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.