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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was grain.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Conservative MP for Cypress Hills—Grasslands (Saskatchewan)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 69% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Supply November 6th, 2002

Madam Speaker, the real issue here is whether people have the right to do their own business or not.

In reference to the question that was asked, I would like to point out as I did before that a Canadian Federation of Independent Business survey showed an almost 80% support for change. The Canadian Wheat Board survey showed well over 60%. Our mail-outs show consistently higher than that, 60% to 80%. Other MPs tell me the same thing. The Edmonton Journal survey said that over 90% of people think that farmers should have the freedom to make their own marketing decisions.

The frustration comes from the attitude that the minister has portrayed over the years, which is that he is willing to interfere at every step to keep farmers from getting choice. We will see this in the next few days in terms of the recommendation at the agriculture committee. I ask people to keep an eye on that to see what happens.

The article that we have talked about today talks about the fact that first there needs to be a recommendation from the Canadian Wheat Board. That is not likely to come. The vote needs to be organized by the anti-choice government that is in place. The majority vote would only be persuasive. Then there is a big question about how big that vote should have to be.

It seems to me there is no interest in democracy here. The parliamentary secretary wonders why farmers resort to civil disobedience. Part of the reason is that the Liberal government is so completely out of touch with what is going on in western Canada that there is no chance of the Liberals understanding what is going on there and the feelings that farmers have.

Farmers are so frustrated that they feel they have no other opportunity than to do what was done last week in Lethbridge. Actually there are other farmers who are coming into the same situation. In Saskatchewan within the next couple of months some of the same choices will have to be made by farmers.

The government has continued to persecute and pressure farmers. We need relief from that by giving people marketing choices and the ability to make their own decisions.

Supply November 6th, 2002

Madam Speaker, I appreciated the speech made by the leader of our party. As an Ontarian and a person who has not been a farmer, he has come to understand the situation very well.

When many other people find out the facts about the Canadian Wheat Board they begin to change their minds as well. That includes Liberal backbenchers who have approached me over the last year to talk about the issue. They have said to me that this cannot be the way it really is. After the situation is explained to them, they cannot believe it. This goes beyond a partisan issue. I would suggest that is why a Liberal dominated agriculture committee approved the agriculture committee standing report last spring which called for a voluntary marketing option. It called for a short term free market option for farmers.

The committee travelled across Canada and listened to farmers, especially farmers in western Canada and their comments about the Wheat Board. I will give credit to the chairman of our committee because he was willing to listen. He said to us, “The farmers have told us that they would like to see this option and we are willing to support it”. There were other Liberal members travelling with the committee, such as the member for Lambton--Kent--Middlesex, the member for Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey and the member for Huron--Bruce. They all supported the recommendations made by the committee.

It looks to me like we are going to have some interference with that report. There are rumours that when it comes back to the agriculture committee, we will see some interference from the government. Given the history of the minister responsible for the Wheat Board and also the Solicitor General, we expect to see their fingers somewhere in that pie.

I have a greater concern that there will be some interference with the way things are run. This concern comes from an article in the Western Producer . Barry Wilson interviewed the minister responsible for the Wheat Board and he wrote:

Goodale said last week that farmers don't have to go to jail to protest the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly. They simply have to convince a majority of Canadian Wheat Board permit holders that they want marketing freedom and presto, the monopoly is gone.

One would think that would be the end of it, but I am afraid there are some qualifiers with regard to that. I would like to read them into the record. Later the minister was asked directly, if Wheat Board elections returned a majority of farmer directors calling for an end to the monopoly, would he change the legislation? His answer was, “If that is the democratic will of farmers, obviously the government would have to respond to it, yes”.

That response is not necessarily freedom for farmers because, and I quote from the article again:

Then came the qualifiers. A recommendation from the Canadian Wheat Board [not farmers] to end the monopoly would trigger a government organized vote among permit holders.

