Madam Speaker, I rise today to express my support for Bill C-51, an act to amend the Canada Grain Act.
Bill C-51 has much to commend it. It addresses the need for regulatory reform. It introduces necessary protections for producers and taxpayers and it gives the Canadian Grain Commission more of the tools it needs to do the job on behalf of producers, the grain industry and Canadians in general.
There are many aspects of Bill C-51 worth commenting on. The one I wish to speak on however is the strengthened emphasis on grain quality.
We depend very heavily on international trade. As my colleague has mentioned, we export from 25 million to 30 million tonnes of grain per year, more than half of our annual grain production. It is difficult to overstate how crucial grain quality is to our success in international markets. No other factor is as central to Canada's impressive international marketing record.
When we consider some of the disadvantages Canadian producers face it is easy to see why quality has emerged as our marketing edge. Our producers must move grain farther to export locations than any of our competitors in other countries. Our harsh climate works against high yields. Our tax base is smaller than those of competing countries and we cannot play the export subsidy game and win. We are left with the quality of our product, a card that Canada plays with great effectiveness.
With approximately 20 per cent of the global market, we are on average the world's second largest wheat exporter, ahead of the European Community, Australia, Argentina and everyone
else. We are surpassed only by the United States. We are second in barley, accounting for over 30 per cent of the world market. We command over 40 per cent of the world's canola markets, almost as much as is exported by all the countries of western Europe combined. We are unique in that we are the only major exporter of that product.
We lead the world in flaxseed exports that account for over 70 per cent of the market. Canada's refusal to compromise on delivering cargoes of uniform consistent quality has served us well. As the CGC plays a pivotal role in Canada's grain hauling system, I am pleased to see provisions in Bill C-51 that reinforce this marketing strategy.
For example, there is a provision allowing the CGC to set out methods, visual or otherwise, for determining the characteristics of the grain for purposes of meeting the quality requirements of purchasers of grain. The significance of this amendment is that it gives the commission the authority to specify procedures for determining the quality of grain so that the industry can deliver the quality desired by the end users.
With the commission's considerable expertise in grain quality assessment this amendment positions the CGC to ensure that emerging procedures and technologies meet end user needs and increase returns to producers.
Another provision of Bill C-51 confirms the CGC's authority to specify the correct handling and treatment of grain and hazardous substances in grain elevators. This provision strengthens Canada's commitment for safe, wholesome food and to environmentally sustainable practices.
Finally, Bill C-51 confirms CGC's authority to set grain drying standards. The commission has paid careful attention to this issue over the years because improper drying seriously harms grain quality. Often the damage is not visually apparent and problems are only detected when the grain is processed. The commission has worked hard to educate producers and others on the proper techniques. This provision will give the CGC more authority to move in this area.
There are some who believe that Canada over emphasizes grain quality. In a hungry world they argue Canada need not place as much emphasis or effort as it does on ensuring that Canadian grain meets the high standards it is known for.
I believe quality will become more important than ever before. With the ratification of the GATT tariff walls will soon be falling around the world and subsidies will melt away. To maintain their position our wealthier competitors in Europe and the United States will have to become more quality conscious, more like Canada if they want to compete. Already we are seeing signs they are beginning to understand this.
I will conclude with the words of one of Canada's grain customers spoken at Grain Vision'93, an international symposium that the Canadian Grain Commission held last year: "The current Canadian system of utilizing quality to link all aspects of business to achieve the marketing strategy of exporting at a premium 80 to 90 per cent of total wheat crop is now unique in the world. If you begin to implement changes for short term volume goals the end result will all too quickly be a situation where you become just another `me too' supplier of which the world has all too many at present".
This sentiment was echoed by speaker after speaker at this conference. More tellingly, their appreciation of Canada's quality system is illustrated by their continued purchases of Canadian grain.
Bill C-51 strengthens Canada's grain quality system. For this reason alone it deserves our support.