speak to NDP Motion No. 39. This motion is to delete the one clause I suppose that gives a little opportunity to producers in this piece of legislation, the cash purchases. Cash purchases have been in place for quite a substantial amount of time, have been used for barley in the past and have been very successful.

I would like to mention a couple of points with respect to my motion once again. There are countless examples of how marketing outside of a monopoly is good for economic efficiency. In the November 13 issue of the Western Producer , the Canadian Wheat Board's chief commissioner, Mr. Lorne Hehn, said: “The growing domestic feed demand and increasing production of malting quality barley probably means that within five to ten years there will not be enough surplus feed barley to operate a predictable export program under the Canadian Wheat Board”.

What is that saying? What it says is that barley is not even going to be needed to be marketed under the Canadian Wheat Board in five to ten years. By the way, I take exception to the five to ten years. I think it will be sooner than that. If Mr. Hehn thinks it is five to ten, he is again sadly mistaken in his forecasting for the Canadian Wheat Board. It is sooner than that. No longer will barley be required to be marketed under the board because there will not be any need to market barley. It is going to be used domestically and only here in Canada for feed.

In March 1996 there was a study on the economics of single desk selling of western Canadian grains by two Ph.D ag-economists, Mr. Carter and Mr. Lyons. They state that a driving force for much of the Canadian Wheat Board activity is equity in treatment of producers rather than economic efficiency among producers. This is self-explanatory.

When oats and barley were removed from the Canadian Wheat Board jurisdiction, the volume of barley and oats exports to the United States increased dramatically. Is this merely a fluke or a strong sign of the Canadian Wheat Board's inefficient marketing practices? Make the choice. If someone wants to market through the board they can. If they want to market on the open market they should be able to.

The truth is that following the removal of oats from the Canadian Wheat Board in 1989 farm gate prices for oats have risen relative to world market levels and marketing costs have fallen by about one-third. When oats were taken off the Canadian Wheat Board prices went up. People still market it through the private sector and their marketing costs have reduced.

I have talked to the people who grow this. I have talked to the people who have oats. They say they would not want to go back into that system.

The motion put forward by me with respect to some options, fairness and choice has to be listened to by this government because that is what the producers are saying. If they do not get it in this legislation they will get it in the next legislation that will be coming not too far in the distant future.

I do hope some of the amendments are listened to honestly, logically and openly by the government.

Division No. 72 February 12th, 1998


Motion No. 37

That Bill C-4, in Clause 19, be amended by adding after line 31 on page 15 the following:

“(5) Section 33 of the Act is amended by adding the following after subsection (5):

(6) The Corporation may enter into an agreement with a producer, at the beginning of a crop year, authorizing the producer to market independently of the Corporation, a specified percentage of the wheat or barley produced by that producer in that crop year.”

Canadian Wheat Board Act February 9th, 1998

Mr. Speaker, it is with some trepidation that I rise once again to speak to Bill C-4. It has been a while since this bill first came before the House in November. I say it is with trepidation because I sit on the agriculture and agri-food committee and at that time it was of the utmost urgency that this piece of legislation come forward so that it could be passed prior to the Christmas break. Then the government could look at the proposals for the election of 10 of the 15 members of the board of directors. Now it is February and I wonder why there was that urgency in committee.

We asked as a committee to once again speak to the minister who is responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board. We asked that he come forward to actually hear what had been said by the numerous witnesses who shared with us their concerns and their desires with respect to changes to this legislation. Unfortunately the minister could not appear before the committee because there was an urgency to get the bill back to the House.

We also tried to make a comparison between the Ontario Wheat Board and the Canadian Wheat Board to see if there were other options available to the government, the directors with respect to the operation of the Canadian Wheat Board. Again there was not enough time and the bill had to be returned to the House.

I was concerned that we had taken too long by running it into February and perhaps a bit longer.

I have a lot of respect for government members. I also have respect for the legislative process. I know full well that legislation which is passed is not always perfect. Even legislation which is in place today is amended. Time unfortunately tires some pieces of legislation and they have to be amended to bring them up to present standards, in this case the 21st century.

As legislators and as parliamentarians it behoves all of us, particularly the government which has put the legislation forward, to ensure that it is the very best piece of legislation which can be put forward. Obviously in this case we must ensure that the customer or the producer is taken care of to the best of our ability.

There are 48 amendments which have been put forward. Some of the amendments are good. They can change this legislation to make it better than what it is right now. I will speak to some of those amendments.