We have already seen one of those. I quote again:

A majority vote against the monopoly would be persuasive [the minister tells us] in the campaign to convince the government to amend the legislation.-

One would expect that a majority vote would make the decision, but no, it would be persuasive.

This is a tremendous concern for us. We are debating this issue today and already the minister is apparently telling us that it does not matter what farmers want, it does not matter what the vote decision would be, it would only be persuasive to the government. The article goes on to say:

“But a majority vote in favour of change would not necessarily be accepted by the government as the voice of farmers”, Goodale said. “There is a technical question about how big the vote would have to be”. He said the government would have to decide if the turnout and the margin of victory were large enough to be sure that an end to the CWB monopoly is really what farmers want”.

I have to ask, what do farmers have to do to get the government's attention and to get change? There is a long history here.

I have farmed for 25 years and have watched as people around me have battled this issue for decades. Many of them have spent most of their lives trying to bring about changes to the Canadian Wheat Board. As I was growing up, farmers were told that they needed the Wheat Board, that they were not capable of doing their own business. I know for a fact that is not true.

In the early 1990s we went through a fall when there was a lot of frozen wheat throughout a good part of the Prairies. Farmers began to wonder what they could do with their wheat.

Farmers in my area actually went down to Great Falls, Montana and talked to one of the grain companies and made a deal as to what they could get for their wheat. The company was cooperative. Unfortunately, as part of the buyback program, farmers had to tell the Canadian Wheat Board whom they were selling their wheat to, which they did. They got a call from the grain company saying it did not need their wheat and would not deal with them. The company said it had as much wheat as it wanted. It named a price which was between 50¢ and 80¢ a bushel less than the farmers had negotiated.

That began to open up people's minds. New crops were introduced in our area. People saw they were capable of marketing their own product.

It is interesting to note that in the early runs when farmers decided to take their wheat across the border, the minister said there was nothing that the Wheat Board could do. As it began to pick up momentum, it changed its mind and began to charge the farmers under the Canadian Wheat Board Act.

Interestingly enough, on May 16, 1996, the first farmers, and David Sawatsky was one of them, were found innocent. Mr. Sawatsky should have been able to walk out of the court and continue on his way and to move his wheat where he wanted to move it. What did the government do?

That same day the minister changed the customs regulations to ensure that all other farmers who were charged would be convicted. He rewrote the legislation, the Wheat Board minister who presently sits here and is supposed to be representing western Canadian interests. He wonders why his party is out of touch with western Canada. He has made those comments himself. He is not part of the solution. He is actually part of the problem. Not only that, the government rewrote the legislation to lock in the repression. Our position has been consistently that people have the right to do their own business.

The example of Mr. Sawatsky was not the first nor was it the last example of repression by the government. Andy McMechan who is a farmer from Manitoba grew 20,000 bushels of a specialty waxy barley. The Wheat Board told him it had no market and it would only market it as a lower grade of barley and pay him about $3 a bushel. The U.S. market told him he could get $6 a bushel, so he started moving his wheat down to the United States.

The Canadian Wheat Board, customs, justice and the RCMP all got involved. The gentleman spent 155 days in jail because of what the government was trying to do to him, which was trying to break him. There were multiple strip searches. He was thrown into cells with people who threatened him. How is a regular citizen supposed to survive that?

Last Thursday I was in Lethbridge. Premier Klein came to address the rally. Almost 1,000 supporters were there. I would say it was a historic day in the struggle for freedom.

I said that we had come to support a group of people who are holding to their convictions over comfort, to their commitment over convenience, and to their faith over fear. One of the things that really bothered me, and I think it was the most frustrating moment of the day, was watching the families say goodbye to their fathers.

The rally was on one side of the street in a parking lot. When the time came that the rally was over, people lined up on both sides of where the farmers were walking. They walked through the group of people. Their wives were with them. Their teenage daughters were crying and their little kids, who did not understand what was going on, were crying. There is a picture in most of the national papers of one little nine-year old girl who did not even understand except that her dad was being locked up for trying to sell his grain.

For most of the weekend I was really angry. I am usually a pretty controlled person but it just made my blood boil to see normal, hardworking people run that far afoul of the government that they were being locked up. Several of them are still there today.

They are not standing alone because there is tremendous support for the farmers. Their families were there, their parents and their wives. Their neighbours were there. One of the farmers' wives approached me and said, “We thank you for what you are doing in trying to help our husbands out”. Other farmers were there.

Consistently surveys have shown that there is strong support for marketing choice. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has done surveys which show there is 75% to 80% support for change. The Canadian Wheat Board surveys, which it will not release but which were leaked, show over 60% support for marketing choice. Our mail-outs show up to 80% support for marketing choice. The Edmonton Journal did a survey just the other day which showed over 90% for marketing choice.

The farmers just want choice. They want out of jail and they want to be able to market and do their own business.

For those who would like to support these farmers I would like to point out that a fund has been set up to support them. The mailing address is: Box 68, Cremona, Alberta, T0M 0R0.

I suggest that the real culprit is actually here. The minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board has served his party's interests consistently over the years against the interests of his constituents and against the interests of western Canadians.

In conclusion, we often hear there are only a few countries in the world that jail their farmers for selling their own wheat. That is not true. There actually is only one. That one is Canada. Even China now allows its farmers to sell their own wheat on the Chinese domestic market. So the freedoms we dream of and the freedoms that so many others in Canada have, farmers all around the world already have. We are here today to help work toward giving prairie farmers those same opportunities.

Therefore, today I would like to seek the unanimous consent of the House to make this opposition motion votable and that it not be considered as part of the total allotment of votable supply day motions.

Prairie Farmers November 6th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, the minister received the information two weeks ago. He created the law that jailed these farmers. He insisted that the farmers go to jail. He has kept farmers in jail for the last week. Why is he so eager to jail farmers and so reluctant to enforce the law when it applies to his own department?

Prairie Farmers November 6th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, seven days ago the government was eager to lock up prairie farmers because they sold their own grain. They are still in jail. Yet the minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board has been aware for some time that the board is operating illegally by charging the cost of export licences to prairie farmers.

Could he tell us why he locks up prairie farmers but takes no action against the Wheat Board when it breaks the law?

Supply October 24th, 2002

Madam Speaker, I would just like to react to a couple of the things I have heard.

Farmers have done their part for the environment. My neighbours and my friends have changed their farming practices and they are contributing to a good, solid environment. Interestingly enough, this is the first solid commitment I have heard by the government in giving farmers carbon credits and some opportunity to take advantage of them. I look forward to hearing more about that.

The problem is that we are talking about a few dollars an acre. The concern that we have is that through the lowered competitiveness and the rising input costs, those costs will be far more than the benefits farmers will get from the few dollars per acre or less than they will get for carbon credits.

I do not appreciate the fearmongering that we will see more frequent drought and more severe weather. We do not have the information yet that proves that is the case. We are working now with no evidence that climate change is beyond the normal parameters within which it has been predicted, yet we are bringing in an oppressive set of regulations that will devastate Canadian agriculture.

Supply October 24th, 2002

Madam Speaker, as we have just heard, there is a human cost to Kyoto. There will be a particularly large cost in many of the rural communities, especially some of those I represent.

On October 8, I asked the government two simple questions regarding the impact of Kyoto on agriculture. First, why is the government moving to ratify Kyoto without knowing the effect it will have on Canadian farmers and farm families? Second, why is the government moving to ratify Kyoto when our competitors have determined that it will devastate agricultural economies?

The lack of study in Canada in particular regarding the impact of the proposed implementation of the Kyoto protocol is alarming. We did a lot of work trying to find any Canadian studies that would address this. There were none. One of the few studies available was a 1998 U.S. study that concluded the following:

--compliance with the Kyoto Protocol could increase U.S. farm production expenses by $10 billion to $20 billion annually and depress annual farm income by 24 percent to 48 percent. Higher fuel oil, motor oil, fertilizer, and other farm operating costs would also mean higher consumer food prices, greater demand for public assistance with higher costs, a decline in agricultural exports, and a wave of farm consolidations. In short, the Kyoto Protocol represents the single biggest public policy threat to the agricultural community today.

We know that farmers' number one concern is rising input costs and it is imperative that the federal government provide farmers and farm families with a thorough examination of Kyoto's impact on Canadian agriculture, including answers to several questions.

We have grouped them under three main headings. The first of the three is: What is going to be the impact of higher energy prices on farm families? We know that energy prices and the cost of producing energy will be going up with Kyoto. What will be the impact of higher energy prices? That is one of our questions.

Second, and also important, is this: What would be the impact of non-implementing countries? If we implement the protocol and other countries, particularly Australia and the United States, do not, what is going to be the impact on Canadian agriculture? We will see a decline in competitiveness. We already compete against European subsidization and against the U.S. treasury. It is important that we know what this protocol would do to our competitiveness in agriculture.

Third, we need to ask how the protocol mechanisms are going to impact farmers. If the science and technology regarding carbon sequestration is developed, and it is not right now, will the government commit to having farmers retain ownership of the credits? We have talked to people who know about this and they have assured us that there is no accurate way to measure the credits right now, yet the government seems to be giving the impression that it can do that. The question is, will the government commit to having farmers then retain ownership of these credits? It has talked about the fact that it would like to keep them at the government level. We need to know what is going to happen with those protocol mechanisms.

Other people are asking questions as well. The Grain Growers of Canada are asking how Kyoto will impact agriculture. The Canadian Cattlemen's Association is asking that question. Farmers are asking that question. SEPAC, the Small Explorers and Producers Association of Canada, has determined that Kyoto could push the cost of gasoline to $1 a litre. The Canadian fertilizer industry is concerned.

A paper presented at the International Agricultural Trade Research Consortium noted its concern as well. The American Farm Bureau Federation has found that Kyoto would push up input costs. A U.S. study done by Sparks Companies found that Kyoto would cause agricultural exports to fall and thus result in a loss of profitability.

The Canadian Alliance is concerned about the cavalier attitude the government has taken toward agriculture. When it comes to Kyoto, it does not know what it is doing, why it is doing it, or what the impact will be. It appears to be determined to charge ahead despite the negative impacts on agriculture.

Supply October 24th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, we are here today to debate the Kyoto protocol. All of us want a clean environment. That is clear and it is one thing on which all of us in the House can agree.

I am fortunate enough to come from an area where we do have a clean environment. We have clean air. We have clean water. We have clean land. I can walk out to the end of my driveway, stand and listen and a lot of times hear nothing, which is a nice change from being here. We want that for all Canadians. We want them to have an opportunity to live in a good environment and to be in a situation where they can be healthy. The question is how to achieve that.

We have several different options. Kyoto is one of those options. The Kyoto option has floated around here for several years. I think we need to talk about what kinds of things will work in order to improve our environment and protect it from pollution.

We are told that this is a treaty that will reduce greenhouse gases. There are two ways to reduce greenhouse gases. One is to actually reduce emissions. We can set up a program that affects the environment, reduces emissions, and gets rid of some of the pollution we are faced with. The other option, of course, is that we do not really reduce emissions much at all, but we set up a bureaucracy so that we can trade credits back and forth. We can talk about emissions, we can give them a value and swap them back and forth. We can set up a bureaucracy that can interfere with the functioning of our economy. We can set up a bureaucracy that can regulate, and poorly, as they virtually always do, the environment through government intervention.

I happen to be from Saskatchewan and am obviously not at all a supporter of our NDP government. Even it has concerns about this protocol for our part of the world. As everyone knows, Saskatchewan is agriculture based. We depend on energy in many different ways. One thing that is clear about Kyoto is that it will raise the cost of producing energy. We need to ask what the impact will be of those increasing costs of energy.

Our office was concerned about Kyoto and how it would impact agriculture, so we decided we would try to do some research to see what the government actually has done to see what effect Kyoto would have on agriculture in Canada. We looked quite extensively and in fact we could find nothing. We found that the Canadian government basically has done absolutely nothing on the impact of Kyoto on agriculture. It has done research on other things such as carbon sequestration and methane gas and that kind of thing, but nothing directly on Kyoto and agriculture. We went to the agriculture department and again we could find nothing to indicate what impact Kyoto would have on agriculture.

Interestingly enough, we were able to find a 1998 U.S. study. The U.S. had taken the time to do some studies through the American Farm Bureau and a couple of other organizations. They reached a conclusion that is frightening for Canadian producers. They said that compliance with the Kyoto protocol could increase U.S. farm production expenses by $10 billion to $20 billion annually and depress annual farm income by 24% to 48%. That is almost 50%. Higher costs of fuel oil, motor oil and fertilizer and other higher farm operating costs would also mean higher consumer food prices, greater demand for public assistance with higher costs, a decline in agricultural exports, and a wave of farm consolidations. In short, they concluded that the Kyoto protocol represents the single biggest public policy threat to the agricultural community today.

When we saw that we began to get very concerned about what impact Kyoto would have on our farmers. Surveys indicate that farmers feel that rising input costs are the number one concern in their operations. They are under a big squeeze at this time for a number of reasons across the country, but rising input costs are their number one concern.

It is imperative that the federal government provide farmers and farm families with a thorough examination of Kyoto's impact on Canadian agriculture. We need answers to some questions. The first question we need answered is this: What would be the impact of higher energy prices? Clearly if Kyoto is implemented we will see higher energy prices. That will directly affect things like fuel. Diesel fuel will be hit directly. Fertilizer costs will be hit directly. We have talked to the Canadian Fertilizer Institute, which says it will face some substantial increases. Chemical companies will face substantial increases in the costs of their products if Kyoto is implemented.

So first of all we need to know what the impact of higher energy costs will be. From that, there are a few other questions that need to be answered. We hope to bring these up again and again over the next few months so that we can get answers to them.

How much will input costs rise? The Americans are suggesting that they could rise by as much as 32%. I do not know any farmers who can survive an increase of 32% on their input costs. It would not be possible for them to continue to make a living.

We need to know what effect Kyoto would have on net farm profits. We hear that net farm income is dropping again this year, particularly on the Prairies. It basically will be a disaster in terms of net farm income there. It is dropping again. Each year it seems to be coming down. What effect would Kyoto have on net farm incomes in Saskatchewan and also in the rest of Canada?

We need to ask what the overall impact would be on annual farm income. What would be the larger effect of the resultant economic downturn in the agricultural sector? I come from a small town. It is a really vibrant community where people are trying to get ahead, working together and putting their money together to form new projects. We need to know overall what Kyoto would do to the ability to start new ventures, to work together and to create prosperity in our towns. It is bad enough that we have drought; we do not need the further effect of this. Of course the agricultural industries would be affected as well.

On the other end of the spectrum, we need to know if Kyoto would result in higher consumer food prices. If Kyoto is implemented and there are more costs on the farm, when people go to the grocery store they likely will have to pay more for their food. If they do not have to pay more for it, that means that I as a producer would get less for what I produce.

There is a second question that really does need to be answered as well, that is, what would be the impact on the non-implementing countries? How much of an advantage would our non-Kyoto competitors gain from not ratifying this protocol? Canadian farmers are already struggling. They struggle against European subsidization and they struggle against the U.S. treasury. The government does very little to help them out and if it is bringing in a protocol that could have an impact of up to 30% on net farm incomes, what will that do in terms of our farmers' competitiveness? What will be the extent of the impact on our international competitiveness? How much of a decline will there be in Canadian agricultural exports, which this entire country depends on, if we implement this protocol?

I think these are reasonable questions that we could ask of the government in order to see what in fact it would do with Kyoto in terms of agriculture.

There are other questions that need to be raised as well, and we will talk more about them later, but the issue of carbon sequestration, carbon sinks and how the protocol mechanisms are to be implemented is something that we need to address. I understand that at the technical briefings given a couple of weeks ago the federal government basically said that it would be claiming those carbon sinks for itself. To me it seems that they are a natural resource, one that is probably in the purview of the provinces. We need to take a look at who actually should be dealing with those carbon sinks. Probably it should come right back to the farmers. They are the ones who are farming the land and growing the crops. They are the ones who should be able to access this. There is no indication that the government is going to give the farmers access.

We have three main concerns right now. The first is that this would raise the input costs for farmers. The second is that it would make us uncompetitive; an Australian study just put out states that Canada will fall further behind if we implement this in terms of competition with both Australia and the United States in agriculture. One of the concerns I have is that Russia is another one of our competitors and we are talking about using this to ship money to Russia to buy environmental credits. We would be propping up its economy at the same time that we would be destroying our own agricultural industry, which has to compete with Russia's.

In conclusion, we really do have a choice here. We can continue with Kyoto and end up seeing higher costs, with little or no emissions improvements and with money transferred out of Canada. Or we can come up with a different plan, one that will be far more successful, one that we design.

First we should sit down and domestically set the standards that we think are important and that we need to apply in this country, not just in the rural areas. like where I live, which would be affected by Kyoto, but in our cities as well. Let us set those standards. Let us set realistic goals for Canada. Let us take our own Canadian money and let us begin to use it to improve our own environment. It is crazy to talk about sending money across the world to other countries to pay for environmental credits when we can use it to improve our own environment.

Last, I would like to say that we should give our children a future. It is important. Because it is important, let us do it right.

Canadian Wheat Board October 24th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Wheat Board minister keeps dodging his responsibilities. He is the one who charged farmers under the Canadian Wheat Board Act. He is the one who lost the first court case. He is the one who changed the customs regulations to make these men criminals. He is the one who ignored the Alberta plebiscite.

He is personally responsible for the situation in which these farmers find themselves. When will he and the government quit persecuting prairie farmers and give them the same rights as producers in the rest of Canada?

Canadian Wheat Board October 24th, 2002

Mr. Speaker, I know farmers who have shown the courage of their convictions. I know farmers who will sacrifice their freedom for the principle of fairness. I know farmers and their families who are paying an incredible price for defending their principles. One week from today the government will be jailing these same people. They too get no compassion from this government. They are here, in Ottawa, today.

I ask this for them and their families. Why are they being locked up for doing what is perfectly legal in the rest of Canada; selling their own wheat?

Canadian Wheat Board October 22nd, 2002

Madam Speaker, I am a prairie grain farmer. I can grow wheat, but I cannot sell it. Federal law makes it illegal for any prairie farmer to market wheat without a licence from the Canadian Wheat Board.

I would like to market my own wheat. I can market canola. I can market oats. I can market lentils, canary seed, flax and rye, but not wheat.

I have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in land and machinery. Each year I purchase thousands of dollars worth of fuel and fertilizer to see my wheat seeded, harvested and stored in my grain bins, but once it is there I cannot sell it.

I can log on to the Internet and buy or sell items of any kind. I can trade my vehicle, buy a horse, get a loan, or purchase land, but I cannot sell my wheat.

I can travel around the world in a leaky air balloon, risk my life in extreme sports, gamble away my assets in a casino, engage in high risk business deals or try my luck on the stock market, but I cannot sell my wheat.

I am free to choose which political party I will belong to and which religion I will adhere to. I can quit working, quit taking my medication or even quit eating, but I am not allowed to sell my wheat.