Motion No. 1
That Bill C-72 be amended by deleting Clause 2.
Motion No. 17
That Bill C-72 be amended by deleting Clause 10.
Mr. Speaker, we are at report stage of Bill C-72. Clearly it is impossible for the bill to pass. Even if the Prime Minister chickens out at the last minute and does not call an election, it will be very difficult for the bill to pass.
I will refer to the history in brief of Bill C-72. After the election in October 1993 there was division on the prairies over how wheat and barley should be marketed. The minister was very tardy in taking action. Finally in 1995 he initiated the western grain marketing panel. It brought a report back on proposed changes to the Canadian Wheat Board in the middle of 1996.
The minister was not happy with the western grain marketing panel report. It called for more consultation and a letter writing campaign. It was not until December 1996, more than three years after the minister was first elected, that he introduced legislation in the House.
The bill was given first reading in December 1996 but was not referred to the committee until late February or early March. Then there were some whirlwind hearings across the prairies and in the third week of March the government only allowed three days of clause by clause discussion.
Finally here we are on probably the second last sitting day before the House is prorogued and we are at report stage. Yet to occur is third reading and passage by the Senate. Clearly the House would have to sit for several more weeks if Bill C-72 were to have the slightest chance of seeing the light of day.
I want to make clear that the bill is a haywire and bailer twine attempt to reform a terribly outdated Canadian Wheat Board. The Liberals, in drafting the bill, have failed to heed the advice of the industry. They have refused to honestly debate good amendments put forward by Reform in committee. These amendments are supported by a broad range of farm organizations and by a majority of farmers on the prairies.
The Liberals have left no choice for Reform but to oppose the bill. We do not want it to pass because we do not want to further disappoint farmers who have been betrayed many times by Liberal and Tory governments.
We oppose the bill and we will vote against it, but that is not the reason it will not pass in the 35th Parliament. The real reason it will die on the Order Paper is that the Liberals and the minister of agriculture know it is a third rate bill. They are afraid to pass it and let farmers experience how terrible it really is.
The Liberals could have passed Bill C-72 if they really wanted to. I am rather astounded that the minister of agriculture has been publicly saying the opposition has held up Bill C-72. We know very well in this Liberal majority Parliament the Liberals pass whatever they darn well feel like passing. They set the agenda. They place Government Orders. They use time allocation far too often and they use closure. For the minister to blame the opposition for not allowing Bill C-72 to pass is beyond stupidity and lying. It extends to the realm of desperation and bizarreness in the extreme.
Let us examine the bill even though it will not pass. Clause 2 says the bill will be binding on all provinces. We asked the ministers of agriculture of the provinces of Manitoba and Alberta if they had been consulted on clause 2, the clause we are debating in this group of amendments to Bill C-72. Both ministers of agriculture said there had been absolutely no consultation with the provinces on clause 2.
Clause 10 and other clauses in the bill give the minister an ironclad grip on the board. All the discussions across the prairies were to make the board more accountable to farmers and more in the control or in the hands of farmers. The bill fails miserably in accomplishing that. I believe Bill C-72 gives the minister more control over the Canadian Wheat Board than he currently has.
The minister's actions and words clearly say he does not trust prairie farmers to manage their own Canadian Wheat Board. Therefore let us see what powers the minister clutches to himself. The minister will choose the CEO or president of the board over the heads of the board of directors, even though some of the board of directors are elected by farmers. The minister will place the CEO on the board of directors as a voting member, placing him or her in a powerful conflict of interest position.
Time after time we heard representation from farm groups that the CEO of the board should be chosen by the board and should be accountable and responsible to the board, that the board should hire him or her, that the board should set that person's salary and that the board should terminate the CEO's employment on the board if it felt that were proper.
The minister has the power to choose the interim board of directors in its entirety and to tell it how to chose its successors. This is not democracy. This is Liberal arrogance at its finest. It is all pretty cushy.
The minister and his appointees lay all the plans for a partially elected board. It reminds me of Liberal MPs establishing their own fat cat pensions. If they call the rules, if they make the decisions, farmers are left on the sidelines watching to see what kind of a board will unfold, who the directors on the board will be and what kind of rules, guidelines and bylaws will be put in place for the further election and appointment of future directors to the board.
Even more disturbing is the fact the minister can dismiss directors and employees if they are not serving the best interest of the corporation in the opinion of the minister. Farmers who pay for the board are left out in this case. It seems odd employees can be dismissed in the best interest of the corporation, not in the best interest of farmers. Therefore farmers have their hands tied behind their backs. They are not able to adequately make and press for changes in the board as they see fit.
The minister refuses to bend on the request of farmers for a voluntary board even for barley. There is a consensus. Poll after poll indicated the majority of prairie barley producers want a voluntary Canadian Wheat Board even for organic wheat. We heard many organic growers and their associations suggest the Canadian Wheat Board was not the best marketing agency to effectively market organic products.
The minister went against the recommendations of his own western grain marketing panel in denying the ability of the board, at least in a small way, to become a voluntary marketing agency for some products best marketed through other avenues than through the Canadian Wheat Board.
The minister moved in this direction against the wishes of farmers and according to his own Angus Reid poll which indicated a majority of barley producers called for a volunteer Canadian Wheat Board. Furthermore, the minister will allow the Canadian Wheat Board to make cash purchases in a monolithic environment where livestock producers can be destroyed by artificial feed prices and international retaliation for unfair trading practices. We heard this as we travelled across the prairies. The minister has done nothing to correct this problem in the government amendments to the bill at committee.
The government is prepared to add crops to the monopoly. This measure would not go over very well with farmers. In fact, if a few farmers are crossing the border now, if crops such as canola were added to the monopoly powers of the Canadian Wheat Board, I suggest there would be a civil war on the prairies rather than a few farmers taking truckloads across the border to the U.S. in protest.
Obviously the minister does not understand the needs and wishes of the majority of prairie producers.
The minister is acting like the captain of the Titanic, so arrogant as he blindly steams toward the icebergs. His record on the Crow rate is pathetic. His record on grain transportation is tragic. His record on the Canadian Wheat Board is dismal and dangerous. He is responsible for his lack of action over three and a half years. He is responsible for the division over the Canadian Wheat Board on the prairies. He is responsible for this comedy of errors entitled Bill C-72.
Reform has called for constructive changes to the Canadian Wheat Board. Our vision for the Canadian Wheat Board would not only give it a fighting chance, it would give it good odds of being a first class, farmer controlled marketer with a great chance to be a success story in the 21st century.
The truth is that our opposition in the next election campaign will be the Liberals and the NDP suggesting that Reform is trying to destroy the board. That is not true, as are their allegations that we would hurt medicare and seniors pensions. We have shown in our fresh start document that they are wrong on medicare, health care and seniors pensions. They are also wrong on the Canadian Wheat Board.
Ours are the only proposals that will bring peace to a very divided farm community. Ours are the only proposals that will ensure the viability of the board in the future in a climate where farmers want to market through the board rather than have to market through the board, such as members opposite are proposing.
This bill cannot possibly pass through the House of Commons. This is a matter of each party's putting its position on the record, and I thank the House for the opportunity.