I have tabled two amendments in this particular grouping. There are a number of amendments in this grouping which are very good. I hope the government will listen and that some of these amendments will be supported by all parties to make the legislation better.

I am not naive enough to believe that this legislation will not go through. It will. The government has a majority and it wishes to put through this legislation. It will go through. However it could be made better. There are two ways of making it better. I have tabled two amendments.

One of them is Motion No. 21. Let me clarify that amendment. It says that the corporation is incorporated with the object of marketing grain grown in Canada in the best interests of farmers to maximize their return. That is a good amendment. It does not necessarily detract from the legislation the government has put forward, but it adds to the legislation.

I cannot believe the government cannot see that the Canadian Wheat Board should be there for the producers. Not for the corporation, not for the Government of Canada, not for the minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board, not for some yet to be named chief executive officer who is going to be appointed by government. It is there for the producers. Why not put it in the legislation that in fact it is there to make sure that the best returns are going to be generated by that producer.

This amendment clarifies the mandate of the Canadian Wheat Board. Rather than acting in the best interests of the corporation, the corporation is incorporated with the object of marketing grain grown in Canada in the best interests of the farmers to maximize their return. Does that not make sense? It is a good amendment. I believe this is self-explanatory. After all, the Canadian Wheat Board should work on behalf of the farmers, not the corporation.

A recent historical analysis of the Canadian Wheat Board aptly summarizes the original intent of the board. Until World War II the Canadian Wheat Board was a government owned agency with a mandate to operate in the best interests of the producers.

Its primary mission was to act as a guarantor of floor prices for wheat, setting a price it was willing to pay for grain, the initial payments and letting the market determine whether or not producers sold their crop on the open market or to the wheat board. Has the Canadian Wheat Board not wandered from its original mandate? Why? The question must be asked.

There is another amendment I have tabled in this grouping. Motion No. 33 deals with section 18 of the act. It regards the repealing directives given by the minister and not the board. It is integral that this section of the act is repealed because it gives the GIC the power to give directions to the board with respect to the manner in which any of its operations, powers and duties are conducted.

I believe that if the minister responsible for the CWB is truly going to have a board that is transparent, accountable and democratic for the board, the board should have complete power over the operations. If the board does not have the complete power, then the democratic changes under Bill C-4 are merely cosmetic. I cannot stress that enough. The board has to have power over itself in order to be able to provide the necessary service to Canadian producers.

There are a couple of other areas within this grouping. There are a number of amendments. As a previous speaker indicated, unfortunately time is of a premium. All those items cannot be spoken to as I am sure lots of us would like to do. Again I wish, I hope and I plead that the government listen to some of these good amendments because the legislation can be made better.

I find it very interesting that a piece of legislation can be tabled and can basically alienate everyone. We have heard members from the Liberal government say that this is a good piece of legislation and everybody supports it because of the barley plebiscite, because they have heard these people and they have heard those people.

The fact of the matter is that I do listen to the people. I have heard them. Yes there are a number of those people who want the Canadian Wheat Board exactly the way it is today, no changes at all. That probably speaks to the fact that we must move into the 21st century. There have to be changes. There have to be amendments. There has to be adapting in order to get into a globalized market system that we have now as opposed to what it was in 1943.

In saying that, the minister of the Canadian Wheat Board has somehow taken a piece of legislation and alienated everyone. No one, even those who want to keep the board, likes this piece of legislation. Even those who do not want to get rid of the board do not like this piece of legislation.

The majority of the farmers who want to have some flexibility, who want to have some options do not like this legislation. That itself speaks to the need to listen to rational amendments and do so logically. Do not do it just because a minister says he wants this piece of legislation. Listen, read, look and support some of these amendments. The legislation will be better.

There are two other areas that are dealt with in this grouping. One is the elimination of the contingency fund. We would support the elimination of the contingency fund for the simple reason the contingency fund seems to be a way for the government to get away from one of the pillars of the Canadian Wheat Board, that is the initial payments guarantee.

It is also a tax that does not have any parameters to it. It does not allow the customer, the producer, to say how this is going to affect them. A contingency fund could be anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion collected from the same producers, for what purpose and for what reason. The contingency fund could and should be done away with. In fact, the government wants to maintain its control over the board, like it will with the directors and with the CEO.

The last point is the subject of access to information. There is only one other organization that has the same restrictions for access for information and that is CSIS. There is absolutely no reason why, as a producer owned operation, we should not have ability to have access to the information of that organization. If there is nothing to hide then do not hide it. Access to information should be built into this piece of legislation.

Thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Speaker. I wish I had more time but there is Group No. 6